Most large businesses use some type of employee monitoring software, and now smaller businesses are warming up to the idea, too.
Monitoring software helps detect and prevent the leading cause of data breaches – your own employees. You’ll receive an alert any time any employee engages in risky behavior such as emailing sensitive information or clicking on a harmful link, even if the action was completely accidental.
The software has the added benefit of tracking employee productivity. You can keep an eye on who’s working efficiently and who’s slacking off. Conversations about improving productivity can start long before you have to think about terminating a staff member.
Choosing among the many employee monitoring vendors is where things can get complicated. Not all products are alike, so it’s important to spend some time researching before you buy. Follow these tips to find the software that best suits your business.
Assess Your Needs and Goals
This may seem like a no-brainer, but many businesses skip this important step. Rather than thinking about why they need the software are what exactly they expect it to do, many technology buyers skip straight to shopping around and scheduling demos.
Before you talk to any vendor, sit down with your team of key leaders to decide what you want to accomplish with the software. Are you simply looking for a tool that blocks access to certain websites and apps, or are you in the market for more robust software that prevents employees from sharing and stealing your confidential data? You can’t accurately assess a product’s value until you have a clear idea of your goals, and you want to make sure your leaders are on the same page.
From there, discuss which features and capabilities are most important. Do you want to monitor websites, email exchanges, keystrokes – all of the above? Do you need the ability to record employee sessions and play them back later? Is remote monitoring a requirement? Make a list of must-haves, then a separate list of features that would be nice to have but aren’t dealbreakers.
As with any software, you’ll have to choose between cloud and on-premise. Some vendors offer only one or the other, and some offer both.
If you have an internal IT staff and you prefer to keep control and management of all software and security in house, on-premise might appeal to you. If you don’t have an IT department and you need to monitor remote or home-based employees, cloud is a better fit.
On-premise software requires a significant upfront investment, while cloud requires little or no money upfront because payments are made annually or by the month.
Set a Budget
Cost varies considerably from one vendor to another. For cloud software, there are free versions all the way to up to products that cost upwards of $50 per user per month. Some vendors allow you to pay by the month, but many require an upfront annual payment.
Give some thought to what you can afford – again, before you talk to vendors. What are you willing to spend per month or per year on a monitoring program? Where will you find money in the budget to cover the cost, and does buying the software mean spending less in other areas?
Try to avoid making a purchasing decision on cost alone, however. As with most business products, the cheapest option isn’t necessarily the best. On the flip, a high price tag doesn’t necessarily mean a product is superior. Always consider features and functionality when evaluating price.
And don’t forget to ask for volume discounts – most vendors offer them.
Once you know what features you need and how much you can spend, it’s time to start narrowing down the field. Reading software reviews is an efficient way to do this. Much of the legwork – from evaluating functionality to testing ease of use – has already been done for you.
One crucially important point: Stick to independent reviews by reputable business or software advice websites like PC Magazine, Business.com, Capterra or Finances Online. Any review written or sponsored by a vendor won’t be neutral.
Finally, it’s time to take the software for a test drive. Once you’ve selected two or three vendors that seem like a good fit, schedule demos so you can see first-hand how the software works. Is the interface clean and simple, and is the software easy to use? Is it difficult or cumbersome to set up custom alerts or run employee activity reports?
Most vendors also offer free trials, so this is something to consider. Attributes or problems that weren’t obvious during a quick demo are easier to spot when you use the software for a matter of days or weeks.
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