Computer Monitoring Software: How to Choose the Best Software
While the use of computer monitoring software in the workplace may be debated, its use in private homes may be more common sense than controversial. With online dangers increasing each day, it's critical for parents to keep a watchful eye on their children's computer activities. To keep track of the websites being visited and the messages being sent, many parents install computer monitoring software on their PCs and laptops.
What is Computer Monitoring Software?
Computer monitoring software provides a way to log Internet and computer use. There are two main aspects of computer monitoring software. The first is that it is able record every keystroke made, giving parents the opportunity to see whom their kids are emailing or instant messaging and details on what's being written. In addition to tracking keystrokes, the software is able to keep track of every webpage visited, giving parents access to their children's Internet history and online searches to make sure they are not visiting inappropriate sites.
Nick Catalini, senior marketing manager for SpectorSoft, said in a recent interview with the Washington Post that monitoring software is the same as peering over someone's shoulder to see every action they made.
"Think of it as someone stood behind you and put a video camera behind you while you’re working," Catalini said in the Washington Post article.
The second critical function of computer monitoring software is that it lets parents block and filter a host of potentially harmful content, such as pornography, violent games and gambling. The software is able to block websites based on keywords, phrases and categories.
Choosing the Best Computer Monitoring Software
There are a number of factors to consider when deciding between the different computer monitoring software options. Parents want to look for the software that has options for recording all website visits and online searches, as well as the ability to detect when a child accesses social networking websites such as Facebook and Twitter or views online pornography.
Other features potentially interesting to parents include monitoring applications that can capture blog posts, usernames and passwords; the ability to record transcripts of conversations that occur via chat and instant messaging; and the option to track file downloads, sent and received emails, web-based email and email attachments.
Some choices also offer options for tracking how much time kids spend watching videos, playing games or engaging in other nonproductive activities that distract from homework or sleep.
Parents should make sure the monitoring software they choose has filtering and blocking capabilities to prevent kids from starting programs they shouldn't be accessing and logging on to websites they shouldn't be visiting.
Some software also can prevent the installation, downloading and use of illegally obtained software and music.
Parents should also consider computer monitoring software that lets them remotely control a monitored computer in order to disable or enable software, restart the computer or freeze the mouse.
Download or Disk?
Many of the top monitoring software options offer choices for either installing software or downloading it online. Both choices offer the same features and benefits.
Top Computer Monitoring Software
One of the highest-rated computer monitoring software options is SpyAgent 7.5. The software can track websites visited, online searches, emails sent and received, documents and applications opened and keystrokes typed. In addition, the software logs all files transferred via email and FTP and tracks files, including those that are newly created, modified, deleted and printed.
Spy Agent can block any website or application and limit times that the monitored computer can be used. The software blocks websites based on designated URLs as well as keywords, preventing children from accessing websites that contain pornography, gambling or other questionable content.
WebWatcher 8 is another popular monitoring software option. The software logs all of a child's web activities and creates a list of visited URLs, as well as the frequency, hour and duration of each visit.
With the software, parents have the option of setting specific keywords to watch for. When an alert word is discovered, WebWatcher's Smart Camera takes a screenshot of the text and sends an email notifying parents of a potential compromising situation.
It also features an email-monitoring component that records the contents of all emails and logs the transcripts of conversations that occur via chat and instant messaging.
The keylogger features can help parents determine if a child user is the recipient of inappropriate material or is sending personal information to those they shouldn't be.
The software works on both computers and smartphones and can be accessed via the same web-based interface.
Another highly regarded option is the PC Pandora 7 software. It lets parents efficiently keep tabs on Internet, email, chat, word processing and all other activities that take place on their children's computers.
PC Pandora records every keystroke entered in the computer, including URLs, passwords and user IDs, giving parents full access to all accounts their kids or others may be accessing through their PC.
The monitoring software can also generate reports on snapshots, software, websites, keystrokes, instant messages, user activity, emails, P2P activity, webcam snapshots, file tracking, web requests, search queries, printer, network bandwidth and Facebook activity.
Other popular options for computer monitoring software include Spector Pro 7, which offers a host of features to track computer and Internet use, eBlaster, which sends reports and alerts directly to parents' email accounts, and Elite Keylogger 5, which records accessed websites and logs the time, date, duration and frequency of visits.