Employee montitoring software may conjure up negative images, but while previously it may have been used to help improve productivity by controlling which websites were accessible from work - ie, to stop employees spending their shift idling time on Facebook or online games - these days monitoring is more about security.
This is especially 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 a 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.
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Best employee monitoring software - at a glance
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.
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.
Work Examiner was launched in 2006 by EfficientLab LLC. The firm says the software is now used by over 1500 companies. Amongst the benefits it promises are accurate tracking of when employees arrive at and leave their desk, the ability to schedule reports on users or departments (received via email), and the option to set flexible policies for controlling employee work time and 'free' time.
Work Examiner is broken down into three main purposes: web usage control, surveillance and work time tracking. The platform provides data on how an organisation'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 customisable 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.
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 snapsnots, 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 limited features from just $5 per month per employee, or $10 per month for a comprehensive range of features. The $20 per month plan allows for multisite and fleet tracking.
iMonitorSoft claims that its iMonitor Employee Activity Monitor (EAM) is "the most powerful and complete employee monitoring solution." The company says that the software is used by thousands of organisations worldwide, including Siemens. The software is aimed at helping organisations 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.
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