Rated Cloud recently reviewed a cloud based project management application which was very much focused on Agile Project Management, i.e. setting an individual a task and trusting them to complete it in their own way. ActivTrak is an employee monitoring SaaS which sits at the opposite end of the scale in terms of employer/employee relationships. It is designed to allow you to monitor your employees’ computer usage and tackle inappropriate use, such as accessing social networks and online games.
The idea of employee monitoring software will be tempting to many businesses who wish to keep a tight control over their employees work time and ensure that it is properly spent. ActivTrak can be discreetly installed on an employees’ computer to aid in this task.
There is little information on the website regarding the price of ActivTrak. It’s advertised as free employee monitoring software, but this is only for limited use. Users have to sign up for a free account before they can see the real pricing plans.
The free account allows for the ActivTrak monitoring software to be installed on up to three devices, provides up to 1 GB of online storage and allows for a maximum of 1 screenshot/alarm setting. The paid options allow for unlimited storage and screenshots/alarms but start at $34 per month for up to 5 ActivTrak installs and scale up to $199 per month for 50 ActivTrak installs. For businesses with more than 50 devices, they have to contact Birch Grove Software directly to arrange a custom plan.
ActiveTrack Employee Monitoring Software
Before you can begin monitoring your employee’s internet and application use, the person you wish to monitor will need to have the software installed on their device. This can be downloaded from the ActivTrak website and installed remotely or through Active Directory. You can install this software on as many devices as you want, but the online analytics site will only collect data from computers or users you choose.
ActivTrak is completely hidden from the employee and collects usage data for applications and websites which it then sends to the cloud. The software also works offline and stores the data until it can be passed back to the secure, SSL protected Amazon service. ActivTrak is designed to have a minimal impact on the performance of the client machine.
ActivTrak Online Analytics
The administrator can log into the online analytics tool to get statistics, reports and even screenshots of their employees’ devices. The online analytics interface is clean and simple to use, and is split into five areas; Dashboard, Reports, Screenshots, Alarms and Settings. We’ll start at the Settings page and work backwards.
- The Settings page allows you to define which applications and websites are considered productive or unproductive. You can also create different groups for the devices you are monitoring, as well as manage user accounts.
- The Alarms page allows you to set the conditions for when a monitored computer will trigger an alarm. The alarm can be set to collect a screenshot when it is triggered. Administrators can display a popup message to the employee and even force the application or website to close.
- All Screenshots that are collected in a list which can be filtered by date, users, groups, website name, screenshot title and application name.
- The Reports page shows usage reports on the Top Websites, Top Applications etc. User Summaries, Alarm Logs and more report can also be seen. Reports can be set to a specific date range, users/user groups and computers/ groups of computers.
- The Dashboard provides an overview of website and application use based on a date range of your choice. The quick stats are broken down into productive, unproductive and undefined website and application use. There is an alarm count and you can see a snapshot of recent activity and screenshots, the most productive and unproductive employees, and the most productive and unproductive applications and websites in use.
There are some privacy issues to take into account when deploying the software. Many modern organisations now allow their staff to use their own personal computer for work. However, ActivTrak can only be installed on devices owned by you or your company where you have network administrative rights.
ActiveTrack does not collect keystroke data, so personal password details will not be recorded (although an alarm with a screenshot could potentially compromise a user’s privacy if they were logged into a personal email account).
Employee monitoring software is one of the more unusual cloud based services we have come across, and ActivTrak may have found their own niche in cloud services. Smaller organisations may see ActivTrak as a simple and cost effective solution to a difficult personnel issue. The interface is easy to use and provides a good user experience. There are also some suggestions that Birch Grove Software are working on a version which can be installed on a business-owned mobile phone.
Despite this, I have reservations over whether this type of software is necessary as a cloud based service. Employee monitoring software is available for in-house networks, and having it based in the cloud suggests that is a tool for monitoring remote workers. However, I’m not certain how effective it would be for this purpose. Remote workers are very likely to already have access to other unmonitored devices (such as TVs or tablets). For this reason, one of the fundamental principles of remote working will always be about trust between the employee and employer.
Privacy issues always remain a concern with this type of software, but with the proper negotiation and flexibility, surely employees shouldn’t need to be monitored at all. As a tool, ActivTrak is great. However, overly agressive monitoring could be counter-productive anyway, and it can even affect employee morale. Many organisations are seeking to modernise their workforce as well as their IT systems; I can’t help but feel that this is an admittedly friendly, modern tool for a rather unfriendly, outdated way of working.
About the AuthorClaire Broadley is a technical author and SEO copywriter. She reviews cloud applications and SaaS products for Rated Cloud.
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