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    19 Replies Latest reply on Jan 11, 2009 4:21 PM by Iwrite

    How to monitor employees EMAIL activity

    mango18 Wayfarer
      Was just wondering if anyone had any recommendations for how to monitor what employees are sending and receiving via different email clients.

      I need a solution whereby I know exactly who, what, and when people are sending and receiving email. Actual 'surfing' isn't an issue yet.

      My employees use outlook but I am also concerned about Yahoo and Gmail etc.

      Any guidance is very much appreciated. Thanks.
        • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
          Iwrite Pioneer
          Consult your attorney. Privacy laws vary by state. There are really two questions here:
          How to monitor traffic or the amount of emailing they are doing ?
          How to monitor content of the their emails? (This one may be a problem. I would trust an attorney to answer this one.)

          Either way, I would inform your employees of your efforts to monitor emails in advance, the potential for a real morale meltdown is very high. And you may end up losing people you never thought you would lose over what they may perceive as an invasion of their privacy, even if it is legal.

          Would you open their personal mail if it was mailed to your business address? That's how employees may see it no matter what is legal.

          Being legal is not always the right thing to do. Be careful, the backlash could be more than you expect.
          1 of 1 people found this helpful
            • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
              intechspecial Ranger
              I disagree with iwrite on this.

              If your employees are working under your company name, you have every write in the world to monitor there activity.

              This is proprietary information and it is the responsbility of your IT department to set policies and rules in place that will insure they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

              Employees should not be spending a good amount of time, if any to send personal or email that are private, and for any company to just allow there employees to do what they want as they want is a company doomed to failure.

              Any attorney or IT professional will back me up on this, that this is your company and you have the write to look into anything your employees are doing on your time, and employees that need to keep secrets on company time are employees that you need to concern yourself with.
                • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                  intechspecial Ranger

                  Look at this way:

                  They are using your computer at your company to do business for you.

                  The emails they send day to day, are for the benefit of your company.

                  Any IT network administrator understands there are certain permission set in place for individuals, groups as well as managers and CEO.

                  Any network administrator that knows his head from the a hole in the ground also understands that you purposely set up a network to monitor EVERYTHING that happens, so that if an employee recieves a virus, emails proprietary information, or hacks into the server, the server logs, security logs, records, documentation, etc is kept, so that it is reported as it should be.

                  It is not uncommon for the IT department of any company to allow the CEO or certain managers the ability to remote in to someones desktop in the background to check on someones activity.

                  We are not talking about listening in on someone personal home phone conversation, we are talking about YOUR COMPANY, YOUR BUSINESS.

                  If there are "privacy laws" to protect employees email while working on company time from within your company offices, while using a companies computer(honestly I have never heard of such a thing) then you need to clearly state that you will be monitoring what they do at point of hire. I really doubt that such a law exists, because then you would have an employee downloading pornography and sending and recieving naked pictures of himself/herself in emails from a domain that has YOUR BUSINESS NAME on it, because the law states you the business owner can not look into what he does on YOUR companys computer while working in *YOUR companys office*????? You are not tapping his personal phone line, you are looking at YOUR OWN COMPUTER??????? Does this not make sense?

                  You would not give a sales person the keys to a company car, company credit card, and customer information, and then tell him 'you know what I am going to protect your privacy, and not be concerned about what you do when I am not around".

                  Now I do understand that some employees might have personal email accounts with yahoo and such, but these should not be something that is used on a regular basis on company time. By law, I am not allowed to log into the personal email account of my employees, but I am allowed to check into everything he does while on my computer. If they are on your computer, you have every right in the world to install a keystroke logger to make sure he/she isn't selling your secrets or your customers to someone else. Whos computer is this? Whos office is he/she working out of? If he brings in his own personal computer this is a different story, but no company should allow an employee to attach his personal computer on there network, unless you would like all your customer information posted on the web.


                  If I might suggest, if you can afford to, get a good IT firm to do check into your configuartion and make sure you are doing things as they should be done before you run into more trouble then what it is worth. Pay the $150 an hour if you would like to your attorney, but this is YOUR COMPANY.

