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How to Monitor Computer Activity and 15 Reasons to Do That

How to Monitor Computer Activity and 15 Reasons to Do That

Modern businesses rely on digital technologies heavily, which, actually, cuts both ways. On the one hand, Internet access, cloud-based platforms, computer equipment, and portable devices help a lot in delivering products and services to customers, automating workflows, maintaining communication channels, and more.

On the other hand, we’ve got new threats and challenges such as hacker attacks, data leaks, and cyberloafing, just to name a few. They make businesses adopt specific tools, approaches, and policies in a bid for creating a safe and productive work environment.

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But what about a one-stop solution to address multiple issues? Here we come to employee monitoring software, which claims to be a silver bullet that tackles all the problems with one sweep. Well, let’s see whether it’s true and whether you really need to monitor computer activity in the workplace.

How Does It Work?

Despite common belief, modern software designed to monitor computer activity doesn’t necessarily require downloading it on user devices. Many services use cloud technology to connect with clients’ computers via a browser. When linked to user desktops, monitoring software collects certain data generated by user actions like moving/clicking on the mouse, typing on the keyboard, launching programs, and so on. While the range of data varies depending on the software’s features, generally, business owners are eager to look into the following:

  • Login/logout info. It shows when users enter and exit the system monitored. It helps track attendance and breaks.
  • Total/active/idle time. These metrics reveal how much time a user spends on the computer/interacts with the mouse or keyboard/does nothing. Based on that, the employer can evaluate the efficiency of computer usage.
  • Website URLs. The software captures web pages visited by users, be it a search engine, social media platform, or online database, and calculates the time spent there. This information reflects how the employees use Internet access and online resources during the workday.
  • App usage. Every program launch on the computer is recorded, along with the time spent by a user in the application. The data is useful for app inventory and productivity tracking.
  • Keystroke logging. The software collects and stores keystrokes typed by a user in apps or online so that the employer can prevent or investigate insider threats.
  • Screenshots. Pictures of the screens are taken based on a specified schedule to provide the employer with evidence in case of security breaches or work-related issues.
  • Emails. The software records all the information related to electronic correspondence, including the date and time when it was sent, the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, the subject of the letter, the computer from which it was sent, etc. The employer can keep track of every message and the whole correspondence flow simultaneously.

Actually, many tools for monitoring user activities on computers come with additional features that expand improvement opportunities for businesses. In the next paragraph, we are going to list the benefits you can achieve if choosing to monitor computer activity in the workplace.

Why Do You Need to Monitor Computer Activity in the Workplace?

Although often mentioned in the context of remote work, computer activity monitoring is beneficial for the office environment as well since it allows business leaders:

  • To implement accountability. Employees are more likely to tick off all the boxes when they know that they are supervised and their performance is measured.
  • To measure productivity. Metrics received through computer activity monitoring software highlight those workers who do a stellar job and those who underperform.
  • To introduce a fair recognition system. Small and big rewards keep your workforce motivated, and you have a chance to encourage earnest workers who might go unacknowledged until now.
  • To provide timely coaching. Employees showing low performance might turn into superstars if you help them overcome current difficulties with proper training.
  • To balance workloads. The information delivered by computer activity monitoring reveals overtime and possible burnouts for you to address the issues before it’s too late.
  • To cut labor costs. You don’t want to pay for idling around, so you can reduce costs by removing lazy workers and even whole positions or switch to a more accurate and cost-effective wage system.
  • To reduce operating expenses. By rethinking the usage of applications and online services, you have the opportunity to drop paying for unnecessary licenses and subscriptions.
  • To reveal common distractions. Both you and your staff might be unaware of those time stealers that prevent the employees from working more productively.
  • To remove productivity killers. Some distractions, such as social media, instant messengers, or news websites, can be blocked for underperforming users or a whole team.
  • To embrace remote work. It will be easier for you to hire and retain talents with WFH or hybrid work options incorporated via computer activity monitoring.
  • To detect external security issues. Visiting websites, downloading apps, or processing emails — all these everyday activities can let hackers into your networks and systems; so, you’d better watch it.
  • To identify insider threats. As your employees often work with sensitive data, it is smart to keep an eye on their access to documents and apps.
  • To prevent cyber-attacks and data leaks. In many cases, computer activity monitoring software will allow you to block user actions that pose risks.
  • To comply with specific regulations. Even if you have complete confidence in your team, you won’t be able to run a business in a range of industries without proper data protection measures implemented.
  • To enforce appropriate workplace behavior. You should also anticipate possible consequences for your business if some of your staffers are involved in cyberbullying, gambling, or adult content distribution.

So, we have listed at least 15 reasons for you to monitor computer activity, and now, we are moving to 15 helpful features you can find in a computer monitoring tool.

How to Monitor Computer Activity Remotely

Developed by Work Examiner’s experienced team, Controlio is just that kind of computer activity monitoring tool any employer would love to have at hand. It comes with multiple features to achieve any of the above goals. Here is how it works:

Productivity Scores

You can start your journey to the higher efficiency of your workforce by analyzing a Productivity Score summary provided for the whole staff and every user/unit in your business structure. You just need to choose a period for performance evaluation, and the software will show how efficiently your employees were using work computers during this time and even whether they were more or less productive compared with the previous period.

Productivity Score summary

For further analysis, select department or users to see their active time and productivity scores.

Attendance

Controlio generates Attendance reports on every user connected to the app, showing what they were doing on their computers during any day selected from the drop-down list. It displays active periods on an hourly basis, also providing details on apps used and marking them as productive or distractive. You can see when the staffers were actually working, when they took breaks, and when they were engaged in non-work activities. The feature is adjustable to various working schedules to better fit your business specifics.

