The Best Employee Monitoring Software of 2020

By Lori Fairbanks,
business.com staff
| Updated
Jun 05, 2020

We've narrowed down the best employee monitoring software for businesses. Check out our best picks and reviews.
Best for Enterprises
Customizable content filtering
Video and audio monitoring
Controls user's desktop remotely
Best Free Employee Monitoring Software
Free for up to three users
Blocks websites, monitors activity
Track user productivity
Best for Very Small Businesses
Real-time monitoring
Tracks keystrokes
Detects portable drives
Best for Productivity Management and Employee Monitoring
Discount for annual plan
Screenshots for multiple screens
Tracks mouse and keyboard activity
We've narrowed down the best employee monitoring software for businesses. Check out our best picks and reviews.

Employee monitoring software is an important tool for business owners who want to verify employees are using their time at work to accomplish the responsibilities and tasks assigned to them, not spending hours watching cat videos and trolling social media, or, worse, engaging in reckless or malicious behavior that jeopardizes the security of one's business.

We considered 29 employee monitoring solutions, looking for affordable, easy-to-use software that comes with the features business owners need for productivity tracking and security, such as app and website tracking, content filtering and screen captures.

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How We Decided
Our team spends weeks evaluating dozens of business solutions to identify the best options. To stay current, our research is regularly updated.
29
Considered
14
Researched
4
Selected

Compare Our Best Picks

  Activtrak Sentry PC Hubstaff Teramind
Free Plan Yes No Yes No
Free trial No Demo only 14 days 7-14 days
User minimum 1 1 1 5
Cloud-based or installation Cloud Cloud Cloud Both
Compatible Operating Systems Windows, Mac, Chrome Windows, Mac Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome OS, Chrome browser Windows, Windows Server, Mac

Our Reviews

Teramind: Best for Enterprises

Advanced plans support regulatory compliance standards such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, SOX and FISMA.
It offers a choice of deployment options: cloud, private cloud and on premises.
The software doesn't monitor company-owned mobile devices.
Visit Site

Teramind is the best employee monitoring software for enterprises because in addition to its powerful employee monitoring applications, it offers a data loss prevention package designed to secure your company's network and data. It also offers audit and forensics tools to investigate any incidents that occur. 

Teramind is more expensive than many of its competitors, but it's also more comprehensive. Still, it's straightforward to use, and the company offers installation assistance for cloud, private cloud and on-premises deployments. 

PRICING

All plans include two months free if you select annual billing instead of month to month. You can use Teramind's pricing tool to determine the exact cost for your company based on the number of devices you wish to monitor and any terminal servers you want to add. 

Teramind Starter

This plan includes screen recording, live view, website monitoring, application tracking and remote access. It also offers limited access to user behavior analytics and policy management tools.

  • Cloud: $12 per user, per month, with a five-user minimum ($60).
  • On-premises pricing: Starting at $60 per month for 10 endpoints. Each terminal server adds $180 per month to the cost. 

Teramind UAM

The user activity monitoring plan builds on the starter plan with additional features like email and file transfer monitoring, keystroke logging, printer monitoring and optical character recognition to automatically analyze on-screen content. It also adds dynamic risk scoring and anomaly detection, which could tip off admins to malicious or problematic activity.

  • Cloud: $25 per user, per month, with a five-user minimum ($125).
  • On-premises: Starting at $125 per month for 10 endpoints. Each terminal server adds $375 per month to the cost. 

Teramind DLP

This plan adds a suite of data loss prevention tools that can help secure your network and the sensitive information stored on any connected devices. The Teramind DLP package is compliant with regulations, including those related to HIPAA and GDPR.

  • Cloud: $30 per user, per month, with a five-user minimum ($150).
  • On-premises: Starting at $150 per month for 10 endpoints. Each terminal server adds $450 per month to the cost. 

FEATURES

Teramind has all the features we looked for in employee computer monitoring software and then some. It monitors employee activities in real time and archive the data for later review. The data is easily filtered and searchable so you can find specific users or alert types. Every action is time stamped and dated. 

