Employee monitoring software can track employee web or application use, monitor chats and keystrokes, or filter specific types of online content making them inaccessible to employees. The best employee monitoring software does it all and allows your administrators to set specific rules and policies for employee behavior on company time. Whether you need a comprehensive solution or a more narrowly focused tool, employee monitoring software can help you ensure your employees are spending their time productively. Here's a look at the software available to help you do just that.
Our top picks for employee monitoring software are Teramind, SentryPC, ActivTrak, ContentProtect and SoftActivity Monitor. Read more about them below, along with our advice on the features to look for as you choose employee monitoring software for your business, including how much you can expect to pay and tips to help you get a good deal.
Teramind is the best employee monitoring software for large businesses and enterprises. It offers multiple filtering and monitoring tools and has both cloud-based and on-premises deployment options. It's also one of the few options compatible with Macs as well as PCs, and its advanced tools make it effective for easily monitoring many devices across a big company.
This application can monitor your employees undetected, or it can run in transparent mode, which lets employees see that they're being tracked. You can monitor employee activity in real time or set the software to collect snapshots to review later. This means administrators don't need to spend time watching employees; instead, automated notifications alert them whenever an employee violates your organization's rules and policies.
Best Employee Monitoring Software for Very Small Businesses
In addition to its capable feature set and simple 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 controlling employee access to online content, and you can block specific websites or filter out entire categories, such as gambling, shopping or adult 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.
ActivTrak offers a well-rounded free version for up to three users. The free edition of ActivTrak includes 3GB of storage, an analytics dashboard for reviewing data insights, web content filtering and real-time device monitoring. It is compatible with Windows and Mac devices, as well as on iOS and Android mobile devices.
ActivTrak also offers a cost-effective paid version that builds on the features available with its free edition. The paid version starts at $7.20 per user, per month, which is one of the most affordable prices we found. In addition to all the features included in the free version, the paid edition offers unlimited storage space, automatic detection of USB drives or other detachable devices, monitoring of file transfers, user risk scoring, real-time screenshots and a remote agent installer.
Best Employee Monitoring Software for Multiple Operating Systems
ContentProtect by ContentWatch 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 searchable data logs. As a cloud-based solution, it's one of the few options that work on both Mac and PC systems. It can also be installed on Android devices, allowing you to manage which apps are installed on company tablets and phones. ContentProtect is a great option for businesses that work across multiple OS platforms, which is especially useful for teams with remote workers who are using their own devices.
This content filter allows you to block specific websites and content categories, such as gaming, gambling or pornography, and an optional notification feature can alert employees if they're attempting to access a forbidden site.
Best Employee Monitoring Software for Internet Management
SoftActivity Monitor gives you comprehensive insight into your employees' online activities. You can view the websites your 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 a range of reports on employee activities based on preset criteria, from 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 and how long they spend online. You can also use the software to track your employees' attendance, with login and logout times recorded. The program can be set to snap screenshots based on specific user actions, such as when a certain program or webpage is opened, or at timed intervals.
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The cost of employee monitoring software can vary widely depending on the scope of the solution and the number of licenses required. Applications generally cost anywhere from $20 to $150 per user per year, though most are in the $40 to $60 range annually. Some applications, especially the most comprehensive, can be more expensive.
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 three.
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.
Upgrades: Some companies offer extra services, such as geolocation tracking and mobile licenses, for an additional cost.
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.
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 typically a monthly or annual subscription required – typically from $5 to $25 per user, per month.
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.
While federal law generally gives employers a lot of leeway in monitoring employee actions on company time, state laws vary. At least 26 states have banned the collection of employees' social media credentials, for example. And just because an employee monitoring software can do something, that's no guarantee the action is legal. Many states maintain wiretap laws that prohibit the collection of audio data without an employee's consent. Understanding your state's laws and whether any legislation or legal proceedings are likely to occur in 2019 is key to making sure your employee monitoring strategy doesn't end up costing you more than it's worth.
