written by: Sara Morgan•edited by: Ronda Bowen•updated: 7/4/2011
For all you parents who have been alarmed by Dateline’s, "To Catch a Predator," and for all you employers who want to stop unnecessary web surfing, Spector Pro provides everything you need to be the ultimate spy.
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Spector Pro is a software monitoring tool that operates in visible or stealth mode. In stealth mode, the program is practically invisible to computer users. For this reason, Spector Pro encourages you to notify all users that the computer is being monitored. Of course, if what you want to do is spy on your children, spouse, or employee, then you are likely not to do that; and this tool would let you get away with it.
Spector Pro uses a recorder tool that operates silently in the background, collecting information and storing it in hidden files on the computer. The recorder can collect information such as screen snapshots, instant messaging chats, email activity, online searches, websites visited, files transferred, programs activated, and keystrokes typed. It even has a special series of windows designed specifically for the now infamous MySpace activity.
And don’t think this is just a tool for parents to spy on their kids. Spector Pro can record user and network activity, which lets employers track when a user logs in, logs out, and remains idle. It can also be used to track document activity, even when it extends to a network drive. This can be an invaluable tool for an employer that suspects employees are wasting valuable computer time or even worse, committing industrial espionage.
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Price to Value
If what you are looking for is a comprehensive tool that can monitor every single activity on a computer, then you probably will not mind the high price for this software package; $149 regularly and $99 at a special offer rate. Spector Pro delivers many features to justify the price.
Another application of this software is for employers who want to monitor their employees' web surfing activities. If an employer needs to keep their employees from wasting time surfing the web, this is the perfect way to do it. The money saved in lost productivity alone could well justify the price. The peace of mind afforded to a parent who wants to ensure their child is safe from online predators is also a great value.
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Installation & Setup
The installation for Spector Pro is quick and easy. Spector Pro allows you to install the program in visible or stealth mode. In stealth mode the product is practically undetectable to the computer user and is only accessible through a hotkey sequence. For this reason, you are encouraged to change the hotkey sequence during the installation. This will further enforce the chances that the program will remain undetected.
You must purchase a separate license for each computer you wish to monitor. However, one really nice thing about Spector Pro is that you can install the viewer on a computer without a separate license and use that computer to view the recorded activity. This feature may be especially important for employers wanting to monitor their employees undetected. Rather than having to sit down at the employee’s desk to view their recordings, the employer can do it privately from their own office.
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The Spector Pro viewer allows you to view all recorded activity. This intuitive interface includes tabs that let you switch between recorded activities. Since you can easily wind up with more data than you are able to sort through, Spector Pro includes a Top Ten tab. The Top Ten tab will summarize the top ten activities for each category. From the summary page, the person viewing the recordings can access detail information or perform functions such as block the web site. The functions available on each page differ depending on the type of activity.
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The User Activity page provides a graphical view of the user’s activity which can be useful to employers wanting to gauge their employee’s productive time. The details tab for this page breaks down each specific activity and provides start, ending, and elapsed times.
[see screenshot 4].
The Screen Snapshots page is probably the most revealing. This allows you to replay a recording of screenshots taken every 30 seconds. It sends chills down your arm to record your own activity and then minutes later watch a blow-by-blow account of everything you saw. Of course, this is the best way of ensuring that no activities get by the watchful eye of big brother. If you do not wish to record all activity or want to adjust how often the screenshots are taken, the Settings page allows you to do this. You can even schedule times to record and configure it to only record specific users.
[see screenshot 5].
Of particular interest to parents is the MySpace Activity page which is dedicated to the MySpace phenomenon. You can view screenshots, messages, and chat activity taken directly from the MySpace web pages. You can even view a summary report which gives an overview of all MySpace activity. This includes the top ten messages received and sent, along with the top ten profiles visited.
[see screenshot 6].
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Spector Pro did not seem to affect the performance of my machine while it was recording. I was able to perform all computer functions the same as usual and often forgot I was recording.
I did notice a problem with Skype while Spector Pro was installed. It would consistently crash and exit within a few minutes of beginning a recording. Also I experienced a few crashes in Internet Explorer when trying to view the web mail for an Internet Service Provider.
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If you are looking for a tool that can secretly monitor every single activity by a user, this is the software for you. Even if you let the computer users know they are being monitored, it should do an effective job of keeping kids and employees in line. It made me nervous just to have the software on my machine. I felt paranoid and I was just watching myself. Personally, I think the software is invasive and I would not use it, but it does what it is supposed to do and for people who want that, it does the job. I could not fault it for ethical reasons.