Richard Moore protects thousands of pupils when they use the internet. He spoke to Deputy Business Editor Greg Wright
HE stops predators targeting children and ensures workers don’t waste their company’s time and money by swapping anecdotes on Facebook.
Richard Moore is in the driving seat at a company which protects 80,000 Yorkshire children without them realising it.
As chief executive of Leeds-based Smoothwall, he heads an internet security firm that works with 80 per cent of Yorkshire’s schools. Smoothwall recently beat 15 other firms to win contracts with 10 out of the 13 local education authorities in our region.
In the near future, trolley-fulls of ipads could be handed out to pupils, which means the demand for sophisticated monitoring systems will grow. It’s a far cry from the days when the school day revolved around slates and blackboards.
Mr Moore believes the corporate world could also benefit from a scalpel-like approach to internet security.
The privately-owned Smoothwall is on course to see its turnover rise from £5m to £7m this year. Mr Moore has built up a firm that employs 100 staff, who are spread across offices in Leeds, Southampton, North Carolina and California. Last month the company established a base in Sydney, Australia.
The firm has recorded growth of more than 40 per cent each year since it was founded in 2001, a year when many technology firms bit the dust. Its success has been forged around a client list which includes councils, schools, the NHS and the fire service.
The education product Smoothwall has created – the Guardian Web Filtering system – provides real-time monitoring and filtering that examines the content, context and construction of every webpage, rather than just blocking a website’s URL addresses.
“Around 65 per cent of our revenues come from the public sector, primarily from education and local authorities,” Mr Moore said. “In the future, we see that commercial organisations, locally and nationally, will need the same filtering technology and that’s where much of our growth will come from.”
The firm’s web filtering and security technologies protect computer networks around the clock.
Bosses can sleep soundly, without worrying that their IT system could be wrecked by unseen forces. Recent innovations have included a feature that is designed to save businesses and the public sector money by controlling when and how Facebook is used on their computer networks.
Many companies ban the use of Facebook altogether. However, crafty employees can try and get around this by accessing Facebook and other social media using their smart-phones or tablets.
Within any company, there are also likely to be employees who need access to social media for legitimate reasons, such as people working in PR or marketing.
The feature, called ‘Read Only Facebook’, does what it says on the tin. It means users can log-in and view the social networking site but not update it.
The software can also be configured to offer individual or groups of network users different levels of access, depending on the time of day. It can be turned off during busy times or configured to allow full access at lunchtimes or outside working hours.
Time wasted surfing for trivia on the web can lead to a dip in profits. Imagine your organisation has 50 staff, and all of them waste 10 minutes a day online. According to Smoothwall’s research, you could be waving goodbye to £35,000 a year in terms of lost productivity.
Children and adults have different behaviour patterns when they explore the internet.
Mr Moore said: “Children are highly motivated to get around the restrictions placed on them, often so they can play online games.
“Information is exchanged over social media about the addresses for servers that can bypass old style ‘blocklists’. For adults in the workplace, the sanctions for evading restrictions can be much more severe.
“Even so, if you look at the web traffic in a business, before restrictions are applied, you can see that workers spend considerable amounts of time online, perhaps as much as two to three hours a day in some cases.”
American footballers aren’t usually regarded as pushovers, but they have still sought Smoothwall’s protection.
The firm is providing network security and web content filtering services to The Detroit Lions. Glasgow-based IT services company E4E has signed up to use Smoothwall’s technology to protect employees in the UK, US and India.
Dutch company Kliksafe, which supplies internet and telephone services, has also appointed the firm to provide family friendly filtered internet access to thousands of its customers.
In February, Smoothwall secured a contract with a global aerospace, defence and information systems organisation that will see its products used by the US Military in the Middle East.
The deal with ITT Exelis, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange has a total value of £750,000 .
According to Mr Moore, companies need to take a sophisticated approach to monitoring their employees’ online activities.
When internet access was still a novelty, firms often had a list of 1,000 websites which staff were allowed to peruse. Today, many companies will allow employees a limited amount of time to do, say, online shopping, while at work.
Mr Moore observed: “As the web has become more important to the way business is conducted, a managed access approach is the ‘grown up’ way of managing the issues. But organisations have a responsibility to protect their staff and their networks from dangerous and inappropriate material. If they don’t, then legal problems can arise as well as damage to their systems.
“A managed approach with usage quotas or time restrictions, along with sensible filtering, can provide both strong protection and improve staff motivation.”
“Mobile technology is a huge driver for the future,” he added. “In schools, the rise of tablets is important, as it pushes the demand on bandwidth upwards.
“These devices come into their own if they can be taken off premises to use for homework. Once they get off the school network, maintaining control of what is available is a key challenge.”
If he won the Lottery, Mr Moore would love to open an animal sanctuary in a remote part of Yorkshire, a sign of somebody with a rich hinterland.
For now, he is focused on securing big name corporate clients for Smoothwall.
“We’re flying the flag for Yorkshire and have got an untapped market on our doorstep,” he said.
“We like to work in ever increasing circles from our base here.”
Richard Moore Factfile
Name: Richard Moore
Date of birth: July 21, 1973
Title Chief executive, Smoothwall, based in Leeds.
Place of Birth: Beverley
Education: Hymers College, Hull. I then took a marketing degree and an IT masters degree
Last book read: It’s All News To Me by Jeremy Vine
Car driven: BMW
First job: Medical sales followed by a stint as a marketing manager
Favourite holiday destination: Lankawi, Malaysia.
Favourite song: Anything by Gretchen Peters
What is the thing you are most proud of? Helping to build the team at Smoothwall