Web Monocle is cloud-based. What that means to your small business or to your IS/IT people in a larger enterprise is basically that you don't have to fiddle with a product installation and management on your own server. Once you've set up yourself or an IS/IT person, or a human resources specialist as the Web Monocle administrator, all the logs, administration, analysis and some of the decision making takes place through the control dashboard to which only the administrator has access.
The web interface is simple and logical - it's easy to use in other words. You'll also find just the right amount of reporting data. The Web Monocle developers have resisted the urge to turn the data reporting into a network information analysis, feature-creep mess. Instead, you'll find organized reporting for each installation - by the name assigned to each computer - about which web sites were accessed, how each computer user designated each web site (Work or Personal), time of access, and site categories. The categories are the basis for report filtering too, which means you can temporarily hide uninteresting categories in order to get a view of only one or two instead which almost inevitably makes understanding the reporting much easier. The weekly report sent to the administrator's email address reminds you that Web Monocle is in place and working for those times when you've forgotten to login into the dashboard during the week.
Also in the dashboard, the Export to Excel button is your friend mainly because it creates a report spreadsheet that can be viewed, modified, printed or projected for meeting discussion purposes. The whole design and feature set of Web Monocle is friendly in that regard too. Whatever "friendly" really means to you is of course a personal view, but from our perspective at Kickstartnews it is related to the way in which the administrative interface presents information in a non-confrontational way. There are no urgent alerts or warnings that such-and-such a computer was used to access some non-business web site, just a log-like, real-time report that is meant to be viewed in the larger context of measured and considerate business management, and the application of a cogent Internet usage policy.
To ensure that your employees understand what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable Internet usage in the office, it is important to implement an Internet Usage Policy well before installing Web Monocle on your company computers. WebMonocle.com insists on this on almost every page of its web site. Establish an Internet usage policy, meet with all employees to explain it clearly and identically to everyone in the company. Ensure that the person in the company who is responsible for administering to Web Monocle doesn't slack off or miss any employees. The Web Monocle site contains a solid Internet usage policy sample that everyone should read at least once. It provides a sensible framework for the design of policies that can be tailored to the meet the needs of all sorts of different companies.
Outline the types of web sites that are acceptable or unacceptable to visit during work hours for communication, task research, reference (dictionary, thesaurus, look-ups of all kinds), how much time can be spent surfing the web during off hours (at lunch time, or during coffee or mid-afternoon breaks), and the amount of time that is deemed acceptable to spend on web sites for personal reasons. Every type of business has its variations of what is acceptable, and there are as well at least as many versions of what is acceptable as there are different managers and business owners.
Whatever you do, as a business owner or senior manager or human resources specialist, don't make any decisions on your own when creating or modifying your Internet usage policy. Instead, bring in your key managers, team leads, department heads, crew chiefs, fore-persons, supervisors and other key people to get their input. What you hear from them may surprise you. In any case, the effort will be worthwhile. An Internet usage policy development process that is transparent thereby to most of your employees, will also be a policy that is well understood for what it is supposed to accomplish. Thereafter, Web Monocle becomes simply the method by which adherence to the policy is monitored, and the reason for you to privately approach employees to tell them to stop breaking policy. A transparent process also gives employees the confidence to approach a manager or owner to request certain kinds of access.
We do not have a baseline value or feature & function benchmark for this sort of product because Web Monocle is one of a very small handful of companies playing in this product category. For now, it is priced the way it's priced. It is also most definitely a business product (although wise parents with a couple of kids of a certain age at home could consider Web Monocle too). Web Monocle can be used in classroom environments and a thousand other places besides. We'll check on this space again next year to see how the market for this sort of software is growing. For now, call it a fair value. It's certainly useful.
Cons: IS/IT managers at medium and large companies, and network services providers to small businesses are going to gripe about the fact that Web Monocle has to be individually installed on each computer or workstation. No central server installation with subsequent automated push deployment throughout a network means extra installation work for IT managers. We can see nefarious company owners or managers leaning on their own political, social or religious views to create or influence or impose lists of acceptable or unacceptable web sites. We can also predict that some employers will attempt to use Web Monocle logs as grounds for firing or at least hassling some employees, something that is typically done by employers more focused on demand, divisiveness, domination and derision than they are on building a great company. No Mac OS X client installation yet, which may be a problem for companies with a Mac-heavy graphic design, photo editing or multimedia department.
Pros: For many business owners, email and Internet access are akin to a fox in the hen house. With all the distractions available online, too many working people in all types of businesses and enterprises are drawn online to the detriment of the work they're being paid to do. Good and bad employers alike, all over the world, are often completely stumped about the problem of getting significant percentages of their staff to surf less and work more. It is definitely a problem in search of a solution. Web Monocle makes sense in that light. By means of a combination of Web Monocle installations and the development and implementation of company-wide Internet usage policy that is sensible, transparently created and enforceable, employers can begin to create more productive work environments in which employees obey the policy rules for all the right reasons. In companies at which Internet access abuse has gotten out of hand, imposing Web Monocle is going to be a problem. But employers who don't establish enforceable rules are only going to allow bad situations to get worse. Web Monocle is the first of this type of product we've ever reviewed, but the product seems to hit all the right notes in a playing field riddled with land mines. Check it out - the free trial version works perfectly or buy it here. Recommended.