June 2018 update: While a large majority of companies practice some form of employee monitoring –whether it's through enterprise mobility management (EMM), fleet tracking or web activity tracking – businesses that haven't implemented a solution because they fear alienating employees and inadvertently creating a Big Brother environment should know this is becoming a widely accepted practice by both employers and employees.
However, employees have a clear line when employers have access to their private data. According to a survey by the HR Metrics & Analytics Summit, most employees are comfortable with being monitored when it comes to workplace-related tasks such as email, web and phones. The same cannot be said when companies monitor private social media accounts, personal email and the physical locations of employees.
For those wanting to implement an employee monitoring solution for purposes of improving productivity, payroll and cybersecurity, a Society for Human Resource Management blog suggests that, to avoid backlash and demoralization, you should communicate the changes early on and be transparent about your reasons. Use it to improve productivity by not immediately punishing employees for too much non-work-related web use; instead, work on promoting better use of work hours.
Most companies use some form of employee monitoring software to encourage productivity and protect sensitive or proprietary information. However, deciding which program is the best fit for your business can be difficult because of the different types of software available and the large number of options on the market, each with its own set of features.
Teramind is the best employee monitoring software. It offers multiple filtering and monitoring tools, and has both cloud-based and on-premises deployment options, making it a scalable solution that can be used by companies of all sizes. It's also one of the few options compatible with that can be used on Macs as well as PCs.
This employee monitoring application can be used in silent mode, allowing you to monitor your employees undetected, or in transparent mode, which allows employees to see that they're being tracked. You can monitor employee activity in real time, rather than providing snapshots that can be reviewed later.
In addition to its capable feature set and easy-setup cloud deployment, SentryPC is one of the few companies we reviewed that has no minimum number of licenses you must purchase, making it the best employee monitoring software for very small businesses.
SentryPC has tools for filtering and controlling employee access to websites, and you can block specific websites or filter out entire categories, such as adult, gambling or shopping websites. You can also set times when employees can access otherwise blocked content. For example, you can set it to allow access to shopping and social media sites during the lunch hour.
ContentProtect, by Content Watch Holdings, allows you to set access levels by department or work groups, plus you can customize access for individual employees. It offers several reporting methods and has searchable data logs. As a cloud-based solution, it's one of the few options that work on both Mac and PC. It can also be installed on Android devices, allowing you to manage which apps are installed on company tablets and phones.
This content filter allows you to block specific web sites and site categories, such as gaming, gambling or pornography, and an optional notification feature allows you to alert employees if they're attempting to access a forbidden site.
Activity Monitor by SoftActivity gives you comprehensive insight into your employees' online activities. With it, you can view the websites employees visit, the keywords they use to search online and how long they spend on the internet. It also shows files they download, their IM chats and their email communications. It runs in silent mode on your employees' computers and can only be removed or disabled by an administrator.
You can generate reports for employee activities based on preset criteria, from very detailed reports that show employees' keystrokes to broader reports that list the top programs your employees use, how long they spend on them, which websites they visit most frequently, how long they spend online and more. You can also use it to track your employees' attendance, with dates, and log-in and log-out times recorded. The program takes screenshots, and you can set it to snap them based on specific user actions, such as when a certain program or web page is opened, or at timed intervals.
If you primarily want to prevent your employees from excessive web surfing or viewing inappropriate content in the workplace, content filtering software is a good choice. If you want insight into employees' online activities, internet management software can track how much time employees spend online and which sites they visit. It also records their keystrokes for online searches, IM chats and emails. If you want a more comprehensive solution, consider employee monitoring software. These applications limit file access and sharing, track productivity and monitor employee activities in real time.
Our top picks for employee monitoring software are Teramind, SentryPC, Activity Monitor and ContentProtect. Read more about them below, along with our advice about the features to look for as you choose employee monitoring software for your business, how much you can expect to pay and tips to help you get a good deal.
Below are all of our reviews for employee monitoring software and related categories. Our coverage also includes reviews of the best internet management software and small business content filters. See all of our reviews below.
Most employee monitoring software companies charge an annual license for each user. Some offer perpetual licenses, which include updates for the year (usually including one major upgrade) with the option to purchase annual maintenance plans thereafter for subsequent upgrades. Costs vary widely. Some applications cost $20 to $150 per user per year, though most are in the $40 to $60 range.
Only a few of the companies we reviewed offer their software as a cloud-based service (SaaS), and charge a monthly fee. Of those that do, pricing varies from $5 to $25 per user per month, and most companies offer a choice of service tier. Some companies give you the option of purchasing annual licenses if you host the software yourself.
Minimums:Few companies allow you to buy a single license. Rather, there's typically a minimum number of licenses you must buy, usually five or 10, though some require you to purchase as few as three.
Fees:Most companies don't charge additional fees, but in our research, we saw some setup fees (which can cost several hundred dollars) and an optional IP renewal fee. As with any service you're considering for your business, ask the sales rep which fees the company charges and if there's a contract (and the length of it). 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.
