A computer system network is an integral part of every workspace. Employees usually perform most of their job tasks directly on their workstations or through a remote computer.
But there’s a lot of sensitive and confidential information stored and shared over these interconnected computers. So it’s no surprise that computer monitoring is a vital practice for most businesses.
But what is computer monitoring exactly, and how does it help your business?
In this article, we’ll explore computer monitoring, its benefits, the five best software tools, and some related best practices.
This Article Contains:
(click on the links below to read a specific section)
- What is Computer Monitoring?
- 5 Best Computer Monitoring Software
- Why Should You Monitor Computers at the Workplace?
- Computer Monitoring Best Practices
What is Computer Monitoring?
Computer monitoring refers to the processes and systems used to watch over and record user activity on a PC. Employers use computer monitoring to monitor their employees’ productivity, adherence, and conduct at the workplace. It’s suitable for both in-office and remote work teams.
Some of the standard things that companies track on their employees’ computers include:
- The user name an employee uses to log in to their laptops or desktop computers.
- User activity such as keystroke, internet use, file transfer, etc.
- Time spent on various tasks during the work hours.
- Applications and websites used during work hours.
- All internal and external communications (instant messages, emails, etc) via the company network.
- Location and IP address (for a remote employee).
- Storage and other peripheral devices like hard drives, flash drives, printers, etc.
Companies usually store the employee activity logs and time data on secure servers as part of their compliance programs. They could run analytics on this data to identify patterns in employee behavior and use the insights to boost their productivity.
But how do businesses monitor all computers in the workspace?
How does computer monitoring work?
Most companies use monitoring software to track all workstations (on-premise and remote) connected to the company network.
Computer monitoring or surveillance software is any tool that helps businesses keep tabs on their employees within the office premises or through remote access.
These software can vary from a simple time tracker to a comprehensive workforce management suite with advanced monitoring features like:
- Screen capture: To take screenshots of employees’ computer screens at regular intervals.
- Multi-layer authentication to prevent data and time theft.
- File transfer tracking.
- Printed document tracking.
- User behavior analytics to monitor employee activity and identify potential risk factors.
- GPS tracking and geofencing for remote employee monitoring.
So what computer monitoring software should you get?
5 Best Computer Monitoring Software
Let’s check out the five best software to monitor your workforce:
1. Time Doctor
Time Doctor is a robust employee productivity management tool used by large companies like Verizon as well as medium and small businesses like Thrive Market to monitor and boost performance across the company.
Here are a few ways Time Doctor can help boost your workforce monitoring efforts:
Tracking employee work hours will help you monitor whether they are actively performing their job duties and productivity levels. Besides, knowing that their work time is being tracked, your employees will be less likely to slack off and remain focused on their jobs.
For more flexibility, Time Doctor has both manual and automatic tracking features.
For manual tracking, employees need to follow these simple steps:
- Open the Time Doctor app and add the task name you’re working on.
- Click ‘Start’ to begin tracking time. Time Doctor will now track your time as you work.
- Click’ Stop’ to end the tracking if you need to take a break or have completed the task.
In the automatic mode, time tracking starts as soon the employee turns on the computer. It allows them to focus on the tasks without having to worry about starting the timer. Moreover, it gives the employer valuable insights into their productivity and behavior.
B. Idle Time Tracker
Time Doctor also helps you track employees’ idle time.
What’s idle time?
Idle time refers to the period where no keystrokes or mouse movements are detected on the employee’s computer.
Note: Time Doctor doesn’t record your keystroke or identify which keys you’re pressing to protect user privacy.
But why do you need to track idle time?
Idle time tracking helps prevent time theft since employees can’t pass off such unproductive minutes as work.
Additionally, it ensures accurate payments to your freelance, on-site, and remote employees for their active billable hours.
C. Screencasts (optional)
With the screencast feature, you can take screenshots of your employees’ workscreens to ensure that they’re working productively on their tasks. It’ll also help you examine their keyboard and mouse activity, giving better insights into their time and computer use.
The keyboard and mouse activity is the average number of keystrokes/mouse clicks per minute from the previous screencast to the current one.
For more flexibility, users also have the option to:
- Download the (selected) screencasts.
- Change the timezone.
- View only the screencasts with low or no activity.
Employees are less likely to engage in distracting activities such as social media browsing when they’re aware of being monitored during working hours.
Note: To protect employee privacy, you can blur or delete screenshots with sensitive information like passwords.
Reports help you quickly interpret the time and other monitoring data and identify potential issues. You can then take the necessary steps to tackle them.
With Time Doctor, you can see several detailed and real-time reports to evaluate employee performance.
For example, the Web and App Usage report shows an employee’s time on different apps and websites during the workday.
Managers and admins can see:
- The actual URL of the website.
- The application used.
- Duration of use.
Admins can also configure the web and app privacy settings and control the level of details visible in the report. These levels include:
- Off: App will not track any websites visited or, apps opened.
- Basic: Reports only show the URL of the website landing page and the application name.
- Extended: Shows full URLs, page titles, and application window titles.
- Custom: Shows the same info as in Extended, but with an option to specify URLs for which you only want the root domain to be displayed.
Users have the option to view the web and app usage reports for a specific date, week, month, or a specific date range.
To get further insights into employees’ time and computer usage, Time Doctors allows you to set ‘Productivity Ratings’ for various apps and websites.
Each website and application has one of four possible productivity ratings:
Other useful Time Doctor reports include:
- Activity summary: View active minutes, active seconds, unproductive, manual, and mobile time for each agent over a selected period.
- Hours tracked: Check how many hours have an employee tracked in a day, week, or during a selected time period.
- Timeline report: Shows the time an employee spent working (daily and weekly reports)
- Projects & Tasks Report: View the time employees spent on each specific project and task.
