Effective Monitoring
You need a program that's going to allow you to see all web pages visited, read sent and received email, and see both sides of IM conversations...
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 Web-based /
remote data access
This means:
1. No need to repeatedly access the monitored computer to review recorded data.
2. Keep an eye on things from anywhere.
(Imagine keeping an eye on the kids' Internet activity from your office for instance.)
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 Invisibility / Stealth
If you want to have any hope of seeing what the person you're monitoring does when they think no one's looking, you need a program that's completely invisible...
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 Key Logger
The keylog component is a crucial part of any monitoring suite. (And it's completely missing in the sparse Microsoft's parental controls center in Vista.) Keyloggers are often referred to more specifically as: "ghost key logger" or "stealth key logger"...
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 Ability to block
Since the Internet changes so fast, we suggest that you go for a program that has some kind of contextual blocker...
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 Data filtering
Be sure to look for some kind of data filter, search mechanism, and "important" word alert systems that will help you quickly find the essential information...
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 Screenshots
Some monitoring applications can take screenshots of on-screen activity; for real Internet safety, you'll see the best let you automatically trigger those screenshots when they encounter an "imporant" word...
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Stay informed with the latest
in Internet monitoring software
and parental controls.
No matter if you're looking to record and monitor internet activity, record instant message / IMs (chats), block porn / adult content or other unsuitable web sites, or just keep an eye on a loved one, the software reviewed and rated on this site can help you do just that. We focus our reviews on Internet monitoring software for Microsoft Windows.

From our reviews, you'll see some software does certain things better than others--and some do (almost) everything. Some for instance may feature strong invisible key loggers while others may have better content filtering. All-in-all though, you'll find the best applications here are far more than just an invisible perfect key logger (also called "ghost keylogging") or software for blocking Microsoft Internet Explorer.

Whatever the case, we hope that by reading our reviews you'll find software that meets your needs for monitoring, blocking, keystroke tracking, and recording Internet activity on your PC.
Editor's Choice Award Winner

As the only truly web-based computer activity / Internet monitor, WebWatcher is in a league of its own. With a complete suite of powerful features it includes (among other things) a web site monitor, a chat recorder, an invisible, nearly perfect key logger, and an automated screenshot capture tool. WebWatcher also has the rare ability of both effective monitoring and web site blocking.

The software installs easily and has an intuitive interface that even computer novices should find easy to use.

In short: WebWatcher puts serious power in your hands. Couple the powerful features available "out-of-the-box" (no configuration required) with the ease of managing everything from a standard web browser, and it's easy to see why WebWatcher is our Editor's Choice. It's solid software.




WebWatcher
Pros
  • web-based interface (monitor activity from anywhere)
  • invisibility
  • real-time recording
  • contextual blocker
  • keystroke recorder
  • integrated reporting for multiple computers
  • customer service
  • Cons
  • No P2P blocking (Peer-to-peer)
  • No Mac support
  • verdict: powerful, stealthy, very functional.



    eBlaster 5.0 does most of the things that its sibling Spector Pro does, but in an effort to get the recorded data off of the monitored computer a!
    (which is a must in our opinion!) they chose the risky method of emailing the data.

    What many people don't know is that email is sent "plain text", so it's quite easy for anyone to read emails as the emails are going from someone's "sent" bin to your inbox.

    As you might imagine, this can put your very private information that might have been recorded by the software at tremendous risk. For that reason alone in our opinion the benefit of data access via email should be seriously weighed before you buy.

    For many users the kind of data recorded by activity monitors (such as usernames and passwords) is far too sensitive to be sent out via email. Additionally, the email reports--even if you're only in the default configuration of 1/hr--add up quickly if you're away from your email for a few hours--much less a few days.

    eBlaster
    Pros
  • remote access to data (via email)
  • peer-to-peer (P2P) monitoring
  • good interface
  • customer support
  • Cons
  • email is only way to retrieve data
  • no screenshots
  • insecure data
  • limited features
  • verdict: Missing features. Decent software.



    While it is more expensive than most, this fairly intuitive, well-designed monitoring system is (almost) worth the price of admission. What it lacks in blocking capabilities, it makes up for in ease of use and monitoring might.

    In fact, aside from no blocking capacity, really the only thing this feature-rich product is missing is a way to view the recorded data away from the computer being monitored. Unfortunately, this is a significant problem in our eyes.

    After all, do you really want to be taking the chance of hurriedly digging through your kids/spouse's computer looking for and combing through the recorded files? If you're trying to be even the least bit secretive, spending time on the monitored computer while looking over your shoulder is not good.

    As for more positives, it is the only substantial monitoring software for the Mac, so Spector Pro can rightfully claim to be a cross-platform industry leader that consistently delivers a quality product.


    Spector Pro
    Pros
  • good interface
  • peer-to-peer monitoring
  • customer support
  • Mac OSX support
  • Cons
  • data must be manually retrieved from monitored computer OR
  • emailed via "eBlaster" (doubles the price)
  • verdict: Good interface. Hard to view data.



