Control users' access to the Internet

The ability to access the Internet is empowering, but uncontrolled Internet access can lead to situations that damage your business (e.g., users accessing inappropriate material). Controlling and tracking Internet use is paramount to protecting your business. Unified Research Laboratories' (URLabs') I-Gear 2.8 is a Microsoft Proxy Server add-on that helps you control users' access to the Internet at a granular level.

I installed and tested I-Gear on a 300MHz Pentium system running Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 3 (SP3), Internet Information Server (IIS) 4.0, Proxy Server 2.0, and the necessary hotfixes. Before I copied I-Gear onto my system, I configured the proxy server for no access control so that I-Gear could provide access control for the entire server.

After I copied the software onto my system, I entered the licensing information and configured I-Gear on my network. To configure the software, you must define the users and computers that can access the proxy server, the sites users can visit, and the parameters for this access (e.g., time restrictions). I-Gear integrates directly into NT's user database, so configuring customized access restrictions for users on my network was easy. I also defined the material I wanted the software to block and filter (e.g., foul language, racial slurs).

I-Gear has several stellar features. In addition to limiting employees' access to Internet sites, the software improves network performance by providing a caching mechanism. I-Gear comes with a comprehensive database that includes more than 300,000 addresses for objectionable Internet sites. According to URLabs, I-Gear's database lets you prevent access to about 10 million pages of Web sites right out of the box.

I-Gear uses Dynamic Document Review (DDR), a context-sensitive, multilingual filtering technology. DDR reviews Web pages as the proxy server retrieves them and searches for objectionable words and phrases. DDR automatically blocks objectionable material based on individual user permissions. For example, if a user accesses Kenneth Starr's report on President Clinton, you can prevent that user from viewing the portions of the report that contain unacceptable language.

You can adjust the DDR's sensitivity level and define the words you want it to screen out. To test DDR, I used the Starr report and configured I-Gear to block the word Lewinsky from view. Then I accessed the report on CNN's Web site and tested the results. I-Gear replaced the word Lewinsky with a row of dashes. When I attempted to access a blocked site, I-Gear presented a customizable error screen, which informed me that the site was unauthorized.

I-Gear lets you control access to the Internet at a granular level by providing a way to set access hours and define violation thresholds for automatic lockout. To prevent unauthorized users from accessing the Internet, you can configure I-Gear to require users to provide a password to log on to the proxy server. I-Gear's auditing capabilities let you track and report unauthorized access attempts.

I-Gear uses roaming profiles so users can access their profiles from any machine on the network. Screen 1 shows I-Gear's Web-based administrative interface, which you can use to manage the software across platforms.

The Right Stuff
Compared with competing products (e.g., The Learning Company's Cyber Patrol, NetPartners' WebSENSE), I-Gear has a more flexible configuration and more stringent access control methods. If you need better control over your users' Internet access, take a look at I-Gear.

I-Gear 2.8
Contact:
Unified Research Laboratories * 757-865-0810
Web: http://www.urlabs.com
Price: $2495 for 50 concurrent users; $295 for each additional 50 users
System Requirements:
Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 3, Pentium processor, Internet Information Server 3.0, Microsoft Proxy Server, 32MB of RAM, 30MB of hard disk space, CD-ROM drive