                  Michael A. Stratton; MCSA, MCP, A+, Net+, Server+, MCNPS
              • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                Bluesuit Adventurer

                How big is your company and what type of industry are you in? I know that many large corporations have the ability to monitor email and/computer activity, but this is mostly random vs. constant & usually in business sectors that deal with very sensitive data. Unless you work in a highly data sensitive business, I think most of your employees would raise issues about privacy if you install computer monitoring software to watch their email activity. Can you tell us more about what you want to monitor? Their time spent on personal email? Or what information they may transmit to others? That information may help us brainstorm a solution.
                • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                  Lighthouse24 Ranger

                  There are many software solutions available, depending on how your company e-mail system is set-up and what features you're looking for. If you can provide a little more about your configuration and needs, community members who utilize specific packages might be able to offer recommendations.

                  The previous posts make several valid points regarding your employees' potential reactions. Whether or not that would be a big issue for you depends, in part, on the expectations you've created already.

                  Legally, employees in the private workforce currently enjoy no right to privacy in their electronic communications. In a private (for-profit) businesses, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) authorizes criminal sanctions for those who intentionally access e-mail services without or in excess of authorization. In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that employers may access their own computer and e-mail systems with full authority, and that employees have no cause of action against an employer under the ECPA for monitoring e-mail. Employees have since turned to tort law to find legal protection. To date, no court has considered the tort of intrusion to encompass an employee's right to private electronic communications in a private sector workplace. (source: Todd M. Wesche, Journal of High Technology Law, Vol. 1).

                  I would say between 80 and 90 percent of my business clients track or monitor their employees' on-line activities. They don't routinely read employees e-mails, but they do log and analyze incoming/outgoing addresses as well as the URLs that employees visit, and are capable of reconstructing an employee' activities (down to the keystroke) in the event that the analysis prompted concerns (such as e-mails with large attachments going to a competitor, or frequent visits to a "recreational" website).

                  Again, if you can provide more info about your set-up and what you want to achieve or prevent, we might be able to provide potential solutions. Best wishes.
                  • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                    snipperred Scout
                    Hi there,

                    Here is what I have done.

                    Made policy of no personal e-mails and internet browsing on work computers to reduce the risk for viruses (and misuse of equipment/ man hours). I also agree the expectations you have set may cause a policy such as this to upset people. You do need to be careful and sensitive to it if you care about maintaining a positive morale. However, it is an industry norm and is often accompanied with a clear statement of right to monitor.

                    I've used external web/ e-mail hosting such as GoDaddy. From an administrative view you can see messages before they are loaded into outlook. You can also set up rules to forward copies of messages (sent or received only I think). I created a monitoring account and would go in and clear it out about once a week for a staff of about 30. Outlook also affords all sorts of rule options to cc messages sent and received at the computer. If you use an internal server then you should be able to do administration from there.

                    If you are really paranoid and cannot institute controls, then I know there are programs out there that record computer sessions or allow you to log on to a computer remotely while someone else is using it. The latter usually changes the screen but can be an interesting deterent to remind people you are watching.
                    1 of 1 people found this helpful
                    • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                      intechspecial Ranger
                      You need a network controlled by the Microsoft Small Business Server.

                      Simplify your business processes, expand on your technology capabilties.

                      You do not have to have a full time network admin to utilize these technologies, and things like VPN, remote web desktop, multiple fax lines sent to your inbox, shared workspace for your sales team. The possibilites and capabilites go on and on and on.


                      Simplify! Expand! Empower!
                      • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                        SamNam Wayfarer
                        One of the best ways to monitor your employee email activity is Email Archiving. StreetSmart7 is a hosted email and collaboration suite which offers email archiving. It archives all incoming and outgoing email. You can also set retention policies to dump the archived email after so many days, weeks, or months. It also allows you to remove the archived mail manually. You can read more about it at

                        By the way, I work for Infostreet as a Marketing Manager and just joined this forum and I find it really helpful. If there is anything I can do or possibly give you a tour of the system, please call me directly.

                        (818) 776-8080 ext.241
                        • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                          socalbits Wayfarer
                          i'd have to agree with intechspecial, a small business server is a simple low-cost all in 1 solution that has a built-in Exchange server for email. You can monitor the emails, the size of the mailboxes, set limits, etc - HOWEVER, you should really consult with an attorney because of the privacy laws that protect employees.

