Making sure your kids are safe online or your employees are on task can be painstaking, but Guardian Monitor ($49.95 list) might make the job a little easier. In addition to the text and URL logging that most monitoring programs do, Guardian takes screen shots at 5- to 60-minute intervals (adjustable in 5-minute increments) on your Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP machine for later playback. The product can run in stealth mode or give a warning on start-up and place an icon in the system tray. Guardian can monitor Web activity, e-mail, IM chats, and Kazaa downloads. Keystroke recording captures anything typed into the PC.
Getting around in Guardian Monitor is easy once you figure out its slightly quirky interface. You open the Home screen from the Start menu or by double-clicking on the system-tray icon. Once you open the Home screen or control panel, monitoring stops. The password-protected console is attractive and uncluttered, but exiting is confusing because the standard close box in the upper-right-hand corner is grayed out, requiring you to click on the Exit icon on the toolbar to restart monitoring.
A graphical calendar on the Home screen lets you select a day to view along with a summary of warnings and recorded events. Double-clicking on a summary event, such as keystrokes and e-mail, brings you to a Detail screen. You can also select event details from a drop-down menu. To leave the Detail screen, which has no exit options, you select Home from the drop-down menu.
From event detail pages, you can view typed text, captured screens, and URLs visited. Guardian Monitor captures screens regardless of the PCs activity, so the video or slide show details can show whether a user has been surfing the Web, typing a paper in Word, or away from the computer and letting the screen saver run. A convenient scroll bar lets you quickly scan through the captures. Every 5 minutes (or at whatever interval youve set) the software records an image, which it compresses; 24 hours of video fits in 18MB of hard drive space with images recorded every 5 minutes.
The URL detail list provides links to the pages the user viewed, along with a timestamp for each item—if your kids have been surfing the Web all night, youll know. The keystroke-capture facility notes the time for each line of text and the application in use. Unlike Pearl Softwares Internet monitoring program Cyber Snoop, which provides a running text log, Guardian divides recorded text into individual lines of about 60 characters, sometimes breaking up complete sentences. Download capture currently works for Kazaa peer-to-peer downloads only. The company plans to support FTP and HTTP monitoring of downloads from such sites as Tucows and Download.com in the future.
This is actually Guardian Monitors second release, but the company has synched the products version number with AOL (Guardian Monitor 8.0 works with AOL 8.0 and earlier). The product provides snapshots and details of where users go and what they do and is especially useful for those concerned about Kazaa or IM use. Unlike filtering products—CyberPatrol, Cybersitter, and NetNanny, for example—this product does not provide blocking. But it can help you determine whether a filter is necessary. Although the software still has a few rough edges, if you just want to get a picture of a users Internet and PC activity, Guardian Monitor is worth a look.