Controlio generates Attendance reports on every user connected to the app

Activities

The Activities section switches the focus from people to apps and websites they have used over a certain time. It reveals not only how much active time was spent by a user doing this or that but also how productive this activity was. It is calculated based on productivity levels assigned to every tool or category of tools. If a website/app is marked as work-related and contributes to performing tasks assigned to a user, it is considered productive. Social media or online shops can be specified as distracting.

Controlio's The Activities section

Productivity Levels and Categories

Although Controlio comes with default productivity levels, every business leader has the possibility to customize these settings to perfectly match tasks performed by users and departments. For example, your marketing team may need to monitor prices across competitors, so it would be silly to set visiting Amazon as distractive. For greater convenience, you can change a productivity level or category right in the Activities section and in the Categories tab where various tools employed by your staff are grouped and accurately ranked.

Controlio's productivity levels
Controlio's settings to perfectly match tasks performed by departments

Online Sessions

If you want to have a quick glance at your workflow in real-time, you should visit the Online Sessions tab. It demonstrates all the users who are currently online, along with computers used and activities performed. This feature allows avoiding micromanagement while still keeping the workflow under control. Should you spot one of your employees watching YouTube videos instead of sweating over an annual statement, you can step in and fix the issue.

Controlio's online sessions dashboard

Login/Logout

This feature of Controlio is designed to capture and reflect the time when users sign in to your system and when they finish their workday by signing out. Although logging in does not always mean getting to work straight away, you will be able to track attendance more accurately with the data at hand.

Controlio capture and reflect the time when users sign in to your system

Sessions Report

While ongoing sessions are displayed in real-time, Controlio also aggregates data during each working day to put them into integrated reports. They are placed into the Activity tab of the Sessions section where you, first of all, will see a graph showing the number of sessions completed by your staff over a specified period. The general performance curve is supplemented with an overview for each user: the time when the user first/last interacted with the computer, their productivity score, and visualizations of active hours, active time ratio, and time distribution across productivity levels.

Controlio aggregates data during each working day to put them into integrated reports

Screen Recordings

Controlio captures pictures of the screens every 5 minutes when users are active on their computers. Then, it stores the images in the Snapshots folder for you to conveniently navigate through screen videos recorded at that speed of 1 fps. The records can be retrieved if the evidence is required to clarify security or work-related issues.

Controlio captures pictures of the screens every 5 minutes

What is more, live screen streaming is available for online sessions. You can press on the corresponding icon against a user to check a suspicious activity and prevent the employee from causing harm to your business.

Controlio's live screen streaming

Emails

Checking emails is useful for performance and security purposes alike. For one thing, you can track how email correspondence is handled by your staffers, who process more letters than others, and so on. On the other hand, it is an effective way to identify data leaks, prevent inappropriate behavior, and enforce acceptable email usage.

Controlio's track how email correspondence is handled by your staffers

Documents

Monitoring access to documents circulating in your company is no less important. Critical files can be deleted by a malicious insider, or sensitive information can be derived from them and taken outside the company. To address the first issue, you are entitled to scroll through files processed by your staffers to see if everything goes smoothly.

Monitoring access to documents circulating in your company

Another possibility provided by Controlio is checking documents sent to printing devices.

Controlio is checking documents sent to printing devices

Keystrokes

If you wonder why you should be tracking keystrokes on work computers, think of a rogue employee searching for porn sites or a negligent worker looking for a new game to download on a work computer. You can spot both if going through the Searches tab from time to time.

Controlio's Searches tab

However, all the keystrokes recorded by Controlio can be viewed in the section of the same name.

The keystrokes recorded by Controlio

Blocking

We believe that a proactive approach pays off, so you don’t need to wait for your staff to screw up. Protect both your business and the team from multiple temptations and block risky websites and distracting apps. You can also prohibit downloading files on removable storage devices to prevent data breaches. All these bans are easy to configure in the Rules section, where multiple customization settings are available.

Block risky websites and distracting apps with Controlio

Alerts

You surely want to know if someone violates the rules set. That’s why you need to turn on the alert feature accessible through the Rules tab as well. Below, you will see a whole list of alerts delivered by Controlio to an email specified. Just like with the blocking feature, certain users or departments can be excluded from the rule to give you more flexibility.

Turn on the alert feature accessible through the Rules tab

Later, you can explore detected violations in the Alerts section or the Top Violators report generated in the Summary.

Scheduled Reports

You are not required to stare at the screen night and day to learn how your workforce is doing. Just allow your computer monitoring tool to accurately collect data and shape the information into a custom report, which will be sent to a person in charge according to schedule. You are welcome to select a format, data included, users monitored, frequency of mailing, and other parameters to meet your needs. Surely, you can assign supervisors to receive the reports, depending on your organizational structure.

Allow your computer monitoring tool to accurately collect data

Customized Monitoring

As you may need to comply with various data protection regulations and take a specific approach to different teams, Controlio offers an abundance of settings for you to create targeted policies for computer monitoring. In Monitoring Profiles, you will find many options, including the possibility for a user to turn the monitoring off and a box for writing a warning about surveillance in place.

Allow your computer monitoring tool to accurately collect data

Wrapping Up

Frankly speaking, we have failed to describe all the features a high-end digital solution can offer and all the goals you can achieve with such a powerful tool. But it’s clear that business leaders should monitor computer activity in the workplace to gain a competitive edge.

Article Photo © Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier | Flickr

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