If you're really on a shoestring budget, plenty of free and open-source tools can log PC and Web use. A freebie called ActivTrak, for instance, can keep tabs on which applications your staffers are using and which sites they're visiting, complete with simple reports that give you a pretty clear idea as to how employees are spending their time on their PCs. A word of caution on stand-alone tools, though: Some antimalware utilities can quickly identify and disable stand-alone monitoring tools, so you may need to create an exception in your malware protection settings to ensure that ActivTrak can work properly on your systems.
It should go without saying that employee monitoring ought to be just one small component in a comprehensive strategy to protect your business and maintain productivity. Once you've made the choice to monitor, you should follow these general guidelines to ensure your success.
Be forthright: Nobody likes being spied on unwittingly. Unless you think someone on your team poses a serious threat that requires covert monitoring, it's best to be up front with staffers about what you track and why. Many companies accomplish this with a simple statement in the employee handbook telling workers plainly that everything they do on company computers, including individual keystrokes, can and will be tracked. Letting employees know that their behavior is being monitored can serve as a powerful deterrent against unwanted online activity.
Filter proactively: Most good endpoint-security tools include Web and e-mail content filters that can block inappropriate sites and prevent users from sending or receiving files that can jeopardize your business. Use them. By limiting the ways your staffers can get into trouble, you can prevent problems up front.
Check reports regularly: There's little point in generating usage reports if you're not going to look at them. Take the time to at least spot-check the reports that your monitoring software generates so that you can identify potential problems early and take remedial action. Whatever you discover--whether it's a time-wasting Website that everyone is watching this week or a single person who is addicted to solitaire--you can often fix problems with a simple e-mail that tells your team you know what's up: "Just a reminder, people: Chatroulette is not an appropriate use of company time."