    It's not the easiest program to use, and some may say that it has too many options, but as perhaps the single most feature intensive monitoring software available, Spy Agent by SpyTech is still a standout performer.

    At a reasonable $69.95 you certainly get your money's worth in terms of customizable control. Our biggest complaint with this software is that it can be a little overwhelming.

    Like most good software on this page, SpyAgent is more than simple "spy software" or a so-called "password stealer"--it has many tools that together can present a clear picture of what's happening on a given computer.



     
    Spy Agent
    Pros
  • feature intensive
  • reasonable price
  • customizable
  • blocks IM/chat
  • keyword filtering
  • Cons
  • not easy to use
  • overwhelming
  • poor keylogging
  • customer service
  • verdict: overwhelming to use.











    ContentProtect, by ContentWatch, has come out of nowhere to establish itself as a very capable internet filter. With an easy override feature that lets you instantly unblock a site that has fallen victim to "overblocking", the folks at Content Watch have managed to get around a problem that has plagued many internet filtering applications.

    The drawback of ContentProtect is its monitoring capabilities are not on par with the other top software we review, so this product is really better suited for parents of younger kids only.

    Anyone with "tweens" or teenagers needs an application that shows you what your kids are up to rather than just block websites.



    ContentProtect
    Pros
  • customizable
  • visually appealing
  • web interface
  • inexpensive
  • for young kids
  • Cons
  • limited features
  • no email monitoring
  • no stealth option
  • not for teens
  • No Mac support
  • verdict: very limited functionality.



    Guardian Monitor is a solid, if unpolished offering. On paper it has the potential to be quite a good product; however, the overall exucution of the features is where it's lacking. For the most part the product performed well, but on occasion it missed recording some data; we were never quite able to understand why.

    Regrettably, the user interface is just not on par with the other polished, professional applications it's in competition with, thus dragging the software's overall appeal down quite a bit in our eyes.

    Its biggest stand-out feature is probably its P2P (peer-to-peer) functionality, which allows parents to see what files their kids are downloading.

    With the growing popularity of peer-to-peer network applications, this is a nice feature. (With P2P networks reputation for being illegal sources of copyrighted material, this is a cause of concern for many parents.)


    Guardian Monitor
    Pros
  • good peer-to-peer (P2P) monitoring
  • optional stealth mode
  • affordable
  • Cons
  • poorly designed user interface
  • no automatic screenshots
  • weak email recording functionality
  • not for business use
  • verdict: Good P2P; weak interface.



    Though the name intimates some kind of Orwellian evil, this kid-friendly product is a decent, but unexceptional monitor. Given its name and the package artwork, it's pretty clear the intended audience are those primarily interested in parental monitoring, yet for parental control software it lacks some functions we expect to see from such a tool.

    The user interface is simple and easy to navigate, but it lacks some key features such as a help function. Unfortunately, even with its simple design, finding the data you want can be a bit of a challenge, so knowing where to look is fairly imporant.

    For its part the program has a decent stealth mode that the program runs in by default, making it tough to mistakenly leave the software running in plain view.


    IamBigBrother
    Pros
  • Has optional web-based access
  • good main interface screen
  • easy to setup
  • auto time-based screenshots or of typed words
  • Cons
  • Expensive with web-based access
  • weak search functions
  • weak secondary screens
  • weak IM interface
  • limited screenshot offering
  • no phone support
  • verdict: Weak UI. Limited features.



    Net Nanny is perhaps the most recognized name in the internet filtering business. Despite that recognition, however, it's just not up to par as a monitor when compared with the competition.

    If you're just trying to clean up the internet for kids under the age of ten, then this software might be a reasonable purchase. But if you have older kids, there are more complete solutions that offer more insight into what's happening on your computer.

    It's cheap, easy and effective for young kids, but aside from that, especially when older kids enter the picture, its weaknesses begin to show. Really, it does not do much more than block web sites, but in that capacity--in terms of policing the internet, it's a great value for money.



    NetNanny
    Pros
  • affordable
  • blocks websites
  • time control
  • interface
  • Cons
  • no image filtering
  • limited features
  • low effectiveness
  • verdict: very limited functionality.



    For the price Cybersitter 9.0 isn't a bad buy but be prepared for some frustration. At times a little overzealous, you may find that it's web site blocking may be a bit overzealous for you if you find too many tame web sites getting blocked.

    If you've got really young kids, however, and are just looking for an extra hand in cleaning up the internet, this may be a viable option for you. If you have older children, however, you should probably look elsewhere.

    Despite some claims about its monitoring capabilities, Cybersitter is strictly for blocking objectionable content and limiting the time that a child can be on the computer. For anything else, you are going to need to go with a solution that allows you to both block and monitor.


    CyberSitter
    Pros
  • blocks content
  • good interface
  • Cons
  • limited monitoring
  • over simplistic
  • no web interface
  • verdict: limited monitoring capabilities.



        Note: WebWatcher was formerly known as "Ultraview Plus."
        Note: NetNanny is commonly misspelled as "Net Nannie and also as Net Nany. These are the same product."
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