We’ve been asked by a few of our clients on how they can monitor their staffs email and web use. To increase productivity in the office many companies use this tool to monitor what employees are spending their work hours doing. So, in this post we’re handling the how to do it and after you can see our views are at the end with all the techie bits are in the middle.
For those of you who are employees reading this it’s best to assume that everything you write on a work computer is logged and audited for internal compliance. Most of the time you’ll never know, and it’s impossible to be certain that it’s not. So, close those Facebook browsers and get reading!
Firstly, one should probably ask ‘do my team have enough work to do and can I give them more?’ This is generally the answer rather than trying to control what they do online.
Secondly you can generally achieve what you need by restricting what they can do; even the cheapest of routers afford restriction of websites and/or content. This allows you to lock certain websites at certain times of the day. Our clients in the retail space for example often block staffs’ access to Facebook at all times except after 6pm or during lunchtime. Blocking access at certain times ensures your team isn’t tempted to spend all their time chatting to their friends.
If you go ahead with monitoring employees emails it is crucial to check the legality behind it. In most instances, it is of the highest importance that the monitored employee is aware of what is going on. They do not need to know the exact reason but they do need to be aware that it is happening.
If you’re trying to see what your employees are sending and receiving within email you need a server. This can be onsite or in ‘the Cloud’, but pretty much whatever server you have will have the ability to open other team members email and see what they have been doing.
You’ll need to get whoever looks after your server to give you permissions to other peoples ‘mailboxes’, but once you’re done with that, you can dip in and out of your team members email with relative ease.
If you don’t have your own server then monitoring email is pretty difficult. Most of the time the only record of the email will be on the team member’s computer and if they delete the email then retrieving it is very difficult.
Email serves that can’t afford monitoring are things like POP3, those that can are Exchange, GoogleMail, IMAP. If you’re in doubt about what kind of email you have and want more information, then drop our IT support team a line and we can help you check it out.
Increasingly companies are using instant messaging (IM) clients for ad hoc communication between their teams. They are fast, keep inboxes cleaner and allow more casual conversations. The downside is auditing them is often a nightmare. Old conversations can be lost in the ether, tied to specific machines, or even locked within an employee’s personal IM account.
If you’re keen on employees using an IM, then at some stage you’ll need to implement your own to ensure there is an audit trail. If your team members are using personal accounts, or things like Facebook seeing what they’re saying is going to be tough.
For platforms that offer full audit trails check out Sazneo, Microsoft Lync, or Brosix.
Monitoring Web Use
Monitoring web use within your office is relatively easy, though not cheap. You just need a reasonably priced server or router (devices that connect your office to the internet). Microsoft TMG is one of the most user friendly in the reports it produces, but it will set you back >£2500 for the hardware and software alone. There are some decent routers that can provide reports of web use as well, but these again run into the thousands.
Although, normally if you do have problems with staff spending too much time looking at the web, you don’t need to solve this by monitoring what they are doing.
Restriction of content also helps maintain security; routers can filter traffic and ensure that malicious software isn’t downloaded onto your internal machines. It also ensures that illicit content is less likely to make it to your team’s screens.
The Whole Hog
If you do have problems with certain team members, you can take things up a notch and monitor everything that goes on in your network. Software can be installed to provide individual reports or reports on the entire company.
You can get a daily report of how much time people spend on Facebook, what they said in instant messaging, how much time they spent in each application, even how many words they wrote in a day.
They’ll log every key stroke and every mouse click and present the information per user in lovely graphs showing you who’s the least productive, and who’s spending too much time on personal communication.
The software isn’t even that expensive (typically £150 per employee) and is nearly untraceable for even the most technically competent people.
We’d always urge against these kinds of steps unless you have real problem with a team member. Of the clients who have asked us about this kind of software only about 1 in 10 go ahead and as of yet no one has chosen to monitor their entire team. However, if you do have a problem and nothing else can help then have a look at SpecterPro, it can do everything from a graph of usage to a full recording of the screen.
We don’t operate any restrictions of web use; employees are free to spend as much time on Facebook et al as they like. If they are performing at their jobs and hitting their targets then we don’t mind how long they spend personally on the web. If an employee is spending too much time online then maybe it’s just that they haven’t got enough work to do, or that their manager isn’t monitoring and reporting on whether they’re hitting targets.
For our digital comms we monitor at two points:
- During training to ensure team members are communicating in the right way to our clients
- By exception; so when we have a problem with a team member or client and need to ascertain what was said and when
It is good to have a record of what was said by who and when, but you only really need this when there’s a serious problem. If you’re using it to find problems, there are definitely better ways. Simply getting to know your team better is a far more enjoyable and cost effective use of management time.
Disagree with us? Or just fancy looking a bit more into setting up restrictions or monitoring services in your company? Give us a call and we can help!
Lucidica, based in Shoreditch, is the IT department for small businesses.