Employee monitoring software comes in many varieties. There are solutions for tracking employee communications, software primarily focused on content filtering, options for time tracking, and platforms that combine all those roles. What solution you should select depends on what areas of employee activity you want to keep tabs on.
Teramind is the best employee monitoring software overall. 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 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 lets employees see that they're being tracked. You can monitor employee activity in real time, as an alternative to collecting snapshots to review 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 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. 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 websites 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. 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 reports for 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 it to track your employees' attendance, with login and logout 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 webpage is opened, or at timed intervals.
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Content-filtering software, for example, aims to restrict employee access to inappropriate material or unsafe websites. For a more targeted type of monitoring, internet management software keeps tabs on all employee activities online, including communications through live chat or email. More generalized employee monitoring software captures employees' web activity in addition to their software usage, file transfers, removable devices and keystrokes.
Our top picks for employee monitoring software are Teramind, SentryPC, SoftActivity Monitor and ContentProtect. Read more about them below, along with our advice on 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.
What to Expect in 2019
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 mandated collection of employees' social media credentials, for example. And just because an employee monitoring software can do something doesn't make it 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 its 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 the 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 distinct possibility that state legislation could crop up to address the issue also grows. It's important for employers to keep an eye on any legal developments around BYOD that include employee monitoring regulation.
Employee monitoring software is often priced in terms of monthly or annual licensing rates on a per-user basis. Some solutions instead charge a one-time licensure fee, allowing the software to be used in perpetuity, but require a tech support and software update subscription package to be renewed annually. The costs for each of these models vary widely. Applications generally cost anywhere from $20 to $150 per user per year, though most are in the $40 to $60 range. Some software, especially the most comprehensive, can be more expensive.
Some of the companies we reviewed offer their software as a cloud-based service (or 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 to purchase annual licenses if you host the software yourself.
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 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 be several hundred dollars) and an optional IP renewal fee. As with any service you're considering for your business, you should ask the sales rep which fees the company charges and if there's a contract (and how long 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.
Small Business Employee Monitoring Software: What to Look For
Managing the threats against your office network is tricky enough without worrying about employees leaking vital business information or viewing inappropriate content in the workplace. A common approach to this is locking down the network or blocking particular sites. This often results in 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. In response, many businesses create acceptable use policies (AUPs) to mitigate threats from employee internet access. While these policies vary by industry, they are frequently managed through enterprise web filtering software.
The best small business employee monitoring software helps you manage your AUP without investing too much time in it. You'll likely want a business internet filter that tracks user profiles with time limits and 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
Something to consider when you are searching for employee monitoring software is the different types of monitoring features it offers. 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? Some software applications allow you to select times when the internet or sites are blocked and times when not to block. For instance, are there some websites that your employees need to access in order to do their jobs and help your business grow? For these cases, most applications allow you to create user groups and select different websites to block at different times. Blocking disruptive sites and creating customized permissions is one way that using 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 your employees' visited websites and applications, emails and online chats, keystrokes, created and downloaded files, print jobs, inserted devices, and even their physical locations when they have 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 still choose what to record and in how much detail, as well as when exceptions are in order.
Reports and Notifications
Another important feature is how the software informs you of different occurrences. 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. The best software gives you great 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 them in tandem.
If you travel a lot and manage your network and employees remotely, then you want remote access to your internet filter data. Automatic archiving of data 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. Consider choosing internet filter software that will record your employees' online searches and take screenshots of employees' 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. You and other administrative users should feel confident using the software within a few minutes of clicking around, with a good grasp on all your monitoring options.
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 the option of receiving help through 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, 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 offers all the most important features, as well as some more advanced features that give administrators more insight or control over employee activity. We also downloaded free trials so we could test out the software for ourselves and determine the 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.
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.
Most employee monitoring software companies are transparent with their pricing, posting 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 months free.
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 key logs and capture passwords; 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 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.
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 computers. 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 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, 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 in our reviews of employee monitoring software. 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 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 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...