The proliferation of bring your own device (BYOD) arrangements has led to another question in employee monitoring: How can employers monitor their employees' own devices without violating their privacy rights? The general recommendation is that a well-crafted BYOD policy should include an agreement that explicitly describes how and why data will be captured, and employees should be required to consent to this monitoring prior to being permitted to use their own device at work. However, as BYOD grows in popularity, the possibility that state legislation could crop up around the issue also grows. It's important for employers to keep an eye on any legal developments around BYOD that include regulations on employee monitoring.
Small Business Employee Monitoring Software: What to Look For
Cybersecurity has gone mainstream, but businesses typically focus on external threats. Managing those threats is important, but what about your internal security? Could employees be leaking vital business information, accessing inappropriate content, or simply wasting time goofing off on the clock? Internal vulnerabilities exist to your network as well, and that's where employee monitoring software comes in.
To ensure employees are informed of what is acceptable and what is not, devise an acceptable use policy. These policies mitigate threats from misuse of devices or malicious activity, and they're enforced through the use of content filtering and internet management software – tools which are baked into the most comprehensive employee monitoring software on the market. To give your acceptable use policy teeth, you need an effective employee monitoring solution.
The best small business employee monitoring software helps you manage and enforce your acceptable use policy without investing too much time in it. You'll likely want a business internet filter that tracks user profiles with time limits, as well as real-time threat detection to block sites whose content has not yet been classified. You may want to consider supporting employee devices as well to monitor their mobile activity.
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 employee monitoring 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 some websites that your employees need to access in order to do their jobs and help your business grow?
Some software applications allow you to 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 your 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.
You may not want to keep such detailed tabs on your employees, but make sure that the software covers everything you need to monitor. For example, software that is strictly focused on filtering web content, such as ContentProtect, usually won't have all these features. If you do opt for 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 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 gives you control over when and how you are notified. 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 staff-wide overview, you'll get the most out of your software when you use both options together.
If you travel a lot and manage your network and employees remotely, then you want remote access to your internet filter data. In addition, make sure your office web monitoring software includes automatic archiving. You never know when you may need to review an employee's internet history.
Consider 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.
Ease of Use and Support
Good internet filter software should be intuitive to use and not leave you in the dark if you have questions. The best programs have visually appealing interfaces that clearly lay out all your options without feeling cluttered or overwhelming. Administrative users should feel confident using the software, with a good grasp on all your monitoring options, after just a few minutes of clicking around.
In case you do have issues, though, you'll want to go with a company that is easy to reach. It's ideal to have help options 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.
Some companies charge you extra for ongoing upgrades and support after the first year. You can forgo this option, but you'll run the risk of operating outdated and possibly insecure software without help from the manufacturer. Fortunately, most companies have extensive self-help resources on their websites that you can always refer to, such as how-to guides, video tutorials and FAQs pages.
To determine our best picks, we 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 also downloaded free trials so we could test the software for ourselves and determine usability. We also compared pricing and put ourselves in the shoes of a small business on a budget.
These are the primary features we considered in our review:
Ease of use
Web activity monitoring
Live chat monitoring
Social media monitoring
Remote control capabilities
We also looked for any additional features that might be useful or effective.
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 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 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.
Legal and Technical Considerations
While monitoring employees' emails seems like an infringement of privacy, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that it is legal for companies to monitor employees' actions while they 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 you can use programs that monitor keystrokes and capture passwords; however, there is some ethical controversy surrounding whether these features should be used.
While the federal government doesn't place restrictions on employee internet monitoring, some individual states have protections in place. An increasing number of states require employers to notify their workers if they monitor online activity, including emails and keystrokes. You can disclose this within the employee handbook or as part of the new worker orientation, or simply send out an email reminder to employees.
You can choose to run employee monitoring software in either stealth mode 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 computers.
Employee tracking software is designed to be installed on multiple computers, including an administrative station. However, 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, 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 we reviewed. However, since most 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 employee monitoring software. There are two options: on-premises and the cloud.
On-premises is the most common option and is offered by every program we reviewed. This means that you'll host the software 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 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, but you trust the vendor to maintain and protect your data.
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...