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Internet Related/Filtering/Firewall Thread, RM schools: How to justify the cost of Smoothwall over RMSmartCache in Technical; I'll start with a bit of backgound: We're an RM school that currently has a SmartCache 2 filtering box. We ...
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    dayzd's Avatar
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    RM schools: How to justify the cost of Smoothwall over RMSmartCache

    I'll start with a bit of backgound:

    We're an RM school that currently has a SmartCache 2 filtering box. We also have a small number of Macs that we have set up separately to the RM network and require separate internet filtering, because we don't like the way they work with Smartcache. We're currently looking at a SmoothWall solution for the Macs, but next year (2011-12) we'd ideally like to use SmoothWall for both our RM and Mac networks and dump the SmartCache all together.

    Our main problem is cost. We're gonna have to justify the cost of a SmoothWall system to our SMT over the cost of a second SmartCache (which will do the job, just not very well).
    If we've calculated our costs right (total cost of ownership - hardware plus licenses), getting a SmoothWall for our macs for three years is double the cost of the RM SmartCache system we already have. If we're to use SmoothWall on our entire system, it'll cost more than three times that of a SmartCache system.

    Obviously, this is not a negligible difference. We can already tell from our trial version that despite it's complicated interface, it is a far better solution than SmartCache, but just saying 'well, it's better...!' isn't going to get us terribly far! Does anybody have any suggestions on how we could convince our SMT that SmoothWall is worth the cost?

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    p858snake's Avatar
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    Have you looked at cost of ownership for converting them both onto the one box?

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    dayzd's Avatar
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    Do you mean virtualisation? SmartCache is an appliance and cannot be virtualised Plus, we've already got one. We were hoping to get rid of it until we realised how much SW would cost us to cover our site...!

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    p858snake's Avatar
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    I was referring to using the same filtering system for both networks.

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    Aye - SW can auth against two AD forests now.

    I'd write a list of things the SmartCache box does poorly divided into two sections: a) things that will affect end-users. b) things that make it a pain to manage / grab logs from.

    And then which of those problems SW will solve.

    Then work out what's an acceptable price to pay for fixing those problems. Then wait until the end of the month and try to beat Gav down on price.

    Edit: also take into account any new and useful features that'll have a positive effect on safeguarding / teaching & learning etc.
    Last edited by pete; 1st July 2010 at 02:13 PM.

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    dayzd's Avatar
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    @p858snake. That's what we want to do for next year (2011-12). Given other projects that are going on this summer, we decided it wouldn't be smart to do that now, so want to operate SW on just the Macs to begin with, then put the PCs onto it next year as and when we're ready.

    @pete. That sounds like roughly the kind of thing I was thinking. We currently have a major issue with something SC does not do well at the moment (that RM haven't been able to fix) that will be going to the top of said list: it doesn't block the iPlayer for all student, regardless of what rules we put into it!

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    If you are talking to SMT, and this is dependent on how tech savvy your SMT is, they are going to look at the bottom line costs only. They won't care about anything technical, they don't know about your job, won't understand the technical jargon. Won't care that it's complicated for you, they aren't doing it, and your employed to do it.

    Think carefully about TCO, and get costs if SW takes care of the hassles by reducing your time on it's monitoring/maintenance, factor that in heavily when you present the figures. The other things you can do:

    If there TCO benefits in terms of cost, throw in an additional project you'll be able to achieve, either in total, or sooner than planned, because you're not spending as much time on the current system.

    Explain the benefits from a student experience perspective of the new software, emphasising real world benefits. It doesn't matter if they are the same in most part as the current system, however, beneficial differences should go top of he list. If you're asked if they are in the current product, emphasis only those that are additional.

    If there are any additional features that you feel are important in safeguarding that the new product has, and the old one doesn't, place major emphasis on those features. Again refer this back to student protection in large and glowing terms.

    A three times increase in costs is a tough one though, good luck.

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    tom_newton's Avatar
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    How much time do you and your team spend chasing down proxies each day? Thats usually a good one to start!

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    I wish the web filtering companies do a server license so the per user or per number of ip address restrictrion is removed altogether. Commercial companies who want to make money and that's what they are there for but trying to look after your customers in terms of their requirements (not just technical but licensing and support) would be really great.

    I think a lot of web filtering companies do offer good products but the licensing is not flexible enought or it just cost a bomb to get an appliance without restriction. Some fair pricing structure along with flexibility and some common sense on prices (esp. in a recession) would be greatly advised to all companies involved in selling their products and services to the education sector.

    Ash.

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    alan-d's Avatar
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    All good advice above but when presenting to SMT use a lot of key phrases such as Child Protection, Duty of Care etc as well as point out that the better the filter, the less the students can see and be distracted by therefore increasing learning time and reducing discipline cases that teaching staff have to deal with. Point out the possible cost savings of administration\man hours against the additional cost of SW.

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    The way have justified SW is as much 'we can prove people innocent' as 'we can prove people guilty' if that makes sense.

    It just takes your filtering to be poor for a student to say "I saw x teacher on x website" and you can't prove one way or the other if they were or not. SW eliminates this problem which is one of the key reasons we purchased it.

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    @Ash; Please drop me a line if you want to discuss licencing - unfortunately we haver to continue to pay our developers, but I can assure our users that the proportion of monies going back into development of new software (which existing customers get as part of the package) is vastly higher than the majority of software companies.

    We strive to keep our prices as fair as possible - but welcome feedback on how we're doing.

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    Having recently completely a filter comparison document for some independent schools I found there can be many influencing factors that all relate to cost in the long run. For instance as ash mentioned above licensing models can vary greatly, appliance v software solutions x the amount of sites needed to be filtered, and of course ease of administration can really effect TCO and filter effectiveness, which influence the total cost to the school / district.
    Perhaps the most interesting area was like storage and virtualization the fact that a lot of security solutions can now be consolidated into all in one solutions or UTM's. By converging several related solutions such as Filtering, Spam, Shaping, AV, and firewall functions greater savings can be made over a period of time and lower TCO's.
    There are lots of solutions out there, some more education focused than others and some will suit some enviroments better than others...but its worth looking at all the options. Most popular isnt always the best for your particular needs, it can just mean they have been around the longest....eg MS

    Just my personal findings anyway.

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    Smoothwall cost can be reduced by running on your own hardware.

  15. Thanks to nicholab from:

    tom_newton (5th July 2010)



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