Quicomm – GURL Watcher review

unobtrusively monitor Internet usage by staff or family
Photo of Quicomm – GURL Watcher
$19.95

GURL Watcher is one of those small, simple but effective utilities that deserves to do well. It provides anyone concerned about the Internet habits of their family or staff with the means to unobtrusively monitor browsing, but with none of the cost or administrative headache usually associated with such policing.

Unlike many Internet control applications, GURL Watcher doesn’t block access to sites, instead adopting a passive role, doing no more than simply recording and reporting perused Web pages. The benefit of this approach is that it won’t accidentally block access to legitimate sites – a frequent problem with many filtering applications. The downside, of course, is that neither does it actually prevent access to sites you wish to stop people visiting, although you will obviously know about the access later.

Installation is a straightforward affair, consisting of launching the install program on each PC before opening the GURLsetup utility to configure various parameters defining how and where the program will send its Web usage reports. There are two reporting choices. First, you can save the report to an HTML file – suitable for opening in a Web browser – and this can be stored either locally or on a different computer accessible via a network share. The second option is to have the reports sent to a nominated individual via e-mail. In this case, the sender and destination address, mail server, subject line and send intervals are required.

No matter which output choice is selected, the date, time, page title and URL of all Web pages visited are logged. It would be nice, however, if the program would give an indication in these logs of suspect sites as it’s not always obvious from the name or URL that a Web page contains dubious content. The Webmasters of many pornographic sites, for example, frequently hide their sites behind addresses similar to otherwise legitimate high-traffic sites in order to snare innocent visitors seeking the genuine pages. As such, what looks like a perfectly acceptable site from its title may well be the opposite.

Once running, the program sits in the background, leaving no immediately obvious indicators of its existence: no changes to browser behaviour, no control panel and no Taskbar or System Tray icons. Indeed the only hint of its activity is a GURL process running which can been seen in the Task Manager. As such, if you’re looking for a surreptitious means to watch over someone, GURL Watcher is a force to be reckoned with.

Indeed, its ‘run silent’ nature has resulted in some of the anti-virus and spyware detection developers treating it as a possible hostile program, so otherwise ignorant users may be warned of its usage. This isn’t a fault in GURL Watcher, but is annoying for legitimate usage of the program, as the anti-virus scanners will typically provide instructions on how to disable and remove it!

One significant flaw that does lie with GURL Watcher, however, is that it’s billed as working with any popular Web browser, yet in tests on several different computers it resolutely failed to record sites visited using the latest version of Mozilla Firefox. This may not be a major issue now, but as Firefox grows in popularity this will need to be addressed.

Company: Quicomm

Contact: +1 321 206 5118


Verdict

This is the CCTV of Internet policing; silent, unobtrusive but effective. GURL Watcher should be at the disposal of anyone wishing to protect their Web users, but be wary of its detection by anti-virus software.