The Best Employee Monitoring Software for 2020
Updated: July 9, 2020
Update: This page has been updated to include more information on how employee monitoring software can benefit your small business.
Employee monitoring software gives small business owners and managers insight into how employees spend their time at work. It monitors web browsing and application use, captures random screenshots and logs keystrokes. We evaluated 29 software applications and chose four best picks based on affordability, ease of use, and features that help you monitor employee activity, productivity, and security.
Best Free Employee Monitoring Software
Best Overall Employee Monitoring Software
Best Employee Monitoring Software for Small Businesses
For businesses that need to monitor additional employees, the paid version is inexpensive, starting at $7.20 per user, per month. The Advanced version unlocks USB device detection, a security audit feature and a remote agent installer, all useful for administrators managing the platform. However, the free version has more than enough features for a small office to get started monitoring their employees and ultimately determine whether paying for an employee monitoring solution is worth the investment.
It is versatile and easy to use, and although its price tag is on the high end among the software we evaluated, the quality certainly justifies the price. It costs $12 per user, per month, and Teramind requires a minimum of five users. If it's in your budget, Teramind helps you easily and effectively keep tabs on your employees' behavior.
Its pricing model is unique in that it allows you to purchase one license on an annual basis and additional licenses at a significantly discounted rate. Each license provides access to the full functionality of the software without restricting any features. Although its employee monitoring plans each have a maximum number of available screenshots, you can purchase additional screenshot storage for a one-time fee of $19.95 per 500 screenshots. This is beneficial for businesses that need extra storage but don't want to upgrade to a higher plan.
It has a free plan that supports one user and three paid plans, starting at $7 per user, per month with a two-user minimum.
How Much Does Employee Monitoring Software Cost?
Pricing for employee monitoring solutions varies depending on the features you need and how many employees you have. For instance, a very small business that needs basic features and has one or two employees may be able to use a free option, whereas businesses that need top-shelf features may pay up to $150 per user, per year. On average, however, you can expect to pay between $40 and $60 per user, per year.
Pricing is usually calculated on a per-user basis, is billed either monthly or annually, and includes the software, updates and tech support. Some vendors charge a one-time licensing fee, and then charge for annual software updates and support plans.
When you're comparing pricing, here are four factors you need to look for so you aren't surprised when you get the bill.
User minimums. Some companies allow you to buy just one or two licenses, but some require a minimum of five or 10.
Add-on features. If there are specific advanced features you want, such as geolocation tracking, you may have to pay extra for it.
Extra fees. Additional fees aren't common, but it's important to look for them before you sign up, so you know exactly what costs you're agreeing to. Check for setup fees – which may be hundreds of dollars – and IP renewal fees.
- Contract requirement. Many employee monitoring software providers offer month-to-month plans and some offer a discount if you pay annually. As with any service, you want to find out if you're required to sign a contract. If that's the case, ask for a copy of the contract and review it, paying particular attention to the term length and the cancellation procedure.
What Features Should Employee Monitoring Software Have?
There are a lot of different features for employee monitoring software, and the ones you need depend on how you want to monitor your employees.
Consider your reasons for wanting to monitor your employees. Do you want to make sure they aren't surfing the internet and scrolling through Facebook when they're on the clock? Do you worry about having confidential information or trade secrets leaked? Are you looking for a way to monitor productivity? You also need to decide if you'll be actively using the software or if you need it to send you notifications when it detects certain actions.
Here are some key monitoring features to look for:
Content blocking. There are obviously some types of websites your employees shouldn't visit during working hours – or even at all using a work-issued computer and internet access – and this feature allows you to block those types of websites as well as individual URLs. Some software allows you to set time limits for certain sites or designate times when blocks are lifted, for instance, if you allow your employees to visit social media or shopping sites on lunch breaks. Others allow you to set access permissions by individual or user group.
App and website tracking. This feature shows you which applications your employees use – such as Word or Excel – and the URLs of the websites your employees visit. It also shows you how much time they spend on them.
Keylogging. With this feature, you can see every keystroke your employees type, whether it's in emails, instant messages, Word documents or online.
Screenshots, video or live feed of monitors. Want to see what your employees are working on? Most employee monitoring solutions take random screenshots of employee monitors (and many support multiple screens). Some record video of monitored activity, and some even give you a live view.
USB and print monitoring. If you're worried about data leaks, these are must-have features. You'll receive an alert if the software detects that a thumb drive or portable hard drive has been inserted into a company computer. Print monitoring tracks the files that have been printed from each computer.
Productivity tracking. There are different ways to track employee productivity. Some software tracks user activity by detecting keyboard and mouse activity. Others require users to track their work time against tasks or client projects.
