I need to be able to tell if a user is in a specific physical office, or is working from home, or not working at all, at a given time.

Do any of you know of a product that will do that?


As requested, here is a bit more about the environment:

  • Windows AD 2008 based network, with a few OSX clients
  • Exchange 2010 + Office 2010 used on all clients
  • Different offices in different countries, each in their own subnet

As for the budget, as little as possible :)

As for the presence tracking. It is OK if it can only tell if the user is at their laptop/workstation at that moment. If they are at a meeting, it should show in their calender, if they are sweeping the floors or at launch, we don't need to know that.

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    That's generically called "presence" software. There's a variety of communication clients (mainly chat clients) that provide this sort of information. Could you be more specific about your environment? – Chris S Jun 15 '11 at 22:13
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    Yeah, this depends a lot on what you have in-house already, and what your budget is, and what your needs are. Is this only to show other employees, or to show on a public website? – mfinni Jun 15 '11 at 23:13
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    You mean you need software that will determine if a user is logged on to a workstation at the office or at home or not at all, but what if the user is moving boxes or sweeping the floor or getting coffee... or taking a bathroom break after they've had their coffee? – joeqwerty Jun 16 '11 at 0:22
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    Do you need to cover the possibility that the user has logged on to a workstation, fired some scripted application, that may well be appear to the system the same as human activity, and then gone out, leaving the workstation running? – John Gardeniers Jun 16 '11 at 2:33

Did you know that Exchange already does "If they are at a meeting, it should show in their calender" ? It's called Free/Busy, and unless you have done something out of the ordinary, it should already work. When you try to invite someone to a meeting, you can see if they are free (or busy.)

Further, you can use calendar sharing and permissions, just like applying NTFS permissions, so admins and individual users can make the actual details of calendar entries visible (or even editable) by other users.

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  • True, but the sad truth is that users don't update their calenders enough, and unless they all add to their calender whether they are working from home, visiting a customer, or at the office, its not going to be enough. The target is to get something that is automatic in its presence tracking. – Egil Hansen Jun 16 '11 at 18:12
  • Then how is the computer going to know? If they're working from home over a VPN connection, then even Exchange only knows that they are connected. MS Communicator, at least at my company, doesn't have a "working remotely" status. You're online, away, in a meeting, offline, or do-not-disturb. You may be asking for more than technology can do, at this point. – mfinni Jun 16 '11 at 18:14

As the comments mention this is called presence, which comes along with communications software. Since you are an exchange user your best option is likely to be Lync server

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  • IMHO, that definitely doesn't meet the "as little as possible" budget criteria. In fact, Lync pricing is ridiculous even by MS standards. – Zayne S Halsall Jun 16 '11 at 7:13
  • @Zayne, AFAIK pricing depends on what you have for an agreement. I'm not sure what the end price will be (or if the cloud version will provide the functionality required) but you can get it as part of the beta for offcie 365 right now for free- it doesn't get much cheap than free IMHO – Jim B Jun 16 '11 at 11:44
  • 1. Office 365 is not available in all countries due to bandwidth limitations (OP said "different offices in different countries"). 2. Beta is free, will not last, as I'm sure you're aware. 3. Just finished Lync roll out pricing a week or two ago, and it is as expensive as most MS offerings because of the licensing required, and necessary software upgrades as well (not to mention potential server hardware/software and what not). 4. I'm not disagreeing that Lync is an awesome option for "presence" - I've seen nothing better nor more integrated. Just pointing out that it is a costly path. – Zayne S Halsall Jun 16 '11 at 15:42

This option requires a lot of manual config, but we use Openfire server (XMPP) and the Pidgin instant messaging client. It's all open source software so it wont cost you anything but your time.

The Pidgin client can be configured with a "Resource" identifier. When you have that user on your contacts list, you can mouse over that username in the Pidgin client and it'll tell you the Resource that user is logged in from. If you configure the Resource so that the user's laptop reports "Laptop", and home computer reports "Home" and office reports "Office", you'll be able to figure out where they are... and if they're away from their desk and not using their mouse / keyboard, you'll see an Idle indicator showing how long they've been inactive - similarly if they're offline.

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