Here's more about what you can monitor using Teramind. 

  • Webpages and applications: The software tracks the applications and webpages the user accessed, and records a video segment showing the user accessing them.

  • Email and IM: It monitors all incoming and outgoing emails as well as live chats across Facebook, Skype, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, and Slack.

  • File transfers: If an employee transfers any local or web files, or transfers work files to a removable device, such as a USB drive, you'll know about it.

  • Keystrokes: The keystroke logger records everything a user types and where that activity occurred.

  • Printing: Admins can see each print job a user initiates and a scanned copy of the printed document.

  • Snapshots: Every 10 minutes, it takes a snapshot of the user's screen. These are saved in the employee's profile and admins can review each file as a 10-minute video.

  • Android app for managers: Admins can view real-time productivity reports as well as videos and live views of user screens. 
  • Behavioral rules and content blocking: You can set certain behavioral rules for the software, and it automatically flags or blocks prohibited content, such as certain websites and social media platforms, and behavior, such as transferring files to a USB drive. 
  • Reporting and risk analysis: Teramind's in-depth reporting gives you a clear understanding of your employees' work habits, and color-coded graphs report on all violations during a specific time period. If you set a risk level when establishing behavioral rules and policies, one report notifies you just how much risk your users are creating for your organization. This employee monitoring tool is especially useful for businesses in sensitive industries, like a medical practice operating under HIPAA privacy constraints. 

EASE OF USE

Despite its comprehensive slate of features, Teramind is relatively straightforward to install and use. To start, admins must first download the Teramind agent on each computer they wish to monitor. Agents can be run in stealth or freelance mode, depending on whether you want employees to know they are being monitored. 

Once agents are installed, the software begins monitoring and sending data to the administrator's central dashboard. The dashboard is customizable and displays data collected from monitored devices. A sidebar to the left of the screen displays categories of features. 

CUSTOMER SUPPORT

Teramind's plans include 24/7 tech support, and you can reach the support team by phone, email and live chat. Installation assistance and software updates are also included in the subscription price. If you prefer to troubleshoot issues yourself, you can find FAQs, a knowledgebase and other resources on Teramind's website.

ActivTrak: Best Free Employee Monitoring Software

Effective, easy-to-use solution that is free for up to three users.
Competitively priced plans for companies that require more advanced features or want to monitor more devices.
The software lacks keystroke logging.
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ActivTrak is the best free employee monitoring software for small businesses. It has the essential features we looked for in a software solution, including content filtering, website and app monitoring, activity tracking, and alerts. It supports up to three users at no cost, and it's easy to install, setup and use.

Businesses with additional users or that need advanced features or support will find its paid plans affordably priced. 

PRICING

ActivTrak's free plan is a great option for very small businesses, but if your business grows or you need advanced features, you'll need to upgrade to a paid plan. 

Here are the key differences between each plan and what they cost: 

  • Free: This plan can be used by up to three users in perpetuity. It includes 3GB of storage, an analytics dashboard, website blocking, real-time reporting and scheduled monitoring. It allows you to take a single screenshot of a user's monitor per activity.

  • Advanced: $7.20 per user, per month, with annual contract. This plan supports more devices, and includes unlimited storage space and screenshots, automatic detection of USB devices, file transfer monitoring, user risk scoring and a remote agent installer.

  • Sensitive Data Bundle: $11 per user, per month, with annual contract. This plan bundles the advanced plan with screenshot flagging and redaction add-ons.

  • Add-on features: These can be purchased with each annual plan. Options include video playback of user activity, screenshot flagging for prohibited material, screenshot redaction for protecting sensitive information, and access to the data connect module.

  • Custom plans: You can contact a company representative to discuss services and pricing 

FEATURES

ActivTrak blends activity monitoring features with productivity tools. While the free version lacks advanced features like file transfer monitoring and unlimited, real-time screenshots, it has the core features you need to effectively keep tabs on employees. 

  1. Productivity tracker: You can designate certain websites or applications as "productive" or "unproductive." ActivTrak then measures the amount of time users spend on them. It also tracks mouse movements and keyboard activity but lacks keystroke logging.

