One of the things we parents worry about, but generally don’t do anything about, is the total filtering of the content that comes into our home over the Internet. Sure…we talk about it and we do things like put the family computer in the living room or kitchen where everyone can see what is going on, but in reality, that isn’t enough. There are also parental control on the various operating systems, but again, that is an incomplete solution. The last resort for many is to move to an ISP (Internet Service Provider) that does the content filtering for you based on THEIR standards. What happens if you need something that they consider objectionable? Truth is, when you reply on someone else, you are left to deal with what they consider acceptable, when it my not conflict with your personal conviction. What you need is a utility that you can customize, at any time, what is available on your network. What you need is what I’ve used, and most tech parents use for protecting their families. What you need is OpenDNS. Oh…it’s FREE too!I remember it like it was yesterday. It was August of 2002 and I had just completed a project for a local school setting up a computer lab and putting computers in every classroom. The problem, given the budget they could not afford a good content filter, so we decided on the next best thing (at the time) which was the use of IP Tables running on a Linux server in their server room. It worked well enough, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to provide them. So I started looking for a solution that was constantly being updated and easy to administer. Sadly, the only solution was from St. Bernard Software. It was a rack-mounted server that acted as a web proxy that was constantly being updated. At the time I looked at it, the price was about $2000.00 per year. For a non-profit school, that was not option.
Then, as my children began to get older I started looking for a system like that for home use. Again, few choices. That was until a good friend of mine, Ryan, an IT Director for a resort chain told me about OpenDNS, a free service that filtered Internet traffic through their DNS servers, and allowed users to determine what content they wanted to allow on their systems and networks. He said it did everything I wanted, and even more. They were using it at the place he worked and they were VERY happy with the results. So I tried it…and I am still using it, and recommending it to all of my friends and customers looking for a cost-effective solution. Oh…it runs in the Cloud too. All you do it point to two DNS servers after creating an account for yourself…and you’re done.
There are a few reasons I like it, but let me just give you a few. First, I can have it up and running in minutes, all from a web browser, and a few minor changes to my DNS settings on the systems I want to change, and that’s it. No software to buy or install. Secondly, I love it because I can change settings , block or unblock sites online, and it only takes three minutes for the changes to take effect. Third, I like the fact that my kids have it on their systems, and mine has no restrictions. Fourth, I LOVE the fact that you can use the service for free, but if you are like me you get the exceptionally low cost version which gives you a few more options.
I could go on and on about OpenDNS and the ease of having top quality content filtering on your home computers, but I won’t spoil the fun. Please take a look at it and what it can do for your family or for your business. Finally, remember this; the content may be filtered, but when your kids are on the Internet, you should treat them like when they are walking down the sidewalk in NYC. Walk with them…just in case. OpenDNS, along with good parental controls allows you to essentially lock your systems down completely so your kids are safe. However, if you are not sure, surf with them.