If you manage a K-12 network, keeping kids from unsafe sites may be the most important responsibility you’re tasked with.  Kids are curious, and stumbling into seedy digital alleyways is easy to do.  If you’ve ever wished you could barricade the Internet’s underbelly from creeping into your users’ online experience, or if you’ve ever wished for granular control over users, devices, and applications at the perimeter level, we’ve been listening.  We’re excited to announce several new features for the MX security appliance targeted at the K-12 space.  They include:

  • Improved content filtering, including SafeSearch (Google, Yahoo!, and Bing)

  • The ability to block encrypted search

  • YouTube for Schools

  • Group-based policy support

  • Web caching

In a nutshell: these features protect your network from unsafe content and bandwidth abuse.

Content filtering

We’ve made several improvements to the MX series to strengthen content filtering. Appliances will now utilize real-time URL lookups with our content filtering partners in the event that a URL isn’t in the local database. This allows us to provide a significantly larger universe of content aware URLs while still providing fast filtering throughput.

Additionally, the MX series now offers SafeSearch filtering, which keeps unsafe content at bay.  Simply enable “Web search filtering” in the Configure > Content filtering dashboard page, and immediately a SafeSearch filter will be applied to all Google, Yahoo!, and Bing HTTP-based searches.  This beats manually configuring these browsers to filter unsafe content.

Enabling safe search filtering on the MX.

Blocking encrypted search

“Now, wait!” you say, “that’s all well and good, but kids can be crafty, too — what if they use encrypted search to deliberately look for unsafe content?”  We’ve got you covered: you can enable “Block encrypted search” to disallow this behavior with Google searches (Yahoo! and Bing don’t support encrypted search at this time.  Note, though, that due to Google limitations, this will disable access to Google products using SSL except Gmail).

SafeSearch filtering can also be used alongside Meraki’s regular content filtering to powerfully restrict unsafe material from manifesting in search results or being generally accessible.

YouTube for Schools

YouTube has become an increasingly important component of education, with thousands of free, high-quality education videos available on the site. The YouTube for Schools program allows students to watch educational videos while limiting access to other, non-educational videos on the site. With the MX, administrators can now enforce that policy for an entire network, ensuring that requests to YouTube are routed properly into the school’s YouTube policy.

Group-based security policies

The MX series now gives administrators greater control over users, devices, and applications.  You can configure bandwidth limits, firewall rules, traffic shaping, SafeSearch and YouTube for School settings, and security and content filters for specific users, user groups, and VLANs.  This allows you to translate the deep insight about the type of traffic and devices accessing your network into granular control at the perimeter level.  For example, now you could have separate policies applied by the MX that give teachers one level of security and content filtering, while ensuring students are more restricted.

Group-based policies can be applied to users, groups of users, individual VLANs, and network-wide.

Web caching

Organizations typically have several people accessing the same sites in a given time frame, and schools in particular can have entire classrooms using one web page or watching the same video. The MX series now allows administrators to cut down on their bandwidth bills and speed up the download experience with built-in web caching.  Web caching allows frequently accessed web content to be served from the MX appliance, rather than the originating web server.

Available now

Current MX customers can schedule an immediate upgrade by calling Meraki support. We’re excited to offer these new features on the MX, so please tell us what you think!

If you’re interested in trying out an MX at your organization, we offer risk-free evaluations of all of our gear — and we’ll pay the shipping costs both ways — so it’s easy to see how well an MX can work in your environment.