  2. Real-time monitoring feed: The dashboard's user activity feed shows a real-time stream of user actions.

  3. Application monitoring: ActivTrak displays the applications your users are accessing most frequently in a pie chart on the dashboard.

  4. Screenshots: With the free version of ActivTrak, you are limited to taking one screenshot per window you open.

  5. Website blocking: ActivTrak can block users from accessing certain websites, and you can vary access by computer, user or user groups.

  6. Reporting: ActivTrak offers several detailed reports to help you track productivity levels for individual users as well as for your entire organization. Employees' productivity can be tracked by day, week, month or year.

  7. Mobile app. ActivTrak has both Android and iOS mobile apps that managers can use to view a simplified dashboard, usage reports and screenshots. 

EASE OF USE

You can get up and running with ActivTrak in no time. The remote installer makes downloading a monitoring agent onto a new computer a simple, one-step process. Once installed, the agent runs stealthily in the background and begins delivering data to the administrator's dashboard. 

Admins can tailor the settings that define how ActivTrak captures data, and set alerts related to prohibited activity, both to notify employees and capture evidence. For example, you can set the software to take a screenshot anytime a certain keyword is entered, or you can set an alert to warn employees that their activity is prohibited, such as scrolling endlessly on social media while on the clock. 

CUSTOMER SUPPORT

ActivTrak has a robust customer support department, maintaining phone and email support, as well as a dedicated billing team. With the advanced plan, you also have access to a dedicated account manager who acts as your liaison with the company. Self-guided materials like FAQs, case studies, how-to videos and more are also available.

SentryPC: Best for Very Small Businesses

Features include content filtering, activity monitoring, keylogging and screenshots.
Offers a choice of silent or confirmation mode.
Customer support isn't available by phone or live chat.
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SentryPC is the best employee monitoring software for very small businesses, particularly those on a budget, because it's affordable, easy-to-use and doesn't skimp on the core monitoring features we looked for in a software application.

It can be used with both Windows and Mac computers, and as a cloud-based solution; it's easy to implement and maintain. 

PRICING

Every plan includes full access to all of SentryPC's features and tools, although higher tiers offer more screenshot storage. If you need additional screenshot storage, 500 additional screenshots have a one-time cost of $19.95. 

  • Basic plan: $59.95 for the first license per year. Includes storage for up to 500 screenshots. Each additional license costs $19.95 per year.

  • Business 50: $995 per year for 50 licenses and storage for up to 500 screenshots. Each additional license costs $19.90 per year.

  • Business 100: $1,595 per year for 100 licenses and storage for up to 1,000 screenshots. Each additional license costs $15.95 per year.

  • Business 250: $2,995 per year for 250 licenses and storage for up to 1,000 screenshots. Each additional license costs $11.98 per year.

  • Business 500: $3,995 per year for 500 licenses and storage for up to 2,000 screenshots. Each additional license costs $7.99 per year.

  • Business 1,000: $4,995 per year for 1,000 licenses and storage for up to 2,000 screenshots. Each additional license costs $4.99 per year. 

FEATURES

SentryPC has all the features that an employer needs to monitor employee activity and productivity. Here's a sampling of its features.   

  • Real-time alerts: If a user attempts to access a blocked activity or violates policies outlined in the administrative settings, the software flags the action, logs it and alerts admins by email. Alert logs can be downloaded, viewed and sorted by user, device, type, activity or time stamp.

  • Content filtering: Admins can limit which applications and websites employees can access and when. It can filter websites by broad categories as well as by specific URLs.

  • Website and application monitoring: This shows where your employees are spending their time. It records how long the apps and websites were open, the amount of time a user engaged with them, and the date and time they were accessed.

  • Clipboard and file monitoring: You can see any text a user copies to the clipboard, along with a time stamp. You can also view the files stored on any monitored device. It tracks downloads, uploads, newly created files, opened files and edited files.

  • Keystroke logging: The software tracks everything users do on their keyboards, and identifies the date, time and location where users typed, including chats and emails.

