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Best URL filtering software of 2022

An image of security icons for a network encircling a digital blue earth.
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best URL filtering software makes it simple and easy to manage website access across a business network, to reduce security risks.

Monitoring and prohibiting access to certain websites is a common way for parents to ensure kids stay safe online. But URL filtering can be just as effective in a business context too.

As well as blocking a website on the basis of quality, the best URL filtering software can scan the content of a website and withhold access to users if anything within it is deemed unsafe or inappropriate. 

URL filtering can prevent employees from accessing websites that have nothing to do with their roles and, most importantly, prevent employees from inadvertently enabling a malicious website to infect your network with a potentially devastating virus. 

In this article, we take a deep dive into the best URL filtering software solutions on the market, giving you all the information you need to protect your business network and maximize productivity.

We've also featured the best employee monitoring software.

(Image credit: DNSFilter)

1. DNSFilter

Very well-priced URL filtering service

Reasons to buy
+Very competitively priced+Cloud-based+Easy-to-use interface+Wide range of features

DNSFilter’s biggest selling point is its competitive price. As well as comprehensive threat protection, the Basic plan includes desktop roaming facilities and weekly threat reports. 

You have to pay a few dollars more per user to access the Pro plan, which includes advanced features like advanced data analytics tools. However, for a small- to medium-sized business, the Basic service is more than adequate. 

DNSFilter has all the features you could ask for, including AI-powered real-time threat detection, phishing, malware, and virus protection, customizable URL filtering, off-network protection, analytics—and even a bonus SSL certificate. 

We found the interface easier to navigate than those of other providers and particularly liked the Geo Activity display, a nice touch that physically demonstrated the process of finding and stopping threats that would likely appeal to first-time users.


(Image credit: Cisco)

2. Cisco Umbrella

Comprehensive filtering software from a trusted brand

Reasons to buy
+100% uptime since 2006+Cloud-based security+Predictive threat detection+Weekly security reports

Cisco is one of the largest and best-known software providers around, and unsurprisingly, its URL filtering product, Cisco Umbrella is one of the top examples of the technology you’ll find. 

As it is a cloud-based service, there is no hardware and updates occur automatically. Cisco has an impeccable uptime record too, so you can be assured that no unexpected outage is likely to endanger the security of your network. 

The software’s key selling point is its ability to detect and block threats from malicious websites before they reach you. This is achieved by analyzing over 180 billion internet requests a day, and the technology protects users on and off the network. 

As the name suggests, Cisco Umbrella has multiple tools including DNS-layer security, interactive threat intelligence, a secure web gateway, firewall, cloud access security broker (CASB) functionality, and integration with Cisco SD-WAN. 

The interface is well-designed but a little complex for first-time users. Still, with a little practice, it is navigable and provides consistent reports and easy-to-see monitoring. Pricing is bespoke.


(Image credit: WebTitan)

3. WebTitan Cloud

Straightforward, scalable web filtering

Reasons to buy
+Simple price plans+Very scalable product+Protects business email accounts
Reasons to avoid
-Interface only suitable for technical users

TitanHQ’s WebTitan Web Filter is actually comprised of a suite of filtering tools that can be deployed to protect customers and employees from malicious web pages and emails. WebTitan Cloud, a DNS-based service that is both hosted and managed by the TitanHQ team, is the most appropriate product for small- to medium-sized businesses. 

This scalable software product is perfect for businesses that want protection running in the background without the need for constant maintenance. 

As well as blocking malware, viruses, malicious websites, and ransomware, the technology protects users from compromised email accounts, monitoring incoming HTTP and HTTPS traffic and blocking malicious content in real-time. 

The WebTitan Cloud dashboard displays updated threat reports and category lists illustrating blocked and allowed domains. It’s very simple to create custom page blocking settings and policies and set individual user preferences. That said, some degree of technical know-how is required to navigate the interface correctly. 


(Image credit: McAfee)

4. McAfee Web Gateway Cloud Service

Cloud-based, enterprise-grade web protection

Reasons to buy
+No hardware necessary+Powerful protection for remote teams+99.5% of malware blocked
Reasons to avoid
-Dashboard more complicated than competitors

With no need to purchase additional hardware and the ability to install protection remotely via the cloud, McAfee Web Gateway Cloud Service is more simple to operate and manage than its on-premises alternative, McAfee Web Gateway. 

The technology is powerful, scalable, and suitable for all user levels, including enterprise clients. That said, the dashboard is a little more complicated than those of other providers we tested, and some degree of technical knowledge is required. 

A well-known name in the anti-malware industry, McAfee doesn’t let its standards slip here, and advanced features include proactive threat detection and zero-day exploit protection. It’s even possible to extend the software’s URL filtering capabilities to secure users outside of your network. 

There is no explicit pricing information on McAfee’s website. Instead, this service is negotiated on a case-by-case basis dependent on needs.


(Image credit: Untangle)

5. Untangle NG Firewall Complete

Perfect for small-to-medium-sized businesses

Reasons to buy
+Wide-range of apps +Well-priced plans+Very intuitive dashboard
Reasons to avoid
-Website a little confusing

Established in 2003, Untangle is a great web filtering option for small-to-medium-sized businesses as it’s possible to specify the apps required for your company’s exact needs. This makes the process of securing your network not only less costly but also easier to manage. 

For our tests, we opted to trial the provider’s NG Firewall Complete plan, which includes all of the apps required to monitor web traffic, specify site usage, and block malicious content. 

The service enables users to filter content and prioritize specific sites and apps relevant to business-related activities. Much of this functionality is down to the provider’s web filtering app, which boasts a huge range of features including alerts based on search terms and a massive database of unsafe IPs. 

We were impressed by the dashboard. Although packed with features, it was incredibly easy to navigate, while animations and images really helped us to visualize the reporting.

We've also featured the best free and public DNS servers.

Kieron Allen

Kieron is a freelance science and technology journalist with more than a decade of experience writing for magazines in print and online. Today, his focus is on cybersecurity, blockchain, and emerging tech.