Time Doctor’s paid plans start at $7/user per month, and there’s also a free 14-day trial (no credit card required).
- G2: 4.4/5 (200+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.5/5 (350+ reviews)
Worktime is an employee monitoring software solution suitable for all businesses and can handle heavy workloads ranging from 1-15000+ computers.
- Computer and internet usage monitoring for remote and in-office employees.
- Tracks active and idle times, as well as login and logouts.
- Gives the option to store monitoring data on the cloud or locally on company servers.
- Secures sensitive data using encryption and password protection.
- Compliant with HIPAA standards.
Paid plans start at $4.99/employee per month.
- G2: 4.6/5 (10+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.2/5 (50+ reviews)
ActivTrak is employee computer monitoring software that helps teams perform at optimum levels. With its computer monitoring features, you can track employee hours and cultivate healthy work habits.
- Daily, weekly, and monthly reports to see employee workload and work patterns.
- Managers can view total and productive work time individually or for teams.
- Shows historical data to set employee productivity goals and benchmarks.
- Automated emails to share productivity insights and other information with the employees.
- Multi-layered security to keep sensitive information secure and safe.
Paid plans start at $9/user per month.
- G2: 4.5/5 (150+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (500+ reviews)
Teramind is an employee monitoring tool with features to analyze employee behavior and prevent data loss.
- Real-time user activity monitoring to detect and block violation incidents.
- Powerful IT (Information Technology) forensic capabilities for threat detection.
- Admins can define productive and non-productive apps and websites.
- Business intelligence (BI) dashboard to track employee productivity metrics.
- Allows activity and schedule rules compliant with laws like GDPR and PCI DSS.
Plans start at $10/user per month.
- G2: 3.9/5 (30+ reviews)
- Capterra: 4.6/5 (60+ reviews)
InterGuard is an employee monitoring solution with productivity monitoring features for on-premise and remote teams.
- Sends alerts for keyword triggers and suspicious computer activity.
- Allows admins to create role-based web access and see detailed online activity reports.
- Helps retrieve sensitive files, delete stolen data and lock a device in case of insider threat incidents.
- Users can monitor Android, iOS, Mac, and Windows devices using a single interface.
- Offer program, email, and file activity tracking.
Paid plans for this tracking software start at $9.99/user per month for 11-25 users.
- G2: N/A
- Capterra: 3.9/5 (30+ reviews)
Check out this informative article to learn more about remote employee monitoring software.
Now, let’s explore a few ways employee computer monitoring can help your business.
Why Should You Monitor Computers at the Workplace?
Monitoring the computer activity of your employees will help you:
1. Improved Employee Productivity
Employees may get distracted and engage in unproductive activities during their work hours. This affects their productivity and the company’s overall efficiency.
But when they’re aware that their computer activity is being monitored, they may refrain from accessing non-work-related websites and applications. This will eventually result in maximizing their productive time during the workday.
Besides, supervisors can spot work errors in real-time with activity monitoring and guide the employees accordingly.
Additionally, managers can use time usage reports to identify poor work patterns and biggest time-wasters during work hours. They can then help underperforming employees correct such issues and improve efficiency.
And since these tools usually have remote monitoring functions, you can easily track the activities of your remote workers.
2. Prevents Unethical Practices
While companies usually take steps to protect themselves from external threats, they often fail to acknowledge the potential risk factors within.
It’s not uncommon for employees to engage in practices that can put company data at risk and negatively impact its operations. A security issue like this is usually known as an insider threat.
These security risks can occur either intentionally or unintentionally when employees:
- Share business secrets, clients’ or employees’ personal data, etc., with external sources.
- Access applications and websites that compromise data and computer network security.
- Perform or facilitate data breaches and time thefts.
Effective employee tracking can minimize such policy violations incidents by constantly screening computers for suspicious behavior.
Advanced monitoring software use AI and machine learning to analyze employee behavior. With these insights, companies can anticipate potential risk factors and take proactive measures to prevent them.
3. Compliance Management
Depending on the nature of work, businesses may need to adhere to federal laws and security standards such as:
- The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), etc.
But as a manager, you may find it challenging to ensure that your employees adhere to the guidelines without fail.
Thankfully, most computer monitoring software allows companies to customize the tool to enforce compliance with such laws and standards.
For example, healthcare organizations can use an employee monitoring tool that prevents misuse of personal health information (PHI) in accordance with HIPAA.
However, to fully reap the benefits of computer monitoring, you need to deploy the technology solutions carefully.
Computer Monitoring Best Practices
Here are some ways you can monitor your teams safely and effectively:
- Identify your business and compliance requirements to pick the right computer monitoring software for your needs.
- Be transparent about your computer monitoring policy and seek employees’ consent for the same.
- Choose a non-invasive monitoring software that protects the privacy of the employees.
- Do not track or record an employee’s personal information and passwords.
- Follow network monitoring and other security guidelines as prescribed by PCI DSS to complement your computer monitoring software.
- Regularly check for analytics-based insights to make meaningful changes to employee workflow and security policy.
- If you have a completely remote team, look for a software solution that helps you engage your employees better.
Monitoring employee computer activity using computer surveillance software can help you improve productivity, compliance, and data security.
You can use the workplace surveillance tools, and best practices shared above to build a solid employee monitoring program and achieve your business goals.
So why not sign up for Time Doctor’s free trial to get started today? You can experience powerful features like computer activity monitoring, time tracking, project management, and more.
Lauren Soucy is the VP of Marketing for Time Doctor, the world’s leading time tracking and productivity software. She has 15+ years of experience in marketing at fast-paced companies. Her first passion is SEO, she can’t start her day without coffee, and she enjoys spending time at the beach with her two boys and her husband.