  • Locations (IP): It tracks each device's IP address and determines the user's geographic location, so you always know exactly where your employees are and when.

  • Portable drives and print jobs: It tracks and time stamps any time a portable drive is inserted into a monitored device and a file is printed.

  • Screenshots: It takes screenshots of user activity at random intervals during an employee's work time. Each screenshot includes the date and time, and is searchable by user or device.

  • User activity: Admins can see a breakdown of active and inactive time, making it clear which users are engaged and productive.
  • Reporting: Reports include device status reports, the most frequent alerts triggered by users and the top used applications. The chart creator tool allows you to create visualizations of the data each tool logged. 

EASE OF USE

SentryPC is a cloud-based employee monitoring solution, so you can access your account anytime from anyplace. It displays all employee activity in one central location, and its simple search features prevent an overwhelming flood of unstructured data. 

For in-house employees (including your remote employees who use company computers), you can run the program on silent mode. Or, if you have a contractor or freelancer who will only be tracked or monitored while they work on your projects, you can set it to confirmation mode, which shows the user when they are being monitored. The software also has a time management feature that you can use to keep your freelancer budget in check. 

CUSTOMER SUPPORT

SentryPC offers customer support for technical issues through a ticket system, but there is no phone line or live chat channel. Resources include an integrated support section with documentation to help you install the program, troubleshoot any issues and learn about the finer points of the software.

Hubstaff: Best for Productivity Management and Employee Monitoring

Monitors staff activity and productivity.
Features include GPS tracking and geofencing.
The software lacks content filtering, file and print tracking, and keystroke logging.

Hubstaff is the best productivity management and employee monitoring software because of its unique combination of features, including activity monitoring and time tracking, that focus on helping your employees get their work done. It's affordable, with a choice of plans and a low minimum user requirement of just two users, and it's easy for both employers and employees to use.

Hubstaff is a good option for business owners who want to make sure they're paying employees for an honest day's work and feel like most employee management software is overly invasive. 

PRICING

Monthly and annual subscriptions are available, and Hubstaff offers two months free with annual subscriptions. Even though the basic plan is free, Hubstaff has a 14-day free trial so you can test the software before you buy it. The software is also backed a 60-day, money-back guarantee, so you can get a refund if the software doesn't work out for your business. 

  • Free: Hubstaff's free plan supports one user and includes employee time-tracking software, one screenshot every 10 minutes and activity tracking. It has a limited payment feature that lets you send payments to team members for the time they've worked.

  • Basic: $7 per user, per month, with a two-user minimum ($14). In addition to the features in the free plan, you get three screenshots per 10-minute interval, per-user settings, one third-party integration and 24-hour technical support.

  • Premium: $10 per user, per month, with a two-user minimum ($20). In addition to the features of the basic plan, you get app and website monitoring, mobile GPS tracking, employee idle time reminders, fleet tracking, unlimited integrations, time-off and holiday tracking, scheduling and attendance, invoices, payroll, client and project budgets, timesheet approvals, and weekly work limits.

  • Enterprise: $20 per user, per month, with a two-user minimum ($40). In addition to the premium plan features, you get VIP support, concierge account setup, unlimited job sites and higher limits on public APIs. 

FEATURES

Hubstaff focuses on measuring your team's productivity rather than strictly monitoring employee behavior and communications, and it lacks some of the features commonly included on other employee monitoring software such as content filtering, keystroke logging, and print and file tracking. 

It has ancillary features, though, that small business owners – particularly those who employ freelancers or independent contractors – may find useful such as project-based time tracking, project budgeting and payroll. 

Here's more about the employee monitoring features it includes. 

  • Active/inactive time monitoring: Hubstaff monitors active and inactive time for each user, monitoring who is staying busy and who is getting sidetracked or is simply not working. Activity levels are determined primarily by keyboard and mouse usage, and this can be combined with other data, such as screenshots and website tracking reports, to determine whether an employee has been on task or not.

  • App and website tracking: The software tracks which apps and websites your employees access, and how long they spend using them during working hours.

