I don't usually blog about specific products but I will make an exception for this case, mainly because they are a software developer local to me. I will add that I have no financial interest in any of the products and services mentioned. The products in question also have a unique selling point that might just fit the bill.
Currentware are the software developer in question whose products are distributed by Codework who have been supllying IT solutions from their Stockport office for more than 10 years. They specialise in network management systems and as well as distributing products from various well known software companies they develop their own software.
The USB problem
Anybody who has spent any time thinking about network security will recognise the problem that USB ports present. Teachers and pupils plugging in USB pens can easily introduce malware and viruses to your school network, so many schools just block the USB ports. This is turn presents a problem given that teachers and children will also need to plug in digital cameras, microphones, microscopes and a host of other USB based peripherals. This can be got around by having higher level logins for teachers, but that still assumes that they have the skills and knowledge to prevent malware getting on to their network as a result of freeing up USB ports for their use.
Access Patrol is a neat piece of software that addresses this problem by creating a register of approved devices that are allowed to plug in to your network. So you might choose to allow particular cameras, scanners and microphones etc. and not allow USB pens. You could also restrict the use of these devices to particular users, or even allow specific USB pens, but not others. One of the great features of this software is, because it's based on the device and controlled by a console, it works even when the device isn't plugged in to the network. This is invaluable when controlling the use of laptops and netbooks which might be taken home by staff or pupils. At around £400 for a 100 screen network it's also a pretty cheap solution.
An extra feature of the product that I like is that it will schedule an auto shutdown (and power up)of all pcs on your network at a given time. This feature on its own could save you enough money in saved electricity to justify installing it on its own.
Like Access Patrol, Browse Control is a device based piece of software. It controls the internet access from the workstation through the use of user configured white list or blacklist filters. You can add any lists that you might have (N2H2 etc). Each user can have their own specific access parameters applied and allows time schedules etc. Again, because it is based on the machine, it works wherever your device is plugged in to the internet. Now this is interesting, because more and more schools are starting to investigate the provision of netbooks with 3G dongles to pupils with no broadband access at home. This usually begs the question, how are these 3G connections filtered and monitored? Because Browse Control continues to operate when remote from the school network, schools can create an off-site white list, or at the very list provide a basic level of site and wildcard blocking on these netbooks. And if you use the Browse Reporter reporting module it will report which sites the user hass accessed next time the netbook is plugged in to the school network. Again, at £400 for a 100 screen network it's an inexpensive solution that might complement your existing LEA based filter, giving you a bit more local control.
Apparently if you buy all 3 elements you can get a decent discount. Contact Currentware for more details.