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Best employee monitoring software of 2021

Best employee monitoring software
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The best employee monitoring software can set up and track network access permissions, increase productivity, and improve security.

Employee monitoring software has traditionally conjured up negative images of employee surveillance. These days, however, it can be more about making sure the right people have access to the right software. The result is that some flavors of employee monitoring can be more like project management suites.

Additionally, security and access permissions are also a modern concern, as these days most data and security breaches occur within a company rather than due to hackers. These breaches could be caused by anything from users forgetting to employ appropriate settings, to a user visiting a website infected with malware, to malicious activity by disgruntled employees.  

So while some employee monitoring software is still used for time tracking and efficiency management, others work more like network monitoring tools by focusing on general activity in the IT network and looking for patterns that might suggest a security threat. This often means using artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect threats.

Additionally, because data loss through misplaced devices such as laptops is an increasing concern, some monitoring software specifically looks to remotely lock down and wipe the drives of any devices that can no longer be accounted for, in order to prevent data from the missing device being exposed and misused.

Whichever type of employee monitoring software you're looking for, here we'll feature a strong cross-section of the best on the market, according to your business needs.

Best employee monitoring software: How did we choose?

Best employee monitoring software: How did we choose?

Initially, it is easy to cast employee monitoring software in a negative light, an example of employer overreach, where businesses obsessively spy on their workers to make sure they are not abusing their trust. With more remote and hybrid working taking place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, this may be more true than ever. However, there are other reasons why businesses may want to explore the use of employee monitoring software. This review has tried to cover a broad selection of tools - ones that are a little more intrusive and others that can simply help with time tracking or network monitoring. 

1. SentryPC: Best for PC users


(Image credit: SentryPC)

Spyware for hire

Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
-Potential privacy issues

SentryPC is designed for a wide range of uses, from blocking access to websites to enhancing productivity and conducting investigations.

User activity can be tracked, alerts generated for web and application activity, keys are logged, and when activity is detected a screenshot of the event is captured as proof. What the PC version has exclusively is chat conversation logging, clipboard logging, file changes, USB drive detection and print job logging.

On Windows, the computer can also be remotely disabled, and a host of other features can be deactivated, such as file copying and even the desktop. The lack of all those features on the Mac makes it much less useful than the PC release.

If you exclusively use the PC, then SentryPC might is a low-cost way to monitor user activity and control personal use of the systems in work hours.

However, we’d be very cautious about using the keylogger and screen capture parts of this product or deploying it without informing staff and altering contracts to reflect these operational changes.

2. iMonitorSoft: Best all-in-one solution

(Image credit: iMonitorSoft)

All-in-one computer activities monitoring software

Reasons to buy
+All-in-one solution+Real-time alerts+Extensive reporting features

iMonitorSoft claims that its iMonitor Employee Activity Monitor (EAM) is aimed at helping organizations improve employee productivity and protect corporate confidential information.

iMonitor EAM allows organizations to monitor up to 1000 computers from one central server and group computers by, for example, department or location. The platform can monitor a host of activities, including keystrokes, clipboard activities, screenshots taken, document activities (such as copying, moving, pasting, deleting, renaming and creating), printing, emails, online storage usage, websites visited, online searches, downloads, application usage and time, removable storage usage, network traffic and system events.

Amongst iMontor's additional features are the ability to run up to ten different remote desktops at the same time to monitor employees' work in real-time, and the ability to set up real-time alerts for specific activities. For example, notifications can be sent to a user when an employee types specific keywords or if, for example, they connect a removable storage device to their computer.

Removable storage can be blocked from working and access to websites can be filtered. It is also possible to take control of a computer remotely and open a computer's webcam to view its surroundings.

3. InterGuard: Best management platform

(Image credit: InterGuard)

Employee monitoring and control

Reasons to buy
+Single management panel+Online demo and tours+Allows remote access to stolen hardware+Clear pricing

InterGuard provides software that aims to record, alert, block, and act on user activity, in order to protect business data, maintain productivity, and ensure legal compliance for data and security protection. It does this by bringing together different aspects of user activity monitoring, data loss prevention, and incident response, into a single software management platform.

InterGuard automatically monitors all user activity and makes that data available for searches, alerts, and reports. Parameters are determined by company policies and protocols for data access, and unauthorized processes that might threaten data security can be blocked.