  • Screenshots: Random screenshot captures show you what your employees are up to during work. These can be scheduled if you'd like, and they are logged for later review by admins. You can use the screenshot blur mode if your staff accesses sensitive information like personal or patient health data.

  • Idle prompt and timeout: If the software detects inactivity – that is, if the employee stops using the keyboard or mouse for a certain amount of time – an idle prompt pops up on the employee's screen. It asks the employee if they'd like to keep or remove the time they were idle from their daily time report and then asks if the employee wants to stop or continue tracking time. Admins can adjust the amount of time that triggers the inactivity setting.

  • Reporting: Reports show you how much time your team employees have worked, and you can filter the data by project or client, week, or team member to identify productivity trends. If you pay your employees hourly, you can also track your budget and see how much money you've spent on certain projects. You can also schedule the software to automatically send reports to you or others, such as your business partner, accountant or even a client.

  • Mobile app: Available for Android and iOS devices, the Hubstaff mobile app can be used for time and location tracking. Managers can see where employees travel and how long they spend at each destination. 

EASE OF USE

Hubstaff's user interface is aesthetically pleasing and well organized, making navigation relatively simple. While Hubstaff can sometimes require more hunting to find specific tools and features versus other employee monitoring applications we reviewed (mainly due to its incorporation of dropdown menus), it is still intuitive and easy to use. 

CUSTOMER SUPPORT

Hubstaff has an extensive knowledgebase, FAQs, video tutorials, case studies and a blog on its website, and provides 24/7 support by help ticket and email. VIP support and concierge setup is available with its Enterprise plan.

Employee Monitoring Software Pricing

The cost of employee monitoring software can vary widely. Factors like the scope of the solution and the number of licenses you require affect the price. Applications generally cost anywhere from $20 to $150 per user, per year, though most are in the $40 to $60 range annually. 

Employee monitoring software often relies on a per-user licensing system charged at a monthly or annual rate. Other software vendors charge a one-time licensure fee that allows the software to be used forever, along with an annual subscription for tech support and software updates. 

Here are three things to watch for when you're evaluating pricing: 

  • Minimums: Few companies allow you to buy a single license. There's typically a minimum number of licenses you must buy, usually five to 10, though some require as few as two.

  • Fees: Most companies don't charge additional fees, but in our research, we saw some setup fees (which can be several hundred dollars) and an optional IP renewal fee. As with any service you're considering for your business, ask the sales rep about fees the company charges and whether there's a contract requirement (and how long the contract would last, if so). You also want to read the contract or terms of service to verify that you've been informed about any and all costs you'll be expected to pay.

  • Add-on features: Some companies offer extra services, such as geolocation tracking and mobile licenses, for an additional cost. 

Most employee monitoring software can be deployed as an on-premises solution, which means the software is installed and operated on your company's own servers. This type of implementation carries a higher upfront cost and requires an IT team that can maintain your servers, but it grants you greater control over your own data. 

The other common deployment option is a cloud-based service (or SaaS), which eases the maintenance burden and represents a lower upfront cost, but there's a monthly or annual subscription required – typically from $5 to $25 per user, per month. 

 

Negotiation Tips

Most employee monitoring software companies are transparent with their pricing and post rates on their websites. However, if you have a lot of employees, most companies encourage you to speak with a sales representative for custom pricing. 

Look for the following discounts as you compare costs: 

  • Volume discounts: Many companies offer lower prices when you purchase a higher number of licenses.

  • Annual prepayment discounts for cloud software (SaaS): The companies that offer cloud-based employee monitoring software typically offer a discount if you pay annually rather than month to month, which can amount to as much as two free months of service.

  • Nonprofit and educational discounts: Several companies note on their websites that discounts are available for these types of organizations.

  • Coupon codes: Though these are not as common as the other discounts we saw, some companies have fields for coupon codes on their checkout pages. You may be able to search for codes online or call the company to find out what promotions are available.

Buying Guide

What Is Employee Monitoring Software?

