Employee Monitoring with Basic Productivity Measurement

ActivTrak is a cloud-based solution for measuring employee productivity that unfortunately falls short when it comes to its monitoring and data loss prevention capabilities when compared to other solutions.

At employee monitoring software reviews, we believe that an effective employee monitoring solution should provide a combination of attendance & productivity tracking, as well as comprehensive data loss prevention.

ActivTrak’s main functions include productivity scoring, screenshots, website blocking, alarm notifications, and the ability to redact sensitive information.

After extensively testing ActivTrak, we feel it is important for the reader to note that ActivTrak does not track attendance, email, instant messengers, log keystrokes, or provide any network data analysis. Furthermore, due to the limited scope of ActivTrak’s features, this review will not include Network Activity Monitoring, Communications Tracking, and Password Management sections.

Now that you have an idea of what ActivTrak offers, let’s get right into it.

Key FunctionsProsCons

  • Productivity Scoring

  • Screenshots/ alarms /notifications

  • Screenshot image redaction

  • App/website tracking

  • App/website blocking


  • Easy to install and use

  • Website Blocking

  • Highly customizable alarm/notifications system

  • Weekly Summary Emails


  • Does not track email, IM, or keystrokes

  • Does not track web and cloud file transfers

  • Does not offer attendance tracking

  • Does not offer any network analysis

  • Data loss prevention only available for premium prices

  • Does not monitor mobile devices

  • Inflexible pricing packages





What should you be looking for? 

We believe there are a few crucial components that an employee monitoring software should offer. Let’s take a look at how ActivTrak compares to other solutions.

Attendance Tracking

ActivTrak does not track employee attendance.

ActivTrak does not capture log-in or log-off information. We believe this is an issue because to effectively measure and compare employee productivity, you need to consider not only the time spent in applications, but also the number of hours worked — which includes attendance start and stop times as well as unauthorized absences.

This gives a much clearer picture of what is happening in your workforce.

Lack of attendance data when calculating productivity scores is a major limitation to any insights gained from using ActivTrak.

Productivity Tracking

ActivTrak is a useful tool for measuring employee productivity with an interface that is intuitive, simple to adopt, and use. However, compared to other employee monitoring software, Activtrak only offers the basics of productivity tracking.

The Home dashboard provides several summary statistics and data visualizations to help managers get a sense of employee productivity. Some useful metrics located here include Recent Screenshots, Top Applications, Top Websites, and Productivity Scores. A minor limitation of ActivTrak is that, unlike similar software such as KnowIT, InterGuard, or Teramind, the dashboard widgets cannot be customized.

Where ActivTrak excels is in its productivity metrics, reports, and alerts. Through basic analytics, ActivTrak helps provide managers with a roadmap for understanding and improving employee productivity. Like other employee monitoring software, managers are able to manage categories/groups, and assign productive/unproductive values to websites and applications. A productivity score is generated based on the amount of time employees send on these websites and applications.

The Productivity Report shows you a timestamped progress bar of an employee’s productivity over the course of a single day, week, month, or even year. While the Activity Log shows every timestamped employee actions across websites and apps, with corresponding screenshots.

The list-based management UI is simple but effective, allowing users to add or remove apps and websites with ease. In the Category and Productivity lists in Settings, businesses can create custom groups and manually add unlisted websites and apps with the touch of a button. Furhermore, the Weekly Digest Report is easy to understand and process, and a terrific way for managers who are pressed for time to get a summary of overall productivity.

One limitation of ActivTrak is that Productivity Reports show summaries only, as opposed to trends over time or data for separate days/weeks in the same report. This means if you want to view an employee’s productivity for the past 30 days, you need to run the report 30 times.

Another one of ActivTrak’s main features is Real-time monitoring – which provides data and insight into employee productivity. In this section, you will be able to view the employee’s device details, the application or website they are currently using, as well as the latest screenshots.

