Earthweb.com Practically Networked Home Earthweb developer.com HardwareCentral earthwebdeveloper CrossNodes Datamation
Welcome to PractiallyNetworked
Product Reviews

 • Routers
 • Hubs/Switches
 • Wireless Gateway
 • Wireless AP
 • Wireless NIC
 • Network Storage
 • Print Servers
 • Bluetooth Adapters
Troubleshooting
& Tutorials

 • Networking
 • Internet Sharing
 • Security
 • Backgrounders
 • Troubleshooting
    Guides

 • PracNet How To's
User Opinions
Practicallynetworked Glossary

 Find a Network Term  
 
Forums
About
Jobs
Home

  Most Popular Tutorials

• Microsoft Vista Home Networking Setup and Options
The most daunting part of upgrading to Windows Vista may be trying to figure out where in the layers of menus the networking and file-sharing options are hidden.

• Do It Yourself: Roll Your Own Network Cables
It may not be something you do everyday, but having the supplies and know-how to whip up a network cable on the spot can be very handy.

• Tips for Securing Your Home Router
Seemingly minor and easily overlooked settings can still have profound security implications. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your wired or wireless home router and by extension, your network is as secure as possible.

  Most Popular Reviews

• Microsoft Windows Home Server
If you have a home network, you'll welcome the easy file sharing, remote access and the image-based backup features of Windows Home Server.

• Iomega StorCenter Network Hard Drive
Iomega's fourth generation StorCenter Network Hard Drive brings many of the features found in higher-end storage devices down to an attractive price.

• MikroTik's The Dude
This free tool delivers many of the same capabilities that you'd find in pricey network monitoring tools. As long as you don't mind tinkering, The Dude is a decent network utility that should be worth the download.



Can Your Router Keep Your Kids Safe Online?

Plenty of options exists to let you monitor and limit what kids can access on the Internet. You may need to look no further than your broadband router.

by Joseph Moran

If you've got a computer with an Internet connection and you have kids, you're probably more than a little concerned about things they might be exposed to while online. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to both monitor and limit what they have access to while using the computer — commonly referred to as content filtering or parental controls. This week, we'll look at the pros and cons of several methods.

Basic Router-Based Filtering
Depending on your needs, you may not have to look any further than the broadband router you already own, because many models offer some degree of basic content filtering. This usually includes the capability to restrict access to your Internet connection based on a schedule you set up, as well as block access to Web sites. Most routers will also maintain a log of Internet activity and allow you to receive e-mail alerts when anything untoward occurs, such as an attempt to access a restricted web site.

What's That Term?
Not sure what a particular term means? Check out the searchable PracticallyNetworked Glossary.

The major benefit of using a router's basic filtering feature is that it doesn't require you to buy any new hardware or software. But there are several drawbacks as well, the biggest of which is limited filtering capability. For example, while you'll be able to prevent access to a given Web site (or perhaps groups of sites if you specify a keyword rather than a particular URL), there are countless potentially harmful sites and no practical way to proactively filter all of them using only your router.

Software-Based Filtering To get more comprehensive protection, you'll want to turn to a product specifically designed for content filtering. This might include a stand-alone parental-control utility or a firewall with parental control features (such as those from companies like McAfee, Symantec and ZoneLabs). Products like these check sites against a database (which is updated regularly) to determine whether a site's contents pass muster. This will allow you to filter Web sites based on dozens of categories you may not want children exposed to (e.g., sex, drugs, real estate) rather than only a handful of specific sites. Parental control software also usually lets you easily restrict access not just to Web sites, but to network-enabled applications too (such as instant messaging or file-sharing clients).

Another major benefit of using parental control software is flexibility. For example, many software products let you create multiple user accounts and apply different filtering rules to each, which beats a one-size fits (or blocks) all approach particularly if you have children that are more than a couple of years apart in age.

A downside to the software method can be the cost, which will usually range anywhere from $40 to $80. Another catch — parental control software is almost always sold on an annual subscription basis rather than as a one-time payment, so you should expect to pay the same amount (or in some cases a bit less) each subsequent year you use the software. On the plus side, software vendors have come to realize the ubiquity of multiple computer households, and thus most have license agreements that allow you to legally install the software on several systems (typically, up to three).

This brings us to another limitation of parental-control software — namely, that it can only do it's job on the computer you installed it on. As described above, this can result in the inconvenience of having to install and configure it several times, but more importantly it may also mean potential loopholes where no restrictions can be enforced (say, if someone brings over their own laptop).

The Best of Both Worlds
The best way to overcome this limitation is to use a router with parental control features that go beyond the rudimentary filtering described earlier, and some router vendors (including D-Link, Linksys and Netgear) do offer models with subscription-based parental control features. (D-Link actually offers a combination hardware/software product that works in conjunction with your existing router). Devices like these typically provide features and flexibility similar to software-based parental control products, but enforce rules for every system that connects to your network.

As with software, cost is still something to consider, because routers with integrated parental controls generally cost more (sometimes twice as much) than equivalent devices without the feature. And just like with parental control software, you'll still need to pony up for ongoing subscription fees.

If cost is a concern, your operating system may also offer some built-in parental controls of its own. Unfortunately, you won't find any in Windows XP, but Windows Vista offers a few capabilities you may not even find in subscription-based products. One of them is the option to set up complex Internet access schedules (for instance, to allow access between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. -9 p.m., rather than only in a continuous block). Another is the capability to let you control access to a game by its ESRB rating, to prevent younger kids from playing, say, an M-rated game.

Finally, we'd be remiss not to mention that Mac OS X offers a similar set of parental control options (and yes Apple fans, the Mac had them before Windows).

Joe Moran is a regular contributor to PracticallyNetworked.


For more help, don't forget to try one of our PracticallyNetworked Forums.

Add to del.icio.us | DiggThis




Earthwebnews.com Earthweb developer.com HardwareCentral earthwebdeveloper CrossNodes Datamation


Home | Networking | Backgrounders | Internet Sharing | Security | HowTo | Troubleshooting | Reviews | News | About | Jobs | Tools | Forums