Employee monitoring software is a digital solution that provides a way for businesses to monitor, record and manage employees' online behavior at work. Whether you have just a few employees or several hundred, the software is useful to have because there are a lot of distractions in the modern workplace for both onsite and remote employees, especially for those who use internet-connected devices to complete their daily tasks. 

And, while employees can be trusted to do the right thing most of the time, there is always an opportunity for them to engage in unproductive behavior on company time. Worse yet, employees could be insider threats – exhibiting reckless or malicious behavior that jeopardizes your business.

What Can You Track With Employee Monitoring Software?

With employee monitoring software, you can track employee activity and productivity. The most basic features include web browsing, which allows you to monitor websites visited by employees; application monitoring, which shows you specific applications employees use; and activity tracking, which monitors keyboard and mouse activity so you can detect whether employees are actually working during their work hours. 

Many solutions include keystroke logging, which tracks what your users are typing across all web browsers and applications – including chat messages and emails – along with a date and time stamp, and it can be an incredibly useful window into user activity. Some applications even look through the devices' cameras. 

Employee monitoring software includes a wide range of features to keep tabs on how employees spend their time at work. The best monitoring software lets administrators set specific rules and policies for different members of the organization, and to receive notifications when the rules have been broken. 

Whether you run a big company with hundreds of employees or a small business with just a handful of workers, there is software that can fit both your needs and budget.

Types of Employee Monitoring

There are different types of monitoring that businesses can use to optimize their operations. Here are three of the most common methods. 

  1. Software monitoring. This is another term for employee monitoring software. This is software you install on user computers to track activities. Depending on the application you choose, it can track the websites the employee visits, the programs they use and even every keystroke they make on their computer. Most take random screenshots of user screens and allow you to see user screens in real time. Some even use the camera to take photos of the computer user to verify the employee is at their desk.

  2. Email monitoring. This allows you to view the emails your employees send and receive using their company email accounts. This is often available as a feature of employee monitoring software but can also be purchased as a stand-alone application (sometimes called email server monitoring).

  3. Network monitoring. Instead of monitoring your employees, this is an IT process that checks your network to make sure all components (routers, servers, firewalls, etc.) are functioning properly, with the goal of eliminating network downtime.

Employee Monitoring FAQs

What is silent mode?

You can run employee monitoring software in either stealth mode or transparent mode. Stealth mode, also known as silent mode, means employees aren't aware they are being monitored. Transparent monitoring is when your employees can see the surveillance program on their computers. 

Is cloud or on-premises employee monitoring software better?

The best type of deployment depends on your business's preferences, and most of the top software applications offer both options. With an on-premises solution, you'll host the software and the data it collects on your own server – which means that you can keep your data as long as you want. But an on-premises solution requires more IT knowledge and can take longer to set up. 

With cloud-based software, it's easier to manage and quicker to set up than on-premises deployment, and you don't have to have a server to store all your data. But you must trust the vendor to maintain and protect your data. 

Is employee monitoring software secure?

For the most part, yes. Employee tracking software is designed to be installed on multiple computers, including an administrative station. For this type of program to work, you must first turn off your firewall. The firewall is turned back on once the installation is complete. This punctures a hole in your security system for a short period of time, making your network vulnerable to viruses, Trojans, spyware and other threats. 

A word of caution: Some employee surveillance programs look legitimate but are really viruses in disguise. While it may give you keylogging and password-capturing capabilities, it collects this information behind the scenes to sell or use to breach your company's security measures. We did extensive research to ensure the legitimacy of each of the programs we reviewed. However, since most of these programs work around your firewall, it is still possible for other threats to pass through undetected. 

Can I use an employee monitoring system for my remote team?

Yes, if your business owns the computers that your employees use, you can install computer monitoring software on them. You can even run monitoring on silent mode. But if your remote worker is using their personal computer for work, they're not likely to consent to having tracking software installed on it. One solution might be to use a transparent monitoring app like Hubstaff that only tracks usage when the employee is clocked in to work.

Community Expert Insight

We asked small business owners and leaders to share what employee monitoring software they use and what features they rely on. 

