How to Monitor Employees Working From Home in 2021

Employee monitoring: How to Monitor Remote Workers - CurrentWare

Struggling to maintain accountability when your employees work from home?
In this article you will learn how to track web activity, application usage, bandwidth consumption, and more with our remote employee monitoring software solutions.

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Table of Contents

Considerations When Monitoring Employees Who Work From Home

Man sitting on his couch. He is using a laptop and is clearly thinking deeply.

Confirm That It’s Legal to Monitor Remote Workers In Your Jurisdiction

California Consumer Privacy Act

Before monitoring employees that work from home you should consult with your legal counsel regarding employee monitoring laws in your jurisdiction. 

General Guidelines

To learn more about the best practices for monitoring employees you can download our free white paper or consult our article on recommendations for monitoring remote employees.

Free White Paper

Employee Monitoring: Best Practices for Balancing Productivity, Security, and Privacy

In today's privacy-conscious world employers need to monitor employees in a way that is transparent, minimally invasive, and respectful of employee privacy. Read this white paper to learn the best practices for monitoring employees in the workplace.

Write a Work From Home Policy

CurrentWare Work From Home Policy - Get the free template today
Writing your first work from home policy? Download this FREE work from home policy template.

Before monitoring the activity of your remote employees you should disclose your intention to monitor their computer activity within a formal work from home policy and/or an acceptable use policy. These policies are critical tools for explaining your company’s expectations when employees work remotely.

Workplace Privacy & Employee Monitoring

Monitoring employee computer activity can be potentially perceived as invasive. Follow these best practices to monitor employees that work from home while respecting their privacy.

Why Monitor Employees Who Work From Home?

  • Employee Productivity: Computer monitoring software gives you the visibility you need to identify unproductive employees who are spending exceptionally large amounts of time surfing the Internet for personal use or misrepresenting their work hours.
  • Cybersecurity: Employees that visit malicious websites or use shadow IT can compromise your network. Monitoring and filtering internet access is a critical security control for protecting sensitive data.
  • Data Loss Prevention: Data can be easily stolen through the internet and portable storage devices. Monitoring how remote employees interact with data is essential for reducing opportunities to steal data.

How to Monitor Employees Using Personal Computers to Connect to a Workstation

CurrentWare personal device to VPN installation networking diagram

In this configuration you will monitor your employee’s computer activity exclusively on the company-owned workstation that they remotely connect to

This process can be completed using any remote access tool that allows your employee to remotely connect to and control a company-owned workstation.

By monitoring in this way your employee can use their own personal computer for work purposes without having their personal computer activity monitored. If they would like to browse the internet privately they simply need to disconnect from the company-owned workstation and perform their browsing on their own unmonitored device/network.

Configuration instructions

  1. Download the CurrentWare Installation Package
  2. Following these CurrentWare installation instructions, install the CurrentWare Server and Console on a company server or computer. These components are typically installed on the computer of someone who is responsible for managing the other computers/users on the network such as management or IT personnel
  3. (Optional) Install CurrentWare Consoles on any other devices that you would like to use to manage CurrentWare policies and run user activity reports from.
  4. Install the CurrentWare Client agent (cwClientSetup.exe) on the company-owned Workstation that the employee will be connecting to 
  5. Have the employee use their personal computer to connect to the company-owned Workstation using any remote access tool that allows them to remotely control the Workstation.

Examples of remote access tools

  • Windows Remote Desktop Services (RDS) – formerly known as Terminal Services
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPN)
  • Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops – Remote PC Access
  • TeamViewer
  • SplashTop

Note: You should notify your users that their activities will be monitored while they are connected to the company network. They should be provided with instructions for disconnecting from the company network when they wish to resume unmonitored use of their personal computers.

How to Monitor Employees Working From Home On Company-Provided Devices

Note: If the laws of your jurisdiction allow it and you have the explicit consent of your remote employee these steps can also be performed on an employee-owned computer, however you must be mindful of any privacy concerns your employees may have when monitoring their personal devices.