The company provides the example that only 3% of stolen or lost company laptops are ever recovered, but InterGuard can allow for the remote access of any missing or otherwise unaccounted for laptop so that files can be retrieved or deleted, or the laptop itself locked down so that unauthorized users cannot access it.

InterGuard is managed through a single control panel, and a demo is available to try out.

4. Veriato: Best AI tools

(Image credit: Veriato)

The insider threat intelligence platform

Reasons to buy
+Extensive monitoring tools+Integrated AI platform +Useful pattern analysis

Veriato provides an integrated AI platform for monitoring user activity in order to reduce the chances of a data breach. It does this by following five main stages that involve monitoring, analysis, alerts, direct observation, and acting – or, as the company prefers to describe it: Watching, Analyzing, Alerting, Seeing, and Reacting.

The monitoring (Watching) stage involves tracking employee activity across the web, emails, chat apps, and monitoring which websites are visited, applications are used, and what documents are moved around or uploaded. This produces a record of session times along with activities, and can track a single employee via their login credentials across multiple platforms and devices.

Big data and AI is used to analyze patterns that might show a deviation from baseline behaviors, set by group or individually, and can additionally watch for outsiders trying to access the network or other digital assets using stolen credentials.

If any suspicious activity is detected, Cerebral Security will send an alert to the business security team. However, while the company advertises a false-positive rate of less than 2% and "low", some business owners might make a different judgement on that and whether it should be smaller, especially when the Cerebral Security product page itself declares that 71% of US workers are unhappy at work.

Once an alert is received, the security team can use a time capsule feature to check out a recording of the user's screen as it was used, to determine if the alert was triggered by an error, whether the user made an error, or whether malicious activity was discovered.

After that, the company can react accordingly, either dismissing the alert after being reviewed, or else in the more extreme cases, export any screen recordings if and as required to management, HR, security, in the event of disciplinary proceedings, or even to law enforcement if legal proceedings need to be taken.

5. Work Examiner: Best for stealth monitoring

(Image credit: Work Examiner)

Web usage control, work time tracking, and more…

Reasons to buy
+30-day free trial+Stealth monitoring+Fast setup

Work Examiner is broken down into three main purposes: web usage control, surveillance, and work time tracking. The platform provides data on how an organization's web traffic is distributed between users, computers, user groups, departments, sites and website categories. It can be viewed by days, dates and hours. 

Detailed web access reports are provided and, as with other platforms, it's possible to filter what websites employees can access. Users can receive notifications when specified websites are accessed and employees can be issued a customizable message when they access specified sites.

The surveillance functionalities in Work Examiner allow users to see screenshots of what a user is viewing in real-time, and there's the option to capture screenshots at regular intervals and then play them back like a movie. All emails can be captured and saved and it's possible to filter emails by keyword. Activity on instant messaging applications can also be recorded.

Work time tracking allows users to view what employees are spending their time doing, such as which applications they are using the most, what websites they are visiting and how much time they spend on non-work activities. Employee attendance can be tracked, including when they arrive at their computer and leave, specific applications can be blocked for specified employees, and it's possible to view which employees are working at the current time.

6. Hubstaff: Best integration options

(Image credit: Hubstaff)

Reasons to buy
+Focus on productivity+Timesheets with tracking+Integration options

While a number of our featured companies focus on the security aspect of employee monitoring, Hubstaff instead puts the focus on productivity. The platform encompasses a number of features, such as online timesheets, time tracking, scheduling, tracking, as well as reporting.

Timesheets combine tracking, billing, and payroll into a single online center that can be accessed from any mobile device. This has the advantage that employees know exactly what they are due in payments, and managers can easily keep an eye on budgets as well as staffing levels.

There's also a GPS feature available so that fleet assets can be tracked, as well as the number of hours driven, making it easier to manage projects and staff over multiple sites and locations.

Project management is included, and you can also see work in progress through a series of snapshots, which can be customized to run at specific time intervals or simply switched off altogether. Integrations are available as well, making it easy to run Hubstaff alongside other staff tools.

Overall, Hubstaff is a powerful but modern solution that offers a range of plans with increasingly comprehensive features up to multisite tracking and fleet tracking.

Brian Turner

Brian has over 30 years publishing experience as a writer and editor across a range of computing and technology titles, and has been interviewed multiple times for BBC News and BBC Radio. His specialty on Techradar is Software as a Service (SaaS) applications, covering everything from office suites to IT service tools. He is also a science fiction and fantasy author, writing as Brian G Turner.