Having said this, it is worth nothing that despite being advertised as having real-time viewing capabilities, information is obtained through a continuous set of screenshots taken at 5-20 second intervals. These help to provide managers with an idea of productivity levels at a rudimentary level.  Currently, ActivTrak does not have a screenshot-on-demand feature like those offered by KnowIT, or Teramind’s live video monitoring capabilities.

Furthermore, according to ActivTrak, a device without user input for 2 minutes is categorized as idle. We feel this can lead to skewed productivity results as it does not take into consideration bathroom breaks, scheduled meetings, and other pertinent factors. To get a deeper understanding, managers will have to siphon through large amounts of screenshots and data.

An important note on monitoring is that ActivTrak does not offer keystroke logging. When we asked their team about this, they cited ease-of-use and compatibility with Antivirus programs as reasons why keystroke logging is not offered; however, these concerns do not outweigh the potential insights into productivity that keystroke logging provides. More powerful monitoring software such as KnowIT can interpret raw keystroke data – meaning, a timestamped mapping of what system keys users pressed at any given time – which can then be cross-referenced with any other metrics or activity data collected. As a result, you can see the full context of what, when, and why your employees were engaged in activities which may have been flagged as unproductive. In our opinion, monitoring keystrokes help to connect deeper monitoring vectors and is essential to obtaining quality data with regards to both productivity and data security.

Overall, through website and application categorization supported by screenshots, ActivTrak offers the basics of productivity tracking when compared to other employee monitoring solutions.

Application Management

In terms of Application Management, ActivTrak provides satisfactory features and control of applications and websites.

ActivTrak provides administrators with a complete Activity Log which keeps track of active apps, logs changes, time spent on each app or website, and more. However, unlike Editor’sChoice KnowIT, it lacks a global or device application inventory report.

ActivTrak’s Alarms and Notifications System is one of the software’s best features which offers in-depth customization options. Alarms can be triggered by a flexible combination of conditions to generate emails, screenshots, webhooks, and pop-up messages when an action is flagged. Administrators can create an alarm related to all activities with regards to website and application usage, assign risk levels, and even terminate the appl or website immediately if need be. For example, in our tests we set up an alarm for when employees are on Facebook for 5 minutes or more. The person then receives a custom pop-up message informing them that action is not allowed.

As is with almost every business, so much productivity is lost through website surfing, social media, and other distractions. ActivTrak provide an effective solution via the Website & Application Blocking tab, where users can block a website for individuals, groups, or everyone at once.  To block a website, simply enter a new domain or select from the list provided.

With regards to alarm notifications and website blocking, customization and user grouping such as those offered by ActivTrak are important because an app/website that is considered productive for one job function may be deemed unproductive for another. Unfortunately, unlike Editor’s Choice KnowIT, ActivTrak’s app and website blocking can only be assigned to specific computers and not to user groups.

ActivTrak also provides administrators with a complete Activity Log which keeps track of active apps, logs changes, time spent on app, and more.

Lastly, we wanted to mention that ActivTrak requires the administrator to enter the binary executable name of any application that is to be tracked or blocked. This can be a time-consuming and complex process, while also requiring the manager to have the foresight and planning to act every time a new application is required.

Data Loss Prevention

After testing ActivTrack’s Data Loss Prevention features, we feel the software offers medium-tier DLP compared to other employee monitoring solutions.

Top-of-the-line employee monitoring software can help to swiftly identify any unauthorized access, data breaches, and other forms of cybercrime. According to Intel Security, internal actors are responsible for 43% of data loss, half of which intentional, half accidental; while 64% of security professionals felt data loss prevention (DLP) technology could have prevented data exfiltration events. The best employee monitoring platforms available offer a balanced combination of monitoring and data loss prevention.

ActivTrak’s basic DLP features are considered an add-on compared to other providers who have these elements as part of their modules. Most of ActivTrak’s security features are only available in the Advanced Package, available at a premium price. Unless you immediately opt for Advanced, the only security feature in the free-trial or basic versions is the ability to block potentially harmful websites and applications.

Unlike more security-oriented platforms such as Interguard or KnowIT, ActivTrak does not track keystrokes, email, webmail, instant messengers, or provide network data analysis. Rather, it focuses on providing alarms and notifications to inform users that a specified event has occurred.