No matter which method you choose, all of these configurations are ultimately about connecting the CurrentWare Client that is collecting your employee’s computer activity data to the CurrentWare Server that stores that data so that authorized personnel can generate reports with that data from the CurrentWare Console.

CurrentWare networking diagram - client, server, and console
  • The CurrentWare Server is a component of the software that accepts and stores data from the CurrentWare Client.
  • The CurrentWare Client is a software agent that collects activity data on the computer it is installed on.
  • The CurrentWare Console is a graphical user interface (GUI) that is used to manage CurrentWare device restriction policies and generate reports on the data collected by the CurrentWare Client.
Screenshot of the CurrentWare Console. The BrowseReporter employee monitoring software menu is visible.
Screenshot of the CurrentWare Console

Option 1: Connecting the Client/Server Through a VPN

Note: To simplify explanations in the next section I will be referring to the local device that your employee uses from their home as the “local machine” and the workstation they connect in the office to as the “remote machine”.

Option 1a) Only monitor the employee’s local device & sync data via a VPN

CurrentWare standalone local device networking diagram

One option is to monitor your employee’s computer activity exclusively on the local machine and have them periodically sync their activity data to your company’s network using a VPN. 

If you opt for this option your employee will not need to remain connected to the VPN to be monitored. All computer monitoring data and last synced device restrictions will be cached on their local machine by the CurrentWare Client agent. 

The next time that your employee connects to a remote machine on your company’s network, their activity data and any CurrentWare policy updates will sync between the CurrentWare Server on the company network and the CurrentWare Client on the local machine. 

The advantage of this setup is that your remote employee’s computer activity data will be stored locally on the local machine without the need to remain constantly connected to the VPN. By monitoring in this way you will reduce bandwidth consumption on your VPN and internal network.

The disadvantage of this setup is that you will not be monitoring employee activity on the remote machine that your employee connects to unless you install a CurrentWare Client on that device. You will only collect the activity that takes place on their local machine. You will also not be able to enforce any CurrentWare policy restrictions on the remote machine as you need a CurrentWare Client on each device you would like to control. 

Configuration instructions

  1. Download the CurrentWare Installation Package
  2. Following these CurrentWare installation instructions, install the CurrentWare Server and Console on a company server or computer. These components are typically installed on the computer of someone who is responsible for managing the other computers on the network such as management or IT personnel
  3. (Optional) Install CurrentWare Consoles on any other devices that you would like to use to manage CurrentWare policies and run user activity reports from.
  4. Install the CurrentWare Client agent (cwClientSetup.exe) on the local machine that you would like to monitor and manage.
  5. Your employee’s computer activity data is now being cached on their local machine. To sync your employee’s locally cached computer activity data to the CurrentWare Server, have the employee connect to your company’s internal network through the VPN.

Option 1b) Monitor BOTH the employee’s local machine & the remote machine they connect to

CurrentWare networking diagram, monitoring an at-home and in-office workstation

Another option is to monitor your employee’s computer activity on BOTH the remote machine AND the local machine. 

With this setup you will have complete control and visibility over how your remote employees spend their time on both their local machine and the remote machine.

To do this you will install the CurrentWare Client agent on the remote machine that the VPN connects to and the local machine that they work from.

Configuration instructions

  1. Download the CurrentWare Installation Package
  2. Following these CurrentWare installation instructions, install the CurrentWare Server and Console on a company server or computer. These components are typically installed on the computer of someone who is responsible for managing the other computers on the network such as management or IT personnel
  3. (Optional) Install CurrentWare Consoles on any other devices that you would like to use to manage CurrentWare policies and run user activity reports from.
  4. Install the CurrentWare Client agent (cwClientSetup.exe) on both the local machine and the remote machine, as well as any other device(s) that you would like to monitor and manage.
  5. Your employee’s computer activity data is now being cached on their local machine. When the employee connects to your company’s internal network through the VPN their monitoring data will be synced to the CurrentWare Server and any activities that take place on the remote machine will also be monitored .