Most of our respondents said they wanted to make sure their team members were staying productive while on the clock. They also mentioned affordability, ease of use, and several expressed discomfort at monitoring their employees. For these reasons, it wasn't a surprise that the majority of our respondents use Hubstaff, which focuses on monitoring employee productivity and is a transparent application that users interact with, so employees know they are being tracked when they're on the clock. 

"I felt I needed more transparency as far as what my team members were doing with their time," said Ian Kelly, vice president of operations for NuLeaf Naturals. "I've been using Hubstaff to monitor the clock and screenshots from employees working from home. This reassures me that we're getting billed for the right hours, and I think it helps the team focus on their work when they're working, knowing that they're being held accountable." 

Jeremy Lessaris, founder and CEO of The Designed Company, also cites productivity as his reason for using employee monitoring software, and to do this, he uses ActivTrak. He said, "After having tossed out 10 different tools over the years, we landed on tracking internal productivity down to the mouse movement with ActivTrak. It's important to note that we don't really focus on it unless we have a production problem, but it's a robust tool that lets us see what's really going on during the day." 

Many small business leaders said that reporting and notification features were important to them. 

Bradley Steven, founder and CEO of LLC Formations told us that his leadership team meets monthly to discuss employee performance, and they review the reports generated by their employee monitoring software, Teramind. 

"We consult these reports for giving bonuses to the employees, promoting them, or even terminating them because of their performance," he said. "Detailed report generation is a must-have feature for the monitoring software. After all, monitoring is of no use if we do not get valuable insights from the data."

 

Our Methodology

Our first step in reviewing employee monitoring software was to examine an extensive list of vendors to see which companies were still in business, how they stacked up in terms of user reviews, and whether they had any glaring complaints or issues filed with the Better Business Bureau. We also examined their websites to get a sense of what their solutions entailed. From there, we selected a pool of finalists from which we would determine our best picks. 

We then studied each program's list of features more closely, ensuring that it offered all the most important features as well as more advanced features that would give administrators more insight or control over employee activity. We downloaded free trials, when available, and watched video demos and tutorials so we could determine usability. We also compared pricing from the lens of a small business on a budget. 

These are the primary features we considered in our review: 

  • Ease of use
  • Web activity monitoring
  • Email monitoring
  • Live chat monitoring
  • Social media monitoring
  • Keystroke logging
  • Video feeds
  • Remote access capabilities
  • Reporting
  • Tech support 

We also looked for any additional features that might be useful or effective.

Small Business Employee Monitoring Software: What to Look For

The best small business employee monitoring software helps you manage and enforce your acceptable use policy without requiring a lot of your time to install and maintain it. You need a solution that alerts you when employees attempt to leak vital business information, access inappropriate content, or simply waste time goofing off while on the clock. 

Here are the main aspects to pay attention to in your search. 

Monitoring and Blocking Features

Always consider the different types of monitoring features an application offers. For example, how much do you want to control your employees' internet time? Will you allow them to surf the internet during breaks and lunches, or not at all? Are there websites your employees need to access to do their jobs? 

With some software applications, you can select times when the internet or sites are blocked and times they're not blocked. Most applications also allow you to create user groups, each with their own rules and permissions. Blocking disruptive sites and creating customized permissions for specific groups is one way that business internet software can help increase employee efficiency and productivity. 

Also consider the specific areas of computer activity you want to track. The most comprehensive programs keep detailed logs of the websites your employees visit and the applications they use, along with emails, online chats, keystrokes, created and downloaded files, print jobs, inserted devices, and even their physical locations when they're on company devices. Consider, too, choosing internet filter software that will record your employees' online searches and take screenshots of their monitors. These can come in handy if you ever find yourself in litigation with a disgruntled employee and need to back up your claims. 

You may not want to keep such detailed tabs on your employees, but make sure the software covers everything you need to monitor. If you opt for software with a full suite of features, they are usually customizable, so you can choose what to record (and in how much detail) as well as when exceptions are in order. 

