File activity monitoring software tools use deep packet inspection to see how users are interacting with files throughout the network.
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 monitoring software shows who accessed a file, when, and what they did.
Here is our list of the best file activity monitoring software tools:
- SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor EDITOR’S CHOICE A server management tool that includes file tracking utilities. See real-time stats on individual files as well as drive metrics. Download the 30-day free trial.
- Site24x7 Infrastructure (FREE TRIAL) This cloud-based system monitor includes monitoring routines for all types of servers, including those used for storage. This includes services to add extra protection to stores of sensitive data. Start 30-day free trial.
- ManageEngine ADAudit Plus (FREE TRIAL) This package relates actions on a server to the user accounts in Active Directory and also protects AD objects from tampering. Available for Windows Server, AWS, and Azure. Start a 30-day free trial.
- ManageEngine Endpoint DLP Plus (FREE TRIAL) This software package provides protection for files on multiple sites and tracks the users that access sensitive data. Runs on Windows Server. Start a 30-day free trial.
- ManageEngine DataSecurity Plus A file monitor that tracks file access and changes per user.
- LANGuardian A user activity tracker that details any changes to the files held in multiple locations.
- Teramind A file activity monitor that records the users that access or modify any file on the system.
- PA File Sight A real-time file monitoring system that logs the source of any file changing activity.
- FileAudit A real-time file monitoring system that includes alerts to key supervisors.
Related post: Best File Integrity Monitoring (FIM) Tools
The best file activity monitoring software tools
Our methodology for selecting a file monitoring tool
We reviewed the file activity monitoring market and analyzed tools based on the following criteria:
- Logging of all file access events
- Registration of user account and the date of time of any access
- The ability to identify only certain files or directories for protection
- The option to set alerts on file changes
- A backup facility that automatically restores tampered files
- The ability to black file copies
- An option to try the service for free as an assessment
- A price set at a fair value for the quality of services offered
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.
- Watches all server resources
- Links applications to services
- Live file activity statistics
- Automatic devices discovery and scanning
- A range of file status trackers
The fast-track system 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.
- Uses agentless monitoring to track hardware metrics, user behavior, and new IT assets in real-time
- Supports auto-discovery that builds network topology maps and inventory lists
- Offers flexible integrations with other tools – great for helpdesks and SIEMs
- Can monitor statistics on specific files or applications
- Uses drag and drop widgets to customize the look and feel of the dashboard
- Robust reporting system with pre-configured templates, dashboards, and monitors
- Designed for IT professionals, not for home use
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.
The SolarWinds Server & Application Monitor is our top choice for file activity monitoring because it identifies all activity on files in real-time, while also keeping track of all server resource utilization. The monitor includes an alerting system so key technical staff can get on with other tasks without missing key events occurring on the file system and the server in general.
Start 30-day Free Trial: solarwinds.com/server-application-monitor
OS: Windows Server 2016 or later
Site24x7 is a cloud-based system monitoring platform that covers networks, servers, and applications. The service is packaged in different bundles and Site24x7 Infrastructure is one of them. This is a flexible plan and you choose which aspects of physical and virtual infrastructure you want the tool to monitor. One of the options is its file monitoring capabilities.
- Saas platform
- Includes server resource monitoring
- Watches over file servers
- Sensitive data protection
- Tracks file attribute changes
The file and directory monitoring system in Site24x7 includes comprehensive tools for protecting stores of sensitive data. This is an excellent data loss protection service because it includes active checks on changes in files as well as general file storage performance statistics.
The system can be set to pay extra attention to specific directories. It will track any changes to files including file permission changes – which is a sign of hacker activity. In this mode, the Site24x7 service will raise an alert and write to a log every time files are created, deleted, or modified in a nominated directory. The service also scans directories to highlight files that have not been accessed in a long time, which lets you know which files are good candidates for archiving or deletion.
This service will perform general monitoring tasks on file storage, such as tracking the growth rate of directories and recording metrics such as the number of files per directory or per device. You can centralize the monitoring of all of your servers in one overview that offers a drill-down path to see statistics on each individual location.
- Supports networks, infrastructure, and file monitoring in a single platform
- Uses real-time data to discover devices and build charts, network maps, and inventory reports
- Is very simple to set up – fast onboarding
- Can providing file access audits – great for maintaining compliance
- Supports a highly detailed freeware version – best for smaller networks and trials
- Is a very detailed platform that will require time to fully learn all of its features and options
Site24x7 is a subscription service and you can get it on a 30-day free trial.
ManageEngine ADAudit Plus is a tool for ensuring data integrity by tracking user activities on servers, particularly on files. While this system doesn’t include a sensitive data discovery and classification service, it will protect sensitive data along with all other files.
- File integrity monitoring
- User activity tracking
- Protection for Active Directory instances
ADAudit Plus is available for AWS and Azure as well as for Windows Server. Each deployment will scan Active Directory and note its current status. If changes are made to objects in that system, the ADAudit Plus service raises an alert, which enables you to reverse those changes, which might include the addition of user accounts.