Option 2: Connecting Through a Static Public IP Address (Port Forwarding)

CurrentWare standalone local device networking diagram

In this configuration you will monitor your employee’s computer activity directly on the local machine that they work from and sync their activity data directly to the CurrentWare Server that is installed in your company’s internal network. 

The CurrentWare Client that is installed on your employee’s local machine will be configured to send data to the CurrentWare Server that is installed in your company’s internal network. To accomplish this you will need to configure your router’s port forwarding rules to accept the incoming traffic from the CurrentWare Client.

The advantage of this setup is that you will not require a VPN or remote desktop solution. This helps reduce the bandwidth consumption going through your VPN, making it particularly desirable for newly remote teams that are experiencing bandwidth overload when all of their employees connect to the VPN simultaneously. The employee’s computer monitoring data and device restrictions are kept up-to-date no matter what internet connection they use. Your employee will also not need to be on a specific internet connection to be monitored.

The disadvantage of this setup is that it is more difficult than other installation methods. This method requires setting up a Public Static IP address and making network-level changes, which may be difficult if the installer is not comfortable with configuring a network. Fortunately, each CurrentWare purchase includes a free 1-year support and maintenance plan to help our customers during installation.

Configuration instructions

How to setup port forwarding (video)
  1. Download the CurrentWare Installation Package
  2. Following these CurrentWare installation instructions, install the CurrentWare Server and Console on a company server or computer. These components are typically installed on the computer of someone who is responsible for managing the other computers on the network such as management or IT personnel
  3. (Optional) Install CurrentWare Consoles on any other devices that you would like to use to manage CurrentWare policies and run user activity reports from.
  4. Configure the in-office router’s port forwarding rules to allow CurrentWare Client traffic from the employee’s local machine through to the CurrentWare Server that is installed on the company network.
  5. Install the CurrentWare CurrentWare Client agent (cwClientSetup.exe) on the device(s) that the employee will be using. With one exception – during the CurrentWare client setup, in the Enter the IP address/Computer Name where the CurrentWare Server is installed text box you must enter the Public IP Address, hostname or DDNS of the network that has the CurrentWare server installed. 
  6. Your remote employee’s computer activity data is now being synced with the CurrentWare server on your company’s network. Any CurrentWare policy updates that you make will sync to their local device so long as they are connected to the internet. If they work while offline their activity data will be cached locally by the CurrentWare Client agent and synced to the CurrentWare Server once they connect to the internet. 

Option 3: Offsite Mode (No VPN or Internet Access)

CurrentWare standalone local device networking diagram
With CurrentWare’s offsite mode your employee’s computer activity data will be stored on the local device until a connection back to the CurrentWare server can be established.

In this configuration you will monitor your employee’s computer activity directly on the local machine and store all of their user activity data locally on that device. Your employee’s local machine will remain restricted by the last known CurrentWare policies.

The advantage of this setup is that CurrentWare continues to monitor and manage your remote workers, no matter where they work from. By monitoring in this way your employee does not need to be connected to the internet to be monitored. 

The disadvantage of this setup is that you will not be able to sync any updates to your CurrentWare policies or retrieve updated user activity data until the CurrentWare Client reestablishes a connection to the CurrentWare Server. 

Note: “Offsite Mode” is less of a specific configuration and more of a feature of CurrentWare. Each installation of CurrentWare will have the CurrentWare Client save your employee’s user activity data and CurrentWare policies to their local machine.

