Controlling access to sensitive files should be a component of any complete cybersecurity strategy. Stopping unauthorized individuals from stealing confidential data is important for preventing sensitive information from being stolen. File activity monitoring tools use deep packet inspection to see how users are interacting with files throughout the network.

File monitoring software shows who accessed a file, when, and what they did. In this article we’re going to look at the six best file activity monitoring tools:

  1. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)
  2. ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus
  3. LANGuardian
  4. Teramind
  5. PA File Sight
  6. FileAudit

The best file activity monitoring tools

1. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor is an application and file monitoring tool that tracks file changes in real-time. From the dashboard, you can view file characteristics like content, size, age, and count. These monitors keep you updated on changes within the network. For example, file age monitor tells you when the file was last modified.

The fast-track configuration of SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor makes it ideal for SMEs. After installing the software the program will start to automatically discover connected devices. In less than an hour, you can have a functional file monitoring platform with monitoring templates included out-of-the-box.

Of course, you don’t have to catch everything in real-time: SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor does it for you. Monitors like the file count monitor alert you if the number of files within a directory exceeds the configured threshold. The alerts function highlights potentially malicious activity so that you can take a closer look. Alerts can be customized so that you choose what parameters should be used.

If you require a file monitoring solution with application monitoring capabilities then SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor is highly recommended. SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor starts at a price of $2,995 (£2,349). There is also a 30-day free trial version that you can download via this link here.

SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor (SAM)Download 30-day FREE Trial

2. ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus 

ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus is a file monitoring software platform that displays file and user activity on a network. You can see who accessed the file, when, and what they accessed. There are also a number of visual displays like graphs and pie charts that show you a more complete overview.

For instance, you can see a pie chart of All File and folder changes which is broken down into Create, Delete, Modify, Permission Change, Overwrite, Rename, and Move. You can also view the most active users, most accessed files, and most modified files within the file server.

One premium feature included with ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus is file access analytics. File access analytics highlight access trends, monitor access times and detect anomalous file access. For example, the tool can identify if a file was accessed outside of working hours and if the user was authorized to access the content.

The built-in auditing and regulatory compliance of ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus are also extremely useful. The tool is compliant with PCI DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, SOX, GLBA, and FISMA. By auditing access privileges you can better control access to files and ensure you don’t leave yourself open to penalties or other liabilities.

For ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus file server auditing the price starts at $745 (£584) per year. The price includes file integrity monitoring, tracking file interactions, alerts, detect/quarantine ransomware and more. You can download the 30-day free trial version.

3. LANGuardian

LANGuardian is a file activity monitor that uses deep packet inspection to track user activity. LANGuardian is a popular tool because it is agentless and doesn’t affect network performance when it is used to monitor files (making the program ideal for managing multiple sites). Charts are generated based on file activity. These charts show the Time, Logon Name, Department, Sensor, Source IP/Subnet, and File Server IP/Subnet.

The software’s use of deep packet inspection allows you to distinguish who is doing what on your network. User metadata is obtained from network packets to monitor user activity within the network. In practice, this shows you when users open and close files on file share, download or upload files.

The tool also has an alerts feature to notify you about suspicious activity. For instance, the user is sent an alert if the rate of file renames increases or the user copies large volumes of files. Having alerts on hand to flag suspicious activity reduces early the likelihood of malicious software like ransomware putting you out of action.

LANGuardian is available as a perpetual license or a subscription. The price depends on the number of users on your network and the number of sensors you require. You’ll have to contact the sales team directly in order to see an accurate price. There is also a free trial version.

4. Teramind

Teramind is a file activity monitoring software designed specifically for user activity monitoring. The product monitors file access, creation, deletion, and write operations. User activity is monitored through screen recording and textual logs so you can take a closer look at user activity to verify its legitimacy.

There is also a notifications system to keep you updated on developments in the network. For example, the notifications system tells you when files are uploaded to the cloud either as an email attachment or through a cloud service like Google Drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive. You also have the option to block uploads to the cloud if you believe an activity is malicious in nature.

Teramind is available as an on-premises or cloud-based solution. Each has three product versions: Teramind Starter, Teramind UAM, and Teramind DLP. The on-premises versions start at $60 (£47) per month for 10 endpoints up to $150 (£117) per month for 10 endpoints. The cloud-based versions start at $60 (£47) per month for five users up to $150 (£117) for additional content-based data exfiltration rules.

5. PA File Sight

PA File Sight is a file monitoring solution with real-time file monitoring capabilities. The software monitors for file creation, deletion, modification, and movement of files. It also monitors the IP address, data/time and computer name of the interactions to help identify different users and spot suspicious activity. You can start monitoring as soon as you finish the setup process, which can be completed in just a matter of minutes.

The program also has automated alerts. PA File Sight alerts you on changes made to files so that you can detect log tampering. Alerts come with a range of supporting information including user account, user IP address, computer name, target file, what the activity was and the date/time. Having this information available to refer to helps to put all the necessary information in one place so that you can start to address an attack.

When it comes to auditing, PA File Sight is an excellent choice. Not only is it compliant with PCI, HIPAA, FISMA AC-19, SOX, and ISO 27001/27002, but it also has reports. Reports can be generated in text, HTML, PDF or .CSV. Reports show specific users, specific time range, and the time period.

There are two versions of the product available to purchase: PA File Sight Ultra, and PA File Sight Lite. The Lite version starts at $199 (£156.18) for 1-9 licenses and can monitor file activities, and generate alerts. The Ultra version starts at $599 (£470 )for 1-9 licenses and can do everything the Lite version can but adds integration for Microsoft SQL Server, reports, advanced alerts, and the ability to block external drives.

6. FileAudit 

FileAudit is a real-time file monitoring tool that has been designed to help monitor how employees interact with files. The platform monitors file changes, read-write, deletion, and ownership. Having this information on hand makes sure that you can immediately discover and address cyberattacks before the damage is done.

There are also automated email alerts to notify you about user actions. Alerts are generated for certain events like the deletion of a file or if a user has been denied access to a file. Staying on top of this information helps to diagnose suspicious behavior as early as possible.

There are four versions of FileAudit available to purchase: Team, Small, Medium, and Enterprise. The Team version costs $50 (£39) per month for 100 users and one server. The Small version costs $85 (£66) for 500 users and three servers.

The Medium version costs $140 (£109) for 1000 users and five servers. The Enterprise version supports over five servers with more than 1000 servers (but you’ll need to contact the sales team directly). You can download the free version here.

Selecting the right tool

File activity monitoring is part and parcel of document management in an enterprise environment. Tools like SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor and ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus have been built with this purpose in mind. Each tool is easy to use with simple configuration and an overhead perspective of file interactions.

The file access analytics feature included with ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus is useful for those enterprises that want to automate some of their threat detection. Automation pays dividends to response time when reacting to malicious activity.