                          As for 3rd party web-based emails such as gmail, yahoo, etc, if those are not your primary forms of email for your company, i would just block those mail sites for your business so they are not accessible unless you say so.

                          But the last thing is you have to ask yourself is why do you want to know when, where, why ,etc that every email is going to? When you start getting granular in your managerial duties, it takes away from your own job duties and you end up becoming less productive. Forgive me if i misinterpreted your original intent, but i'm just speaking from personal experience and it might end up hurting you in the end. If you have more specifics on what you want monitored (i.e, keywords, contact names, etc) that is a different story.

                          let us know how it goes!
                            • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                              Iwrite Pioneer
                              I just watched a follow up to the story of the news anchor who was monitoring his fellow employees emails. He is on trial now. Anyway, the local news station did a story about monitoring emails at work, and according to them, employers can monitor emails. It is legal in most states. The really interesting thing is that the professional pretty much repeated much of the advice here. Be careful, it can hurt morale, protect sensitive company information, and be upfront and let employees know you are doing it.

                              I had to smile because we had already covered most of what they were talking about.
                            • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                              SamNam Wayfarer
                              One more thing for Mango18 to consider, archiving is not just to read employee email. It's also to put in place a secure copy of all email that is part of your overall disaster recovery plan. I might get blasted by the IT/Network guys here, but I have been down this road many many times with small businesses that have very small budgets. By far, the most cost effective safest way to prevent against future disasters is to have your mail host archive remotely, in other words, outside your company network. This addresses your need to check employee email, fend off future lawsuits relating to employee activity, future disasters as in hardware failures, and lastly addressing any additional compliance needs that may be required in your industry.

                              Setting up a small business server is one route, but if you are in a business of around 10-20 employees, I would go web-based. Just my 2-cents since I work for InfoStreet.

                              • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                                RichardGengle Newbie
                                I agree - the best way is to use e-mail archiving software.

                                From my personal experience I can recommend a tool called archive manager

                                We implemented this tool some time ago - it does a nice job.
                                This solution captures all e-mail activity to sql database allowing powerful search by content, attachment or any other parameter.
                                I can easily track email messages by any particular employee or customer.
                                • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                                  TBYTE12 Wayfarer
                                  We have a solution that will suit what you are looking for. Ask any small or medium sized business and they'll tell you, the increasing pressure to store and monitor all inbound, outbound and internal email messages is not only costly but time consuming.
                                  Powerful search and rapid retrieval
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                                  Create searches based on message and attachment content, sender, recipient, date range, message size, and more
                                  Search for keywords in the header, subject, body or attachment
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                                  • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                                    AndyHoung Newbie
                                    Ax3soft Sax2 is a professional intrusion detection and prevention system (NIDS) which excels at real-time packet capture, 24/7 network monitor, advanced protocol analysis and automatic expert detection. It monitor email activity and save a copy of the email.
                                    visit and download sax2 to help you.
                                    • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                                      lvarchie Newbie
                                      I would ask whether monitoring your employee's email is really the issue. In my experience when employees know what there job is and have enough work to do they don't have time to surf or do non-work related emails (sure, you will always have a few). For those employees that don't get their work done on time or properly then that is a performance management issue that you need to take the appropriate steps to resolve.

                                      I would urge you to make sure you are attacking the right problem. Monitoring email only creates a sense of distrust from your employees and probably doesn't buy you anything.
                                        • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                                          Iwrite Pioneer

                                          Great point. I was trying to get that across in an earlier post - sure you can do it but what is it going to cost you in the long run in morale and trust of your employees? How does it effect the atmosphere of your business or company?

                                          What about cell phones and PDAs? Do you listen in on phone calls made on the company phone? Why stop with the emails and web access?

                                          You are right, people should be looking at the productivity of their workers.
                                        • Re: How to monitor employees EMAIL activity
                                          xenopod Adventurer
                                          Basic information like to, from, and subject would be in the server logs. Is this an exchange server or some other email solution? If you want to block access to certain websites you'll need to configure your firewall to do that. If you don't firewall web based email systems like yahoo and hotmail then they will have access to those systems and you'll have no idea what kind of email they are sending since they are sending it through that service instead of through outlook.