Configuration instructions

  1. Download the CurrentWare Installation Package
  2. Following these CurrentWare installation instructions, install the CurrentWare Server and Console on a company server or computer. These components are typically installed on the computer of someone who is responsible for managing the other computers on the network such as management or IT personnel.
  3. (Optional) Install CurrentWare Consoles on any other devices that you would like to use to manage CurrentWare policies and run user activity reports from.
  4. Install the CurrentWare Client agent (cwClientSetup.exe) on the local machine that the employee will be using. With this setup, the CurrentWare Client must be installed onsite first before it is taken off the network.
  5. Your remote employee’s computer activity data will be cached on the local machine until they reconnect to your network. CurrentWare policy updates and your employee’s activity data will be synced the next time your employee regains connection to the CurrentWare Server that is installed on your company’s internal network.

Option 4: Standalone Installation

CurrentWare standalone installation networking diagram. The CurrentWare console, server, and client are installed on the same machine

In a standalone installation of CurrentWare the CurrentWare Server, Console, and Client are installed on the same computer. You will monitor your employee’s local computer activity and store all of their user activity data on that device.

The advantage of this setup is that the device can be entirely monitored, managed, and configured from a single endpoint. This is convenient for standalone kiosks and allowing your employees to self-monitor as they can be given full control and visibility over their monitoring data.

The disadvantage of this setup is that you will have to set up these computers’ CurrentWare policies exactly as you want them to be before the device leaves the network. You will not be able to update their CurrentWare policies after they leave your network without the use of a third-party remote access tool.

Note: If you would like to prevent your remote employees from deleting their user activity data or modifying their CurrentWare device policies you can password protect the CurrentWare Console.

Configuration instructions

  1. Download the CurrentWare Installation Package
  2. Following these CurrentWare installation instructions, install the CurrentWare Server, Console, and Client on the computer the employee will be using. 
  3. Your remote employee’s computer activity data is now being cached locally on the device they are using.
  4. To receive computer activity reports from your remote employees you will need to set up email reports and email alerts*. Email reports will be sent to a designated inbox on a predetermined schedule and the email alerts feature will trigger email notifications when policy violations occur.

* Note: Email reports and alerts will only work when the remote worker has access to an outgoing email server or has internet access to send emails.

Option 5: Self-Hosted Cloud Installation (AWS, GCP, Azure, etc)

CurrentWare cloud installation networking diagram

In this configuration you will expand your CurrentWare setup beyond your office and start running CurrentWare on your own private cloud servers. Once deployed, the CurrentWare Client will connect using the static IP address or public DNS of your virtual machine on the cloud.

This configuration is a Bring your Own License (BYOL) Instance. You will need to purchase your instance directly from Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform (GCP) or Amazon Web Services (AWS) to install CurrentWare on these cloud platforms. 

Configuration instructions

Option 6: CurrentWare Web Console (Coming Soon)

Screenshot of the CurrentWare web console beta

In the future CurrentWare will be upgraded to include a web-based administrative console that can be accessed by any device with Internet access and a connection to the CurrentWare Server. 

This password-protected web console will provide the flexibility of remotely applying configurations to CurrentWare from any location. If you would like to be a part of our beta test please contact our technical team here.

* Note: For the latest updates on the CurrentWare Web Console, please visit this article in the CurrentWare knowledge base

Option 7: CurrentWare Managed Cloud (Projected Release Date: 2021)

CurrentWare cloud installation networking diagram

We’ve had many requests from new and existing customers for a cloud-based version of CurrentWare. This is in our development pipeline and we’re looking to fulfill these requests soon. CurrentWare Cloud is projected to be released in 2021.

* Note: For the latest updates on the CurrentWare Managed Cloud, please visit this article in the CurrentWare knowledge base

Conclusion

Thanks to remote employee monitoring software managing the productivity and security of a remote workforce has never been easier. If you’d like to start monitoring employees that work from home, reach out to our sales team for a demo or download a free trial of CurrentWare to get started right away.

Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland
Dale Strickland is a Marketing Coordinator for CurrentWare, a global provider of endpoint security and employee monitoring software. Dale’s diverse multimedia background allows him the opportunity to produce a variety of content for CurrentWare including blogs, infographics, videos, eBooks, and social media shareables.