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Qustodio Professional for Business review

Parenting employees

(Image: © Qustodio)

Our Verdict

A tracking system that has its origins in a parenting tool to keep youngsters from harm on the internet. Therefore, it lacks many of the features that business might expect from a surveillance solution, and it also won’t work on Chromebooks or Linux.

For

  • Less invasive than spyware
  • Easy to use

Against

  • No Linux or Chromebook support
  • No email monitoring
  • No keystroke recording

Based in both the USA and Spain, Qustodio has a range of system tracking products aimed at family, school and business use.

Today we’ll be looking at Qustodio Professional for Business, a tool that tracks the use of computers and mobile devices that promises to get more productivity out of employees and reduces the security risks associated with internal systems.

Features

There might be a place for a product in business that doesn’t stomp on the privacy of employees with army issue boots, and Qustodio Professional for Business is that.

We suspect that this software evolved from other solutions designed for supervising children online, and it inherits that feature set, not the one that business surveillance tools normally come.

While it can track application launches, browser activity, and provide a time overview for productivity analysis, that’s about as far as the functionality goes.

The most surprising omission is that it doesn’t track emails, but it also has no means to record keystrokes, follow file copying or see what is on the screen of a tracked system.

The only social media tracking available is for Facebook, although as this is a web location, surely it shouldn’t need a specific feature to gather this information.

(Image credit: Qustodio)

Therefore, the primary purpose of this tool is to block websites that aren’t work-related and to provide a basic overview of how the employee uses their time on the computer.

There is an argument that could be presented that if you don’t know either of these things already as a business, then why pay managers?

The software certainly uses a gentle touch from an employee monitoring perspective, and probably unsuitable for collecting evidence of fraud, sexual harassment or stealing of company data.

When used in the mobile device space, it can report where the employee is geographically located if they don’t turn the device off.

The mobile version can also detect calls and SMS messages, although in our Android phone tests it was aware of SMS messages even if it logged the Messaging app being opened.

It turns out that the version of the app that can do that is currently excluded from the Google Play Store, and you must download and manually install an alternative directly from Qustodio if you want this feature to work. This version can report the contents of each text message, although it can’t record verbal conversations.

Platform support includes Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, Kindle and Nook, but sadly this is yet another business product that lacks Linux and Chromebook support.

Overall, this isn’t a product that would bend any employment laws and should fit neatly with the acceptable use policy most companies already have.

Some users of the parenting tool have complained that the software doesn’t accurately time events. But, in our testing, the length of time that apps were open was correctly captured.

Although, no information about if the app was used or what was done with it is recorded.

We also noticed that the system didn’t record when the application was removed from our PC or mobile device, amazingly.

(Image credit: Qustodio)

Interface

Qustodio has one of the more attractive web interfaces that we’ve seen on a surveillance solution, although it doesn’t present much information in the screen space provided.

For whatever reason, the contents have been bracketed to a width of just 960 pixels, and on a screen with greater horizontal resolution large areas of unused space if left on both sides.

It would be reasonable to assume that IT staff will be using 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution or even higher resolution screens, making this a poor design choice.

The captured information is presented in a user-centric way, where you choose the employee you wish to look at and their activities are summarised.

It is possible to look specifically at Social Activity, Web Activity and the Activity timeline, and set basic rules for web surfing and if the user gets a warning, should they stray outside those parameters.

If a web location is visited or application has launched the software can alert them or block the attempt if required.

For mobile users, a map is available to show where they’ve been, and when they arrived.

The interface works reasonably well, but as you can’t see what staff did in an app or what files they’ve deleted or copied, it is of limited use.

(Image credit: Qustodio)

Security

Security on this system is very basic, in that the only controls are an email address and password.

If a third party have access to the computer where the web interface has been used, and the login and password are stored on the browser, then they can see everything the system captured.

The interface is SSL secured with a certificate provided by GoDaddy, at least, but the lack of a two-factor authentication option is disappointing.

(Image credit: Qustodio)

Plans and pricing

Qustodio has different plans for Family and School use, but for Business users there is a very simple pricing model where the cost is based purely on the number of devices you wish to track.

The cheapest Professional for Business option is for five devices for $9.95 (£7.95) per month, the average cost being less than $2 per device. With more devices the average cost goes down, and those with 100 devices pay an average of $1.70 per month for each one.

For companies that have more than 100, Qustodio will quote you a price, that should be even more competitive.

In the greater scheme of surveillance products, this is a low price that undercuts almost all the competitor solutions.

For those who wonder if such an inexpensive option can be useful, Qustodio has a 30-day trial with licenses for five devices that can be easily downloaded and installed.

Final verdict

As affordable as Qustodio is, what you ultimately get for that money is very limited.

The web tracking and blocking functionality isn’t anything more than a good firewall should provide if properly configured and monitored.

What it offers is basic activity tracking information and other free tools that could provide this information. Without the ability to track keyboard ore mouse use, the software has no idea if an application is just open or being used.

On the plus-side of these choices is that Qustodio Professional for Business won’t upset many employees if it is deployed, as it gathers relatively little personal information in operation.

As a surveillance tool, customers would probably expect more for their money than this solution provides, even at this price.