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How can I "spy" on my employees?

Dec 28, 2005 10:03PM PST

I have about 10 salespeople connected to a NetServer locally, and some will remotely access their "accounts". We have a Netserver and a Terminal server. Windows XP on all computers, Windows Server 2003 and a Windows 2000 Server. I need to know how I can see LIVE what my employees are doing on their computer. Is this even possible without some specific software installed? Can I at least look at what "windows" they have open at any given time?

L. Torres

Discussion is locked

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(NT) (NT) I would'nt work for anybody like you.
Dec 28, 2005 10:11PM PST
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Get up, walk over and look at their screen and them.
Dec 28, 2005 10:12PM PST

I've found good managers will interact with their staff many times a day.


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Dec 28, 2005 10:23PM PST

You're basically telling me it can't be done remotely. Can it be done with software? or do I have to install some extra hardware to be able to do this?

BTW, I wouldn't work for me either. But I have heard complaints from other employees that someone is not doing their job and spending too much time on games. But whenever I check on this person, they don't have anything on their screen that I can see that is wrong. I just want to make sure that it's not happening when my back is turned, and be fair to my other employees.

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Be aware that ...
Dec 28, 2005 10:36PM PST

There are some employee types that complain in hopes of taking down some other employee. They could be the issue and not the one you hear about. You could sic the HR person on this and let them do the psych work to see what's up.

In my world, it's a team or we would die off. Not all workplaces are so lucky.

-> If the employee is performing and there are no security issues then it's something of a noise factor. But this is your choice.

If you install monitoring software then you may be opening the door to future documentation issues. For example, that monitoring software "results" could be asked for as evidence in a future court case. I advise this never be done.


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Hmmmm....very interesting!
Dec 28, 2005 11:01PM PST

Thank you Bob, for at least letting me know it can be done.

To the rest of you...
Thank you for "caring" so much about what I do that you felt the need to take the time out of YOUR "busy" schedules to give me some very unwanted & unnecessary advice.

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Like Bob said
Dec 29, 2005 2:00AM PST

Like Bob said, if you do any monitoring it could come back to be checked evidence in a court case, however if you don't know about it you will be cleared but they will not.

I asked the question at my work about them monitoring emails. The answer from the Tech people were if the setup that each Supervisor monitored their employees emails, the Supervisor would also be help responsible. I was also told that the company has to keep a copy of all email on their server.

You could also setup all the computers so they cannot download exe files unless done by your Tech Person. Remove all the games and block them. You can also block the websites that they are coming from or even better yet, if you don't need the Macromedia Flash or Macromedia Shockwave players for anything in your business, block them and the games will be gone and it's back to work as usual.

To find out the websites they are visiting, all you have to do is login to their computer and check their history.

Remember work computers are for work and home computers are for whatever

Hope this helps.

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Lmarietc, Check 'RemotelyAnywhere'..
Dec 29, 2005 2:00AM PST

..or on Windows XP, "Remote Desktop" can do what you want but each computer would need to be enabled and set up by an admin user..We've got thousands of computers and monitoring generally occurs through our internet gateway software. Exchange server software records all e-mail going in and out.

That said, in your situation with only ten employees, assuming all the users are "limited" users, you should be able to monitor machines and employees much like Bob suggested above. Visit the employees and see what they're doing. If all the computers are on a single LAN, then creating "Read Only" shares of each computer would give you an option to occasionally check the computer contents manually.. An occasional review of the computer contents should suffice to verify illegal material isn't being stored on the machine. For security reasons, I've advised some small companies to let their employees know that the the system admin (you) will be doing monthly Windows Update installations..That alone prevents many from misusing their computer because they know an admin is going to be using their computer on a monthly basis.

Unfortunately, unless you monitor the machines in some fashion, you'll never know whether the computers are being used properly. About a year ago, we had to terminate an employee that had 2000 porn videos on his machine which was found by viewing shared folders. It wouldn't have been found unless we checked occasionally.

Hope this helps.


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You could consider some of the various...
Dec 30, 2005 3:34AM PST

KEYLOGGER type applications which track keyboard input and some of which periodically take "snapshots" of the screen.

Depending on the user's knowledgability and how you have the network set up you could also make use of VNC which would allow you to monitor in real time anyone you have previously configured with the VNC Server half of the software.

VNC (or other remote access applications) would allow you to make screenshots to document time and machine (uses IP address) and even to close down unauthorized accesses.

While I am not an advocate for close monitoring of employees, neither do I find it onerous nor repugnant in any way BUT I would STRONGLY recommend that ALL EMPLOYEES be notified in writing and preferably requiring them to sign a statement that they are aware that you are opting to use your prerogative to monitor their actions on business property during business hours.

This might be informative:

Sources to consider:


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Bad idea
Dec 28, 2005 10:39PM PST

Let's try and make this real simple... How would you like it if someone secretly put cameras all over your house/apartment to monitor your activity at home? If you wouldn't like that, what makes you think that those working under you would like a very similar tactic?