On the plus side, ActivTrak is one of a few employee monitoring software platforms which offers the ability to sync with your Google account for sign-in and two-factor authentication, a useful security feature to ensure access to sensitive information remains secure. And for $25 a month per user, you can upgrade to the Advanced Annual Account. This will provide access to Data Loss Prevention features which include Screen Image Redaction, USB Detection Alarms and File Transfer Alarms.

Screen Image Redaction ensures that any sensitive data such as credit card numbers, IBAN, and emails captured by screenshots are redacted. This can be a useful tool for protecting employee and customer information, however, ActivTrak only offers Screenshot Redaction as an add-on for $7.00 a month.

USB Detection Alarms and File Transfer Alarms are a couple of more tangible data loss protection features offered. As per user settings, ActivTrak will record, notify, and screenshot when a USB is inserted, removed, or when files are copied or moved. Unfortunately, ActivTrak does not offer Web or Cloud File transfer tracking.

With cyber-attacks increasing at an alarming rate, the importance of comprehensive security features has become pivotal. Although ActivTrak’s DLP features may help to retrospectively protect sensitive information, screenshots and notifications do little to prevent against first-time offences and more severe cyber threats such as DDOS attacks, malware, or ransomware.

More fully-featured solutions offer comprehensive Data Loss Prevention combined with Network Activity Analysis. For example, KnowIT allows users to set thresholds for irregular network activity, allowing for the detection of DDOS zombies, botnets, and spambots. While it goes beyond Having in-depth network analysis and security in place will allow you to detect emerging threats before they infiltrate your network and compromise your data. v

Mobile Device Management

ActivTrak current does not monitor any mobile devices.

However, the solution does offer an IOS and Android application for administrators to monitor the desktop activity of their employees. Given the rising trend of overall mobile device usage, including remote work and mobile-based work, this is a key area ActivTrak must improve upon to be able to provide businesses with a truly comprehensive employee monitoring solution.

It is our belief that the best employee monitoring solutions will work across all platforms.

Pricing

ActivTrak offers a 3GB free-trial version (upgradeable to Basic & Advanced) IMAGE that allows you to monitor up to 3 devices. Unfortunately, many of ActivTrak’s better features such as screenshot redaction and USB data loss prevention are unavailable without upgrading the account or add-on payments. AtivTrak’s free version is advertised as “free forever”, however the reality is that the allocated 3GB memory typically runs out within 2-3 weeks due to the amount of space that screenshots take up. Once this happens, users are prompted to upgrade their account. If you go over the GB limit, you will lose access to all data and the only option is to delete everything. Users may find this ultimatum to move towards paid versions distasteful.

ActivTrak’s advanced paid accounts start at $69 a month to monitor 10 employees, while larger organizations may opt to pay $249 a month to monitor 50 work stations. Note that Flexible Pricing schemes are only available in the Advanced package.

In our opinion, ActivTrak’s features do not justify their pricing. For example, a number of features such as screenshot redaction are only available as add-ons. As an alternative, Editor’s Choice KnowIT starts at $2.99 per user and offers modulated features, flexible pricing, as well as no minimum user requirement.

We believe that companies with smaller budgets will be hard-pressed to justify paying for the limited monitoring and DLP features offered by ActivTrak.

The Verdict

ActivTrak is a decent option given that your business only requires an employee monitoring tool primarily to gain basic insights into productivity and efficiency. However, if meticulous detail and data security are prioritized, users may be better off considering more comprehensive employee monitoring software such as KnowIT or Teramind.

ActivTrak offers great productivity metrics, reports, and alerts. We would recommend this platform for individuals or small businesses looking for the most basic features of employee monitoring. Taking a risk-free look might well be worth your time, although the 2-day trial of an upgraded account may only show users how much they are missing without paying premium prices. The verdict – unless you go all out, ActivTrak is a rudimentary productivity tool in a category of software that has far better options.

Value for Money Rating: 3.6/5