Reports and Notifications

Pay attention to how the software's reports and notifications work. It should provide regular reports (at the intervals you choose) with easy-to-read statistics and visual breakdowns of employee habits. For more detailed information, though, you'll need extensive notification options, and the best software has both real-time monitoring and real-time alerts. For instance, you may choose to be alerted if an employee downloads a document online or tries to access a forbidden website. Since notifications alert you to specific occurrences and reports give you a staffwide overview, you'll get the most out of your software when you use both options together. 

Archive Storage

Make sure your office web monitoring software includes automatic archiving. You never know when you may need to review an employee's internet history. 

Mobile Apps

In addition to dashboards you can access from any browser, the best employee monitoring software often includes mobile apps that managers can use when they're away from the office. Although some have both Android and iPhone apps, some are platform-specific, so if this is a feature that's important to you, verify that the app is compatible with the phone or tablet of your choice. 

Ease of Use and Support

Good internet filter software should be intuitive to use with visually appealing interfaces that clearly display all your options without feeling cluttered or overwhelming. Administrative users should feel confident using the software; one should have a good grasp of the application's monitoring options after just a few minutes of clicking around. 

If you run into issues, though, you want to go with a company that is easy to reach. It's ideal to be able to reach tech support via phone, email, live chat or online ticketing, though even some of the best companies only offer one or two of these support avenues. Live chat is typically the fastest way to connect with a representative. Most companies also have extensive self-help resources on their websites that you can always refer to such as how-to guides, video tutorials and FAQs pages. 

Some companies charge extra for ongoing upgrades and support after the first year. You can forgo this option, but you run the risk of operating outdated and possibly insecure software without help from the manufacturer.

What to Expect in 2020

Legal considerations surrounding employee monitoring software are critical, because running afoul of privacy laws could carry significant penalties or open you up to damaging lawsuits. 

While these laws vary from state to state, a recent decision by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could signal a shift in employment law when it comes to watching your employees' behavior at work. 

The FTC ordered an employee monitoring company in Florida to obtain written consent from employees who would be monitored, along with an explanation of the legal purposes for which the monitoring would be applied. Currently, the FTC's ruling only applies to the Florida-based company and is neither law nor regulation, but it expands liability for the usage of employee monitoring software to the companies themselves. 

For employers, the ruling could signal a shift in the way they do business with software companies in 2020. Employee monitoring software developers could soon require employers to offer written attestation that they will secure explicit consent from the employees they will be monitoring. 

Explicit, written consent is an increasingly common legal requirement for data collection and storage, as seen with the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation and the California Consumer Privacy Act. 

Employers considering implementing employee monitoring software should be aware of the laws in their state and should also consider gathering written consent from employees to stay ahead of the compliance curve.

Lori Fairbanks: Mosaic Hub Expert
Lori Fairbanks,
business.com staff
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Lori Fairbanks has years of experience writing and editing for both print and online publications. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor of Arts in English, she worked as a magazine editor and then as a freelance writer and editor for a variety of companies, including marketing firms and a medical university. She now writes about small business finance, including accounting software, credit card processing and point-of-sale systems for business.com and Business News Daily.

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How can I best keep track of my team's diaries/weekly planner?
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Steven Freeman
Steven Freeman
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Have everyone using Google Calendar and make the each persons dog walking schedule collaborative back to you, with everything else kept private. This is just about a standard now, and with any SMS alerts or email reminders you may wish to setup you can't go wrong. Procedure would be: - Add event in your master calendar, but choose their calendar within yours in terms of where it will show up as well. You will own the event, but seen on their ones as well.
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How to measure employee morale?
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Jay Kahn
Jay Kahn
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Morale often has a direct correlation to "employee engagement" for sure. Besides some of the more obvious reluctant contributors, you can explore some key indicators to see just how engaged employees are, as they should agree with the following: 1. I know what is expected of me at work. 2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right. 3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day. 4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition for or praise for...
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What service can I use to monitor work-owned cell phones?
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Akshay Mane
Akshay Mane
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I think Microsoft Intune would be helpful for you. How about using virtual desktop with Intune and an additional employee monitoring software. I would like to know scott are you interested in this? Regards, Akshay
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