- Mobile apps. If you travel or have employees working at nonstandard times, it's convenient to have a mobile app that you can use to access the software and receive alerts. Some apps are platform-specific, however, so make sure the software is compatible with your phone if this feature is important to you.
What Are the Benefits of Employee Monitoring Software?
Employee monitoring software can be beneficial to your business; however, the benefits will depend on the features you have access to. Two things that many small businesses seek to increase are employee productivity and company security.
Software monitoring features like keystroke logging, mouse activity tracking and webcam recording can show you how active your employees are on their devices. Is their device idle for long periods of time, or are they actively engaging in work activity all day long? Although the specific employee activity monitoring features vary by software, it can be useful to have some idea of which employees are working when they say they are.
Software monitoring features like website tracking, content filtering and screen captures can help you gain insight as to what content your employees are engaging with, including which websites and applications they spend most of their time on. Are they watching cat videos or viewing inappropriate content on company property? With employee monitoring software, you can see (and block) the websites your employees use, and discuss any performance issues with employees who are using company devices improperly.
Not only can software monitoring help you record employee productivity, but it can help with security and legal disputes as well. Recording and archiving employee behavior can help you back up a claim if a disgruntled employee files a complaint. Managing website permissions and using USB and print monitoring can help you prevent leaks of confidential data. Employees will be restricted from viewing malicious websites or behaving maliciously themselves.
If you want to secure your entire network (instead of tracking individual behavior), you can use networking monitoring. This will allow you to track the functionality of all network components (e.g., firewalls, routers, servers) to reduce or even eliminate network downtime.
What to Expect in 2020
As many businesses have shifted their workforce from the office to working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, the demand for employee monitoring software has increased as employers with newly remote teams seek to ensure that employees are maintaining their productivity.
However, employee monitoring is a sensitive subject, and there are varying rules and regulations from state to state. The activity you can monitor is often dependent on whether the device is company owned or employee owned, whether employees work onsite or remotely, and what type of information you are trying to capture.
Federal law is relatively lenient, but many states are implementing restrictions on the type of data employers can collect.
Some states, like Delaware and Connecticut, require employers to notify employees when they are monitoring email or web activity. Others, including Colorado and Tennessee, maintain added protections for public employees. Some states also regulate what kinds of data companies collect; email communications might be OK, for example, but capturing biometric data requires the employee's knowledge and consent.
Understanding your state laws, as well as whether any new legislation or legal proceedings are likely in 2020, is critical to ensuring your implementation of employee monitoring software doesn't backfire and trigger a lawsuit.
Further complicating the issue is that many employees bring their own devices to work. Federally, employers have a great deal of latitude to monitor their own devices operating on their own network. But what if freelance or remote employees use their own devices? This case is a little less clear, and experts recommend the cautious crafting of a policy that requires employees to consent to limited data capture and monitoring (with explicit mentions of which data would be captured and for what business purposes). Failure to consent to this policy should come with a requirement for that user to work on a company-owned device instead.
To help you find the best employee monitoring software, we researched and analyzed dozens of companies. Here is a roundup of our 2020 best picks and an explanation of how we chose them.
Locating the Best Services
We asked small business owners about the software they use and would recommend to others. To this list, we added the companies on our current vendor list, those who had reached out to us asking to be reviewed, plus other vendors we learned about as we researched this topic, bringing our list to 29 companies.
Choosing the Best Services
With this initial list in hand, we combed through company websites, customer reviews and other online review publications before narrowing the list of candidates to 14 finalists. We removed from our list companies that don't serve small businesses, don't post their pricing online, look dated or haven't recently updated their software, among other criteria.
Researching Each Service
After reviewing websites and reviews, we then compared companies against more detailed criteria to narrow the list further. We downloaded free trial software where available and reviewed video tutorials and training materials to determine how the software performed and what features were available. Our criteria included evaluating the ease of use of the software, the pricing, the activity monitoring features included with the software and the availability of technical support.
Our Best Picks
After reviewing all these factors, we selected four of the finalists as best picks: ActivTrak, Hubstaff, SentryPC and Teramind.
Our Previous Winners
Business News Daily strives to find the best products and services for your small business. We invest hours into identifying and researching the best products and services so you feel confident about our recommendations.
We revisit our categories each year, evaluating new changes in the industry and new companies. Our process involves revisiting our previous best picks to determine if they are still the best in their category.
In addition to our current recommendations, here are the companies we previously selected as best picks:
Best for Internet Management: SoftActivity Monitor
Best for Content Filtering: ContentProtect