SBA switches Internet filter

More than 6,500 employees at the Small Business Administration's headquarters soon will have their Internet usage filtered by software from N2H2 Inc., a company that is making its first foray into the federal market.

Under terms of the agreement announced Wednesday, N2H2's i2100 Internet filtering appliance will replace SBA's existing filtering product, which failed to meet the agency's goal of eliminating improper Internet usage, said Neil McIrvin, vice president of strategic sales and business development at N2H2.

"SBA was very concerned that it wasn't capturing the amount of inappropriate [traffic] within the agency," McIrvin said, explaining that the list of inappropriate URLs was not sufficient enough. To avoid a similar problem, N2H2 uses artificial intelligence, human review and a user community to keep up with the frantic pace of change on the Internet.

"All government agencies are trying to filter Internet use to make sure it's appropriate and related to work," SBA spokesman David Helfert said. "Whether it's obscene or E-Bay, it's not appropriate use of the Internet in a government office."

N2H2 is deploying its i2100 to enable SBA to monitor and manage Internet activity within individual departments. The company also is customizing the service to include heightened security features for SBA.

The filtering component will be operational in the next few weeks, and the security add-on will be ready within 30 days after that, McIrvin said.

"Compared with our previous Internet filtering service, N2H2 offers us the flexibility we need to ensure access to the most relevant Internet content while allowing us to improve overall employee productivity," said Lawrence Barrett, SBA's chief information officer, in a release.

N2H2, which will receive a per-user revenue fee in the deal, is hoping that its first government contract is the start of longstanding relationship, said Peter Nickerson, president and chief executive officer of the Seattle-based company.

"We think our systems are very well-suited to the federal government," Nickerson said. "We design systems that are very flexible and very scalable. We go to large organizations and provide them with a choice of solutions and ways they filter."

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