Despite popular "wisdom" in management circles these days, this is a very counter-productive thing to do. It creates an atmosphere of mistrust, and greatly impacts morale in a negative way and greatly increase turnover rates. Another poster already provided some evidence of this. Not only that, but it requires you to take time away from your other duties to monitor the activites of those under you. Something that could quickly become a full time job.

Best advice anyone can probably give you on this front, is to give your underlings the benefit of the doubt. Until you have reasonable suspicion that something is going on that shouldn't be, leave well enough alone. It may be hard, since you seem to be the autocratic type, but if you try it, I think you'll see some positive results.

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Work and home= 2 different things.
Dec 30, 2005 4:54AM PST

They arent similar at all, that is a bad example. Work is nothing like a home. Your apartment is your own place, your sanctuary as some call it. If someone were to install webcams in your home, then that is invasion of privacy. In work that is something differnt. I talked to a cop about this subject long ago. When I was in high school, my friend cursed at a teacher. The teacher then put him in detention, but he said he didn't do anything wrong and said it was freedom of speech. He still had to go to detention. I later talked to the school cop who witnessed it all, and I told him that my friend did have a point. The cop said no. You know why, because in any work environment, you are giving up your rights. So say when I entered or my friend entered the school, we gave up our rights as freedom of speech(not the whole right, it is in conjunction with the school district), and my friend broke the school law of cursing at the teacher. The cameras aren't being installed in bathrooms, no its is being installed to monitor the employees. It is to ensure that the workers are doing their jobs; if they are then there should be no problem because no one has anything to hide. It is infact better to monitor them so that you can check who are the slackers and the hard workers. There is no problem with the cameras and people are blowing this thing up. If everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing then WHAT IS THE PROBLEM???

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Missing the point
Dec 30, 2005 11:00PM PST

It's not a question of whether it's within legal limits or not, it's a question of is it a smart business descision.

People don't like being spied on in our culture. It goes against our illusion (or dellusion if you prefer) of individuality. The person might be perfectly within their rights doing this sort of thing, but it doesn't mean it won't have a rather nasty negative impact on the performance of the employees they manage. Which reflects poorly on them come contract review time.

Not to mention it's quite probably a completely unnecessary expense. They could spend a few hundred dollars on some monitoring software, and then spend even more time monitoring people... Or they could do something a good manager should be doing in the first place, and trying to keep a dialogue going between employer and employee. Odds are real good that will resolve the problem, with only the small expense of a little lost productivity (which will probably be more than made up for if it improves morale) that would have been lost no matter which of the two options was chosen.

So, again, the question here isn't so much is monitoring of employees legal, because it is... It's a matter of my trying to help this person see that there are better alternatives. Alternatives that, at the very least, won't negatively impact the business, and could quite possibly even have a positive impact on things.

They seem counter-intuitive to contemporary managerial philosophies, because I go about things from the other direction. I look at humanity as an advantage, not a liability like is the current school of thought. Long, long ago I was a trainer at a McDonalds. I made my trainees think, I didn't just stand there telling them exactly what to do. They didn't like it, because they're not used to someone treating them as a human being that's capable of independent rational thought, but the people I trained were some of the best people we had on those jobs. And this is a McDonalds we're talking about, which usually isn't hiring the world's brain trust. So, if I can get results like that from what might be considered the bottom of the intellectual barrel, imagine what could be gotten from people capable of getting 4 year degrees or even graduate degrees.

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web cam spying
Jan 29, 2008 2:25AM PST

It's just plain creepy. If owners and managers cannot trust their employees what is the point of having them. If they are that concerned maybe they should take responsibility and do the job that the employees are being paid to do. No one likes to be spied on by some old man probably doing nasty things while he's watching you. Very CREEPY!!!!

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One other thing
Dec 29, 2005 3:36AM PST

Instead of jumping straight to rather draconian measures, have you tried just TALKING to your employees about it?

You could set aside a Friday afternoon, and call everyone into your office one by one, so that no one feels singled out. Give everyone a chance to air any grievences they have about this situation, or any others. Then, when you get to the employee in question, you ask them about the complaints you've been getting. I'd further suggest making it a regular thing. Maybe once or twice a month.

You'd be amazed how effective a simple chat can be as a management tool. Something Bob alluded to earlier. Odds are, they either have a simple explanation for their behavior, or will own up to it and agree to alter their behavior in the future.

It's usually a win-win all around. Employees feel better because they got a chance to vent a little pent up frustration, and it makes them feel like you're taking their concerns seriously. The "problem" employee gets a chance to change their ways. You also win, because you're made aware of situations that are of concern to those under you, and are given a chance to head some of them off before they become much larger issues. And, you don't have to go around invading anyone's privacy to do it, but the option is still there if you find yourself in a situation where it is required.

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Dec 30, 2005 4:33AM PST

Use your administrator priveledges and disable everything you don't want them to have access to.


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(NT) (NT) Get some networked webcams and you are good to go.
Dec 30, 2005 4:54AM PST
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(NT) (NT) Dont forget the armed guards
Dec 30, 2005 2:26PM PST
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(NT) (NT) And random blood tests
Dec 31, 2005 2:54AM PST