This report is part of a series of employee monitoring and productivity software comparisons designed for the business owner, compliance officer or HR Manager who is looking for software systems to deal with Insider Threats and measure employee productivity. The questions our audience are asking include:

  • How can I easily monitor my employee’s phones and computers without needing technical help?
  • How can I prevent sensitive data company data leaving the office?
  • How can I see which employees are productive and which aren’t?
  • How can I measure employee attendance and absences?
  • How can I do this without a huge investment in hardware and training

It is written by KnowIT technical staff from the perspective of Digital Endpoint.


The most important thing for the reader to note from this comparison is that ActivTrak is a productivity measuring tool only. ActivTrak does not capture keystrokes, file transfers or any other user behaviour, and therefore cannot protect companies against insider threats and does not provide employee monitoring.

Feature Comparison

When it comes to employee monitoring, productivity and attendance are the two key areas that an application must focus on for employers to consider using it to monitor their employees.  Below you can see the feature comparison between ActivTrak and KnowIT.

KnowIT is the industry leader in employee monitoring software for both computers and mobile devices and it focuses specifically on productivity and attendance monitoring as its core features.

Instant Messengers
Yahoo Messenger
Websites Visited
Internet Explorer
Browser Search Terms
Duck Duck Go
The Internet Archive
Screenshots Capturing
Requested screenshots
Scheduled screenshots
File Transfer Tracking
USB File transfer tracking
Web File transfer tracking
Cloud file transfer tracking
File Activity Tracking
Files created
Files copied
Files moved
Files deleted
Files modified
Application Tracking
Application usage
Installed applications
User Log On Tracking
Log on/ log off
Lock/unlock screen
Global Application Discovery
Network Connections Tracking
Network Traffic Tracking
Print Tracking
Keystroke Recording
Clipboard Tracking

As you can see from the table above, KnowIT provides far more employee monitoring features than ActivTrak.

ActivTrak only gives you a handful of features.  That may be good for monitoring a very small business or even for personal use, but it cannot be considered for monitoring a large-scale company of any real size.

You can also see that the features of KnowIT are actually geared towards productivity and attendance monitoring for employees.  Whereas ActivTrak is more suited to just browser monitoring.

This is something we discuss further in the sections below.


So let’s focus on the areas that KnowIT and ActivTrak do have in common – productivity measurements.

Both ActivTrak and KnowIT measure productivity using the technique of first categorising applications with a productivity rating, and then measuring how long each type of application is used.

While both deliver productivity information, there are key differences in the ease of use and the business value of the data they both provide.

Firstly, there is the productivity metric itself.

ActivTrak and KnowIT both provide the total time spent in each application, but total time alone does not provide a true productivity measurement that can be used to compare against other employees.

What a manager really needs is a normalized productivity score that can used to evaluate individual staff performance as well as direct comparisons to other staff.

To meet this need, KnowIT’s productivity score takes into account company work schedules, personal holidays, unauthorised absences, and extra or under hours worked based on logon times. This allows the creation of more powerful, meaningful and useful performance metric that is more than just total minutes spent in an application

Secondly is the ease of use of specifying which applications should be measured.

ActivTrak requires the manager to enter the binary executable name of any application that is to be measured. This can be very time consuming and error prone, and requires the manager to have the foresight and planning to take action every time a new application is required.

KnowIT on the other hand, automatically maintains a global list of all applications that are installed on all managed devices, and the manger simply selects applications from this list. The global list is updated every time an application is installed or uninstalled on any of your business devices, giving you an accurate list of all applications actually installed on your computers and mobile devices.


One of the key problems faced by managers when it comes to increasing productivity is employee attendance. As a manager, you need to know when employees arrive late, leave early and the total number of extra or under hours worked. You also need to be able to record authorized or unauthorized absences and have this reflected in the productivity score.

KnowIT lets the manager define default or custom work times, and use computer logon, or fingerprint scanners to record employee start and end times. Attendance reports are automatically generated and start and end times, as well as extra hours worked being visible at a glance.

ActivTrak does not provide any attendance information.


KnowIT provides a daily productivity report that is emailed to the manager and optionally the employee. ActivTrak has no email feature for this report, and the manager has to manually create a report and email it to himself.

Other Features

Unlike KnowIT, ActivTrak explicitly claims not to be an employee monitoring tool. However, it does contain two rudimentary features that could be used for monitoring.

The first is screenshots, which both ActivTrak and KnowIT provide.

KnowIT also provides screenshot functionality, but unlike ActivTrak which only has the option to continually monitor 24/7, KnowIT restricts screenshots to a configurable company or individual work schedule, which reduces the consumption of drive storage, particularly if employees do not turn off their computers.

To help a manager make a decision on whether to use screenshots, KnowIT captures screenshots on-demand which allows you to capture screenshots for up to 30 minutes at a time.

However, screenshots alone are not an effective way to monitor employees, as they have to be individually viewed, and cannot be searched. This limitation means it’s not possible to carry out searches for important keywords which could indicate problems that the business needs to know about. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but not if you have to view thousands of pictures to find those words

The second feature is Alerts or Alarms.

ActivTrak’s alarms feature is similar to KnowIT’s alerts feature. However, ActivTrak’s alarms are restricted to the text in the title bars of websites or applications and, unlike KnowIT, are unable to detect keywords, file transfers or actual website URL’s.


If all you need is very basic productivity monitoring for a small group of people, like children or a few employees, and you don’t require iPhone or Android support, then ActivTrak could be suitable, especially if you are budget limited and you need to start with a free product.

However, for companies who need to measure and compare the productivity of their employees, KnowIT is a better choice because it measures productivity by taking into account not only the time spent in applications but also the number of hours worked which includes attendance start and stop times as well as unauthorised absences. This gives a much more complete picture of what is happening in your workforce.

KnowIT also contains a full range of employee monitoring features, but it does not currently have a free option, and at 19.99 per month, is significantly more expensive.