The file integrity monitor ties in with Active Directory. Thus, when a user accesses a file, the ManageEngine service logs that action. It also logs whether changes were made to the file during that session.
A major incentive to get ADAudit Plus is to comply with data security standards. The tool includes a compliance reporting module that can be tailored to the expectations of SOX, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, FISMA, and GLBA.
- Protects Active Directory on Windows Server, AWS, and Azure from unauthorized changes
- Logs user access to files
- Compliance reporting for SOX, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, FISMA, and GLBA
- You need to maintain the software yourself
The ManageEngine ADAudit Plus runs on Windows Server, AWS, and Azure. There are three editions for ADAudit Plus: Free, Standard, and Professional. The Free edition will monitor 25 workstations, while the Standard edition will monitor activity on servers as well as workstations. The Professional edition adds on Active Directory monitoring. You can get the Professional edition on a 30-day free trial.
ManageEngine Endpoint DLP Plus provides protection for the files that hold sensitive data and controls the movement of those files while tracking user activity. This system can be adapted to identify data based on a specific data protection standard, such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, or GDPR.
- File protection
- Data security standards compliance
- User activity tracking
The DLP package routinely scans all endpoints for instances of sensitive data and categorizes all examples that it finds. The base package operates on a LAN but that functionality can be extended to multiple sites. Files that are found to contain sensitive data are protected by containerization, which makes them impossible to access directly or move.
Within the console for Endpoint DLP Plus, the administrator needs to define a list of trusted applications. These will be able to get access to the contents of protected files and they should themselves be protected by access rights credentials. Data access actions within these applications get logged with each instance attributed to a user account. If data access is unusual, an alert is raised and all of the activities of that account get logged for an investigation into an insider threat or account takeover.
Data movements are also tracked and controlled, while not banned. In some instances, copying or transferring files and extracts is necessary, so specific users are permitted to perform specific actions. These controls extend to USB devices, print queues, email systems, and cloud upload facilities.
- Regular scans for sensitive data with a categorization service
- File protection through containerization
- Data movement tracking and controls
- Not a SaaS package
Endpoint DLP Plus runs on Windows Server. You can get the Free Edition to manage data on up to 25 computers. The paid plan is called the Professional Edition and you can get it on a 30-day free trial. If you decide not to buy at the end of the trial, the package switches over to the Free Edition.
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 several visual displays like graphs and pie charts that show you a more complete overview.
- Includes permissions audition
- File integrity monitoring
- Data movement controls
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.
- Provides a detailed account of file access, allowing sysadmin to understand the context of the file change
- The platform can track access trends over time, allowing for better malicious behavior detection
- Supports built-in compliance reporting for popular standards such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and FISMA
- Can integrate with numerous helpdesk solutions, notification platforms, and backup systems
- Requires a sizable time investment to fully explore all the platforms features and tools
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.
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.
- Tracks user access to files
- Watches file movements on the network
- Live file activity reports
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.
- Provides users with a simple overview of file access, threats, and overall compliance standings
- Supports packet collection, analysis, and reporting, making it an all-in-one solution for DPI and file monitoring
- Robust and easy to use database feature allows users to store collected data and search for it post-scan
- Would like to see improved reporting/dashboard visualizations
- Must contact sales to view pricing
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 to see an accurate price. There is also a free trial version.
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.
- On-premises or SaaS
- Data loss prevention
- File access controls
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 can block uploads to the cloud storage if you believe an activity is malicious in nature.
- Highly visual reporting and real-time monitoring
- Built with compliance in mind, offering pre-configured reports
- Goes beyond file monitoring with options for active session monitoring and keylogging
- The platform tries to do it all, which can be overwhelming for those who only wish to use file monitoring features
- That platform has a steeper learning curve when compared to competing products
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.
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.
- Ransomware protection
- File activity logging
- Data loss prevention
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.
- Offers built-in alerts and custom rule-sets for a quick file monitoring
- Can prevent files from being accessed and stop ransomware – can act as a DLP tool
- Collected data makes it easy to separate malicious behavior from mistakes
- Would like to see a more visual dashboard and options for data visualization
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.
- Covers Windows Server and cloud platforms
- File activity logging
- File access controls
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.
- A simple interface is easy to use, even for new users
- Alerts come built-in with email notification taking only a few minutes to configure
- Offers multiple flexible pricing plans to fit almost any size team
- Could use more visualizations to illustrate file access metrics and trends
- Is only available for Windows operating systems
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 file activity monitoring software
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.
File Activity Monitoring Software FAQs
What is File Integrity Monitoring?
File integrity monitoring is an ongoing automated process that validates the status of files held on a system through indicators such as file size and last modified date. Any changes to files should be logged and unauthorized changes rolled back.
Why is deep packet inspection vital to file activity monitoring?
Deep packet inspection is a network monitoring part of file integrity monitoring. It is able to add information about the user who tries to modify a file, such as location and home device.
Can file activity monitoring prevent data loss?
File activity monitoring is able to add to existing DLP technology by protecting the contents of files and monitoring access to it. Thus, it is able to catch unauthorized file access, blocking theft, deletion, corruption, or alteration of the contents.