Spiceworks – OpenDNS

Spiceworks – OpenDNS

Background:

Founded in 2006, Spiceworks develops the first free social business application that combines systems and network management software with an online community of IT professionals to help over 1 Million IT pros and 140,000 managed service providers (MSPs) simplify everything IT.

Spiceworks makes it easy for businesses to manage their networks, collaborate to solve technology problems, and find the best practices, products and services they need day-to-day. Through its Voice of IT market research program, the company enables direct conversations with IT professionals, conducts surveys and provides insight on important technology usage, staffing and purchasing trends by small and medium businesses worldwide. Spiceworks is a privately held company headquartered in Austin, Texas.

Business need:

We have experienced a rapid rate of growth in the last few years, with headcount doubling and then doubling again. Shared resources such as Internet bandwidth began to have significant burden placed up on them. As such, it became apparent that better management of these resources was required. Additionally, malware and other security issues became real concerns, so a solution was needed in this area as well.

Solution:

OpenDNS Enterprise was selected to provide both web content filtering and malware/botnet abatement services. Other options under consideration included dedicated appliance-based systems and open solutions. The primary reasons for selecting OpenDNS Enterprise were its simplicity in setup and cost, as well as favorable reviews in media. We began with the free version, which met our initial need of managing Web content. We then upgraded to OpenDNS Enterprise, which provided us with malware/botnet protection, as well as advanced reporting/logging and the ability to delegate administration.

Results:

“Installing” OpenDNS Enterprise was simply a matter of setting the forwarders on our internal DNS servers to the OpenDNS servers. I then created a network in the OpenDNS Enterprise dashboard and set up basic information such as the outbound IP address. I then was able to begin configuring services. Beginning with Web content filtering, I selected basic categories that I wanted to restrict (such as video sharing, adult content, P2P, and streaming media). After this, I was able to then select specific domains that I never wanted blocked.

As far as the effectiveness, I could tell OpenDNS Enterprise was working when the first helpdesk tickets arrived wanting to know why a well-known video-sharing site was no longer accessible. Our overall bandwidth utilization has declined and there have been fewer complaints of “slow Internet” since we began filtering. Additionally, we have access to substantial reporting which gives us a better idea of what types of sites users are accessing (or trying to access).

Positives:

Ease of installation/configuration – really a no-brainer here, this could not be more simple.

Reporting – very robust reporting on requests and traffic types

Ability to manually block and unblock domains – provides for a very granular level of control over web content (for example, I want video sharing sites restricted in general, but need to allow access to a certain site because of linked content within our community site)

Ability to customize block pages – this allows us to put in custom messaging and a logo around the block page and instruct the user on what to do next, if anything

Potential downsides:

Malware/botnet blocking aggressive – Some sites that we rely upon for certain aspects of our business were being blocked as malware/botnet. This caused quite a bit of concern amongst some of sales and marketing staff. I ended up turning the feature off completely.. However, OpenDNS was able to follow up with me and provide more information and I was able to provide access to the domains that were being blocked.

Inability to track users – Since OpenDNS works at the network level, I cannot track individual user patterns, only the group as a whole. While I understand that this is just the way it works, I include it here as a caution to anyone who requires this functionality. I was able to “work around” this by creating access codes that map back to departments. The codes can be tracked, so I can tell what department is accessing restricted content. While this could be extended out to a per-user scheme, I believe that it would be unwieldy in large organizations

Overall:

I would definitely recommend OpenDNS Enterprise as a service for users who need a general web content filtering capability and malware and botnet protection. The absolute ease of setup and low cost make for a potent counter to appliance-based solutions.

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