Upgrades: Some companies offer additional services, such as geolocation tracking and mobile licenses, for an additional cost.
Most employee monitoring software companies are transparent with their pricing, posting rates on their websites. However, if you have a large number of users, many 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 few 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 months free.
Nonprofit and educational discounts:Several companies note on their websites that discounts are available for these types of organizations.
Coupon codes:Though not as common as the other discounts we saw, some companies had 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.
Below are our recommendations for the best employee monitoring software. Although all of our top picks work on PCs, look to Teramind and ContentProtect if you need an option that works on Macs or on both Macs and PCs.
Employee monitoring software can help you safeguard confidential data and encourage productivity. It can also help you achieve regulatory compliance if your business is in an industry such as healthcare or finance that handles sensitive customer or patient information. As you evaluate employee monitoring software, look for the following features:
Website filtering and blocking: Restrict employee access to certain webpages or site categories (such as adult sites, gambling, gaming, shopping, social media) and track keyword searches.
File access control:Limit access of certain files to authorized users; prevent file sharing without permission.
Document tracking:See when documents are created, saved and shared as well as those that have been renamed or deleted. You should also be able to restore deleted documents.
Email monitoring: View inbound and outbound messages as well as attachments.
Removable storage blocking: Prevent data from being saved to external storage devices, such as USB drives.
Print monitoring:Identify which files were printed, the computer that sent them to the printer, and the day and time they were printed.
Inactivity monitoring:Track when employees are idle and how much time they spend using certain applications or viewing websites.
Employee monitoring software is becoming increasingly sophisticated. Advanced tracking solutions may utilize mobile apps, sensors, and wearables equipped with such features as GPS tracking, microphones, and accelerometers. Companies that use this type of technology include freight companies that track drivers' routes, breaks, and driving speeds; warehouses that track worker efficiencies in pulling orders; and hospitals that want to track how often nurses wash their hands.
Which Solution Are You Looking For?
Which Solution Are You Looking For?
Monitoring software and parental software are two solutions that monitor personal computer use. Since these solutions are installed and used on a single computer, they do not pose the same threat as email-surveillance programs that work around firewalls. These solutions come with additional options designed to prevent cyberbullying along with tools to monitor children and spouses when they're online.
Many businesses are also on the lookout for email monitoring software, applications that monitor inbound and outbound messages for threats such as viruses, spyware and Trojans. We have a good selection of business antivirus solutions if this is what you are looking for.
Some high-security companies, such as the Intermountain Healthcare, use email encryption software to safeguard personal health information and other critical data when it's transmitted to third-party recipients, such as insurance adjusters. These programs encrypt email messages that can only be translated and read by an authorized recipient. This helps ensure sensitive information is only accessed and used by individuals who need this information while keeping it as secure as possible.
Many antivirus and firewall solutions, such as Symantec, include some monitoring options, such as data loss prevention, locating lost devices and email protection. However, these do not have the capability of tracking keystrokes, capturing passwords or other in-depth monitoring functions, such as NetVizor, though they still provide a high level of security.
If you decide to monitor employee activity and email, all of the solutions on our top 10 list include monitoring features for website activity; removable storage, such as flash drives; keyword alerts; and keystroke capturing.
Small Business Content Filter Software: What to Look For
Managing the threats against your office network is tricky enough without your needing to worry about employees leaking vital business information viewing inappropriate content in the workplace. Frequently the approach to this is locking down the network or blocking particular sites. The result of this is often an environment of fear and distrust as employees continue accessing unsanctioned online content from their smartphones or through anonymous proxies on the very workstations where you thought such content was inaccessible.
Vulnerabilities do exist in your network and they are a very real threat to your business. As a response to this, many businesses have been moving towards mitigating the threat of employee internet access by creating Acceptable Use Policies (AUP). While these policies to vary from industry to industry, they are frequently managed by an enterprise web filtering software.
The best small business content filtering software is the one that helps you manage your AUP without your having to invest too much time in it. From your business internet filter, you will likely need one that tracks user profiles with time limits and real-time threat detection to block those sites whose content has not yet been classified. You may want to consider supporting employee devices as well to monitor their mobile traffic or to leave access altogether so you can maintain CIPA or PCI Compliance. You can learn more about these issues by reading our articles on small business content filters.
We took the time to look at the options for you by comparing the popular business web filter brands. We reviewed them with an eye for a small business that has 100 or less employees, and tested them for their reporting abilities where we were able. We counted off their features and ranked them against the following factors:
Features Some things to consider when you are searching content filters are the different types of features they offer. For example, do you want to be able to control your employees' internet time? Do you allow them to surf the internet during breaks and lunches, or not at all? There are different software applications that will allow you to select times when the internet or sites are blocked and times when not to block. Are there some websites that your employees need to have access to in order to help your business grow?
