Researching and evaluating web filters can be rather daunting. Features oftentimes are the largest determining factor when purchasing a new filter for your Google Workspace environment. Seems straightforward enough, however, many companies offer similar experiences so how do you know which one is best?
One of the key elements of discovery is the trial experience. Yes, it is time-consuming. Would you buy a car without driving it? Probably not, that’s a lot of money not to at least take it for a spin! So, take a prospective web filter for a test run and make sure the time investment is worthwhile! Amplified IT helps hundreds of schools throughout North America decide which web filtering service best suited to their environments across multiple web filtering options and here is what we’ve learned:
Timing for successful trials
Consider timing before starting a trial. Trials or Demos typically run from 14 to 30 days in the edtech ecosphere. One of the biggest “hiccups” I see when schools are in the evaluation process is they proceed to sign up for a trial during a time that isn’t conducive to a full evaluation. So when is the best time to give your valuable time to trialing a new tool? I know when the timing is not ideal: either back to school or during “testing season.” Furthermore, you need to coordinate a time that enables all stakeholders to participate, including students. It’s difficult to fully test a filter without student traffic on your network.
Try the support
A trial is a chance for you to try both the features of a filter and their support. If the support team isn’t attentive during the trial period, I can assure you they will not be supportive once you’ve already purchased. Even if everything is going smoothly, I urge you to contact support and see the response you receive. Is it timely and helpful? Also, start forging a relationship with your account manager and their dedicated support team.
Test your environment
Make sure that your schools’ infrastructure can handle the new bandwidth you are bringing on board. This not only applies to your network but also your team members’ bandwidth who will be responsible for managing the web filter on a daily basis. If your devices are going home, make sure its’ capable of monitoring off-site based on the device operating system.
Plan for the change
Whenever you are bringing new tools into schools, change management can be the deciding factor between success and failure. By including all stakeholders (IT Admins, Principals, Technicians, Students, Teachers, Curriculum leaders, etc.), you will gain a better understanding of how a new web filter will impact every level and plan for the change. It will give you an idea of the learning curve and training needed for a successful implementation.
Ask for feedback
Throughout a trial period, ask for feedback, and truly listen. Seek feedback from multiple stakeholders that will be affected by the change.
Set the criteria for evaluation
Make sure the web filtering you are exploring has all the features that are most important to you. Don’t know where to start, use Amplified IT’s Web Filtering Checklist to help guide your trial.
How can Amplified IT help?
Amplified IT can set up free trials for all of our partner services. Our web filtering partners include GoGuardian, Relay Lightspeed, and Securly. We also set you up for success day one by talking through best practices, keeping your Google for Education environment in mind. We are also known to give gentle nudges to alert you when your trial is coming close to expiring.
Of course, you could go directly to the services themselves and ask for a trial or demo. Or, you could contact Amplified IT for an agnostic compare/contrast of the options in the web filtering market. Contact Catherine Weers, Partnership Manager, she will happily walk you through the products, set up trials, provide competitive pricing, and support you throughout the process.
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About the Author:
Catherine Weers joined the Amplified IT team in 2017 after 13 years working in Public Schools as an educator and Technology Coordinator. She has a rich history in Educational Technology. Today, she is the Partnership Manager where she is in charge of ensuring schools get the right tools to fit their individual needs in security, Chromebook management, web filtering, backup solutions and much more.