Friday, September 11, 2020

Bark for Schools | G Suite for Education Web Filtering -- Where Have You Been All My Life?

We were using [another web filtering solution] because they offered a free trial and we started sending Chromebooks home with students in March (Covid). We enjoyed [another web filtering solution], for sure. No problems, easy to implement...their Smart Filter is really neat and scans textual content and graphical content of pages to block things that would make it through, otherwise. But then the trial ended. Boo. We couldn't afford their pricing, but had to have some type of filtering. I searched and there were a few other comparable content filters we could trial for a month or so until we got funding sorted out...but then I saw Bark for Schools.

Bark for Schools is free. So I thought it would seriously lack features as compared to [another web filtering solution]. Not really. No Smart Filter for per-page scanning, but they have category-based blocks and an allow/block list for overrides, plus (outside of traditional content filtering) they monitor student email and searches and generate "alerts" when dangers things are communicated about or searched for.

The included documentation is good. I've done Chromebook extension pushes before, so didn't anticipate any trouble...but I had our old system removed and Bark installed on all 10,000+ Chromebooks (instructions to remove and add, respectively, on next login) in about an hour.

This morning a Bark rep contacted me and we scheduled a meeting. They told me what their "paid" version offers that the free one doesn't and it isn't really much that we are concerned with. Slightly more timely data polling required as Google charges depending on how frequently they are polled for data. The pricing is reasonable, but the increased features aren't especially appealing to us at this time.

No disrespect to [another web filtering solution] -- it was a great product that we underutilized, in the grand scheme of things. But Bark for Schools ticks the right boxes and looks like it will keep our students safe for the time being at the perfect price.

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