Blocking Some applications allow you to create a list of safe domains that may be accessed. Do you have certain groups of employees that need access to different web domains than others? There are applications available that will allow you to create user groups and select different websites to block at different times. Using business internet software can help you to increase your productivity.
Reporting Another important feature of content filters is how you are notified of different occurrences. If you travel a lot and manage your network and employees remotely, then you also want to have access to your internet filter data remotely. Auto archiving is an important feature to look for as well with office web monitoring software. You never know when you may need to review an employee's internet history. Something else to consider is choosing internet filter software that will record screenshots and keep a record of what is being searched for on the internet. These can come in handy if you ever find yourself in litigation with a disgruntled employee.
Help & Support Good internet filter software will not leave you in the dark if you have questions
What We Tested, What We Found
The first step in our evaluation of PC-monitoring software was to work with our own IT department to ensure each application we tested is a legitimate solution and not a virus in disguise.
We looked at employee-monitoring programs that are designed for microbusinesses (enterprises with five or fewer employees). Some companies have tiered packages with more user licenses and advanced features for a higher cost. This information is useful to keep in mind as you consider your current business size, company goals and potential growth.
We considered the monitoring tools included with each program and gave higher marks for those applications that included functions beyond basic email, website and application surveillance. These included options like print monitoring, social media tracking and notifications for deleted and retrieved data. InterGuard is a solution that oversees these functions.
We were also impressed with solutions that include an inactivity monitor, which tells you when an employee (who is on a business-designated screen) is working or is leaving an approved site up while chatting, playing on their personal device or who is often away from their workstation. Attendance tracking, a feature that determines whether an employee is actually on work premises or not, is another valuable tool we looked for. Our top two PC-monitoring solutions both have these functions.
While each of the programs we reviewed has alerts to let you know when an unapproved site is being accessed or certain keywords are being typed in or searched for, we looked for additional controls for administrators. Most of the software applications on our top 10 list allow you to block or filter specific websites and monitor or block the use of removable storage devices, such as USB drives.
Another tool that adds flexibility to your employee monitoring is time controls. This allows you to set aside certain times a day when employees can browse certain types of sites, such as social media or entertainment sites. It also provides you with a way to allow certain employees access to important websites while prohibiting these sites for other workers.
Legal & Technical Considerations
While monitoring employees' emails seems like an infringement of privacy, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that it is legal for companies to monitor the actions of employees while employees are on the clock or using company equipment, including laptops, pagers, USB drives and mobile devices. However, there have never been any regulations on the type of programs companies can use to monitor employees. This means that programs that monitor key logs and capture passwords can be used; however, there is some ethical controversy surrounding whether or not they should be utilized.
While the federal government doesn't place restrictions on employee internet monitoring, some individual states have put protections in place. An increasing number of states are requiring employers to notify their workers if their company monitors online activity, including emails and keystrokes. These notifications can be disclosed within the employee handbook, as part of the new worker orientation or simply sent out as an email reminder to employees.
When using employee monitoring software, you can choose to run it in either stealth or transparent mode. Stealth mode, also known as silent mode, means that your employees cannot see that they are being monitored. Good monitoring software runs unseen and undetected by employees.
Transparent monitoring is when your employees can see the surveillance program on their computer. The software must be installed on each individual computer, including the administrative portal. This isn't as easy as stealth mode since administrators must check each individual report on each workstation.
Employee-tracking software is designed to be installed on multiple computers, including an administrative station, in order to go undetected by employees. However, in order 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, but it is virtually impossible for the program to work without additional programming or patches to enable PC-monitoring software to work around the program. This punctures a hole in your security system, making your network vulnerable to viruses, Trojans, spyware and other threats.
A word of caution: Many employee-surveillance programs look legitimate but are really viruses in disguise. While it may give you keylogging and password-capturing capabilities, it also 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 on our list of employee monitoring software. However, since the majority of these programs work around your firewall, it is still possible for other threats to pass through undetected.
Another important consideration is how you'll deploy the software. There are two options: on-premises and cloud. On-premises is the most common option and is offered by every program we reviewed. This means that you'll host the program and the data it collects on your own server. An on-premises solution requires more IT knowledge and can take longer to set up. Many newer employee computer-monitoring solutions offer cloud-based deployment. These include Teramind, SentryPC and InterGuard. Cloud-based deployment is easier to manage and quicker to set up than on-premises deployment.
Common Employee Monitoring Software Questions & Answers
Have an employee monitoring software question of your own?
My gut instinct is that if the trust level is that low, management is doing a poor job recruiting good people and earning the trust and respect of those employees. You have uncovered the tip of a much deeper issue.
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.
You'll likely find that most larger organizations have an annual performance review cycle with some employing 90-day introductory reviews for new hires. Whether the performance management is effective or not depends on many things.
It starts with the culture of an organization and the reasons why they are utilizing reviews. If they are doing it to enhance communication and foster relationship-building amongst staff and management then it tends to be much more effective...
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...