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Monday, November 23, 2009

ActivTrack review

ActivTrak is an activity tracking and employee monitoring software. It currently supports the 32 bit versions of Windows 2000, XP and Vista with support for 64 “coming soon” (no word on support for Windows 7 as of yet). The features are the basic ones one would expect from such a product:

  • direct deployment from the management console (however this can become tedious for a large number of computers)
  • tracking active programs / windows and URLs (in case of browsers)
  • taking periodic screenshots
  • basic reporting about the data

One nice thing is the fact that it employs a “reverse connection” (ie. the server opens up a port and the clients connect to it). This has the benefit of requiring less configuration on the clients and making them more secure (also, the server configuration part is done during install automatically). While trying out, you can run both the viewer and the agent on the same machine (it will report it as “no running”, but the data will still be available). You can watch multiple workstations at once by tiling the screenshot windows and setting them to auto-refresh.

Two shortcomings of the program are the fact that (from what I understand) the server needs to be running continuously for data collection (then again, it might be just a misunderstanding on my part, but this was the impression I got). The second shortcoming (maybe its not a shortcoming, but definitely something to be aware of) is the fact that you have very limited interaction with the surveyed computers: no controlling the mouse / keyboard / file-transfer. You can send messages and chat with the user. This means that the product can’t be used directly in a “support” type environment.

A final word of caution: consult with a lawyer before deploying such a solution (it might be illegal depending on the circumstances!). Also, consider the impact on the morale. If you have staff which needs this level of constant supervision, you might be better looking for new employees.

Full disclosure: this is a paid review from ReviewMe. Under the terms of the understanding I was not obligated to skew my viewpoint in any way (ie. only post positive facts).


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