eSchool News sat down with Brian Thomas, president & chief executive officer of Lightspeed Systems, which builds software that helps schools keep their devices safe and is used by more than 6,500 districts across 52 countries, to talk about the web-filtering landscape.
You’ve been with Lightspeed Systems for 20 years. How have you seen things change in content filtering?
When I first started with Lightspeed, we were selling an all-in-one product that did antivirus, traffic management, web filtering, spam filtering, and email archiving. At that time, web filtering was really a back-office IT tool that nobody else in the district cared much about. But as technology in schools changed and networks grew and mobile devices came into classrooms, the needs around filtering really evolved—and just blocking bad content wasn’t enough.
What else were schools looking for?
Well, for one thing they wanted less blocking, or at least less over-blocking. Teachers and students and their IT teams were looking for filtering that blocked inappropriate sites but didn’t block content that could be used for learning.
Web-filtering companies have come and gone. What keeps Lightspeed around?
We really listen to our customers so we know what their latest challenges are and we respond to them. When Wikipedia and blogs were really hot, schools wanted to allow some of that content but nobody knew how to filter that social, ever-changing content. We developed a solution for that. Web access during testing was another challenge that we helped them solve. Then everyone saw the power of YouTube but didn’t know how to allow good videos while blocking bad ones, so we solved that too.
Today it’s all about how to keep mobile devices safe–on the school network and off. District IT teams are over-burdened and under-staffed, so these solutions need to be simple to set up and easy to use.