Employee Monitoring Software Review
Why Use Employee Monitoring Software?
The top performers in our review are Spector, the Gold Award winner; NetVizor, the Silver Award winner; and StaffCop, the Bronze Award winner. Here’s more on choosing a system to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 systems.
Email is the top place for data breaches for companies as employees exchange information through business correspondence. It is more important to secure and track information when you are required to comply with HIPAA laws, FINRA regulations and GRAMA requests. There are some basic email surveillance solutions available that help monitor employee emails to ensure critical data isn't being inadvertently, or purposely, shared. Employee-monitoring software includes email-monitoring capabilities and additional tools to monitor other activities of employees while on the job.
Another important aspect of pc-monitoring software is the ability to monitor employee activity while utilizing company equipment, such as laptops and computers. These solutions let you see which websites employees access, when employees download files, and as employees connect or remove USB drives. These programs also alert you when specific keywords are searched that your company deems concerning, including job searches, pornographic materials or competitive contacts. The best employee-monitoring systems give you administrative controls that allow you to block some of these activities, further restricting access to inappropriate or unsecured websites. Employee monitoring can sometimes also be used to track when an employee is on the clock.
Legal & Technical Considerations
While monitoring employees' emails seems like an infringement of privacy, the United State Supreme Court ruled in 2010 that it is legal for companies to monitor the actions of their employees while they are working 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 when monitoring employees. This means that programs that monitor key logs and capture passwords can be used, however, there is often some ethical controversy on whether or not they should be.
While the federal government doesn't place any restrictions on employee monitoring, some individual states have some protections in place. More and more states are requiring employers to notify their workers if their company monitors online activity, including email and keystrokes. These notifications can be within the employee handbook, part of the new worker orientation or simply sent out as an email reminder.
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 computer. 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 individual report on each workstation. Employee-tracking software is designed to be installed on multiple computers, including an administrative station, in order to work undetected by employees. However, in order 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.
It is also important to note that many employee-surveillance programs look legitimate but are really viruses in disguise. While it may give you keylogging and password-capturing capabilities, it will also collect 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 on our employee-monitoring software lineup. However, since the majority of these programs work around your firewall, it is still possible for other threats to leak through.
Refog is one solution we tested that works only in transparent mode, meaning your employees can see the program on their workstation. It must be installed directly to the computer you are monitoring and administrators have to access it from this same computer periodically. This means you don't have to compromise your firewalls to monitor employee activity. It just won't be undetected as the rest of the solutions we reviewed are.
Which Solution Are You Looking For?
Monitoring software and parental software are two solutions that monitor personal computer use. Since these solutions are installed and used on a single computer, they do not pose the same threat as email-surveillance programs that work around firewalls. These solutions come with additional options to help prevent cyberbullying and tools for kid and spouse monitoring while online.
Email monitoring is a term often searched when business are looking for an antivirus solution that will monitor inbound and outbound message for threats such as viruses, spyware and Trojans. We have a good selection of business antivirus solutions if this is what you are looking for.
Some high-security companies, such as the Intermountain Healthcare, use email encryption software to help secure personal health information and other critical information that needs to be protected when sent to third-party recipients, such as insurance adjusters. These programs encrypt email messages that can only be translated and read by an authorized recipient. This helps insure sensitive information is only accessed and used by individuals who need this information while keeping it as secure as possible.
Many antivirus and firewall solutions, such as Symantec, include some monitoring options, such as data loss prevention, locating lost devices and email protection. However, these do not have the capability of tracking keystrokes, capturing passwords or other in-depth monitoring functions as Activity Monitor and other employee monitoring systems, though they still provide a high level of security.
If you decide you would like to monitor your employee activity and email, all of the solutions on our top ten included monitoring features for website activity; removable storage, such as flash drives; keyword alerts; and keystroke capturing.
What We Tested; What We Found
The first step we tool in evaluating pc-monitoring software was to work with our IT department to ensure each one is a legitimate solution and not a virus in disguise.
We looked at employee-monitoring solutions that are designed for microbusinesses, or those under five employees. Some companies have tiered packages with more user licenses and advanced features for a higher cost. This information is useful to keep in mind as you consider your current business size, company goals and potential growth.
We considered the monitoring tools included with each program and gave higher marks for those that included functions beyond the basic email, website and application surveillance. These included options such as print monitoring, social media tracking and notifications for deleted and retrieved data. InterGuard is a solution that includes both of these functions.
We are also impressed with those solutions that include an inactivity monitor, which tells you when an employee who is on a business-designated screen is still working or simply leaving an approved site up while chatting, playing on their personal device or walking away from their workstation often. Attendance tracking is another feature we looked for since this gave traditional pc-surveillance programs an extra important function of determining when employees are at work or not. Our top two pc-monitoring solutions have both of these functions. Work Examiner also has these tools.
While each of the programs we reviewed has alerts to let you know when an unapproved site is being accessed or certain keywords are being typed or searched for, we looked for additional controls for administrators to take advantage of. The majority of the software on our top ten allow you to block or filter specific websites and monitor or block the use of removable storage, such as USB drives.
One tool that isn't very common is time controls. The Pearl Echo.Suite has this function, which lets you block websites and applications during specific times of the days and allow them outside of those designated times. It also provides you with a way to allow certain employees access to important websites while prohibiting them from other workers.
We found that a good support staff and options are vital to the use of employee-monitoring programs. This is because the majority of the programs we reviewed require additional programming, coding or patch installation in order to work properly. In some cases, they need custom programming, though this is usually included in the program purchase price.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
Businesses use email-monitoring systems to make sure sensitive information isn't shared outside of the company through messages or attachments. This feature is included as part of every employee-monitoring system, which is used, in addition to other monitoring tools, to ensure employees are engaged in productive tasks and to check program usage, web searches and file downloads.
We found Spector, NetVisor and StaffCop to be the best employee monitoring solutions because of the inability for employees to detect the program on their computers, the amount of surveillance features included and the support offered. However, each of the solutions on our lineup monitors employee activity and assists in keeping tabs on your critical data.