Hardly anything is more understandable than being financially conscious and trying to use your resources wisely, especially if you’re running a business. One of the directions of implementing these preventative austerity measures is looking to acquire time tracking and employee check in check out software free of charge.
The thing is - there are so many different tools out there to help you optimize your business and, naturally enough, you want as many of them as possible, but paying for each new software you get is going to drain your finances pretty quickly. So why not get the best free time clock app you can find and get it over with? It can’t make that much difference, can it?
In all fairness, many of them do have most of the basic features you want and they work as well as you can expect. However, there are a couple of very important aspects of this software and the way you implement and use it that time reporting software free versions are typically limited in, but that are important enough for any business to reconsider their saving strategy and just buy one of the paid options instead.
Accommodating a Growing Team
One of the biggest downsides to getting free team time tracking solution is the fact that it’s not for teams at all. As you’re soon about to find out, the basic principle for getting anything for free is that it’s only free up to an extent. In other words, these solutions are very limited in a couple of ways and one of those ways is the number of users they can support.
The vast majority of free software that you’ll come across can only accommodate one user. What this means is that they’re more of a personal time tracker than a business solution. While you can certainly try to get every individual employee to install the system and use it to track their own time, you won’t have access to their data and you won’t be able to analyze their performance on a team level, so there’s really very little point in bothering.
Other solutions offer support to more users but this number is always limited and, in most cases, doesn’t exceed five. Even if you happen to come across a software that supports more than five free accounts, you should keep in mind that, regardless of how sufficient it may seem at first, that number is still limited.
There are two major problems with this user limit:
- If you’re a medium or large business, a free online time clock for employees won’t be able to accommodate the number of your workers from the start.
- Even if you’re a small startup and you think that seven accounts are enough, don’t forget that your business will very likely grow and a free solution isn’t exactly scalable (or at least not while remaining free).
Unlike time tracking freeware, paid solutions tend to be way more flexible when it comes to the number of employees. You can get as many accounts as you like and adding new ones isn’t going to require changing your subscription plan. And plus, you’ll definitely be able to use staff tracking for getting the whole team to collaborate.
Scalability with Projects
Another thing you should have in mind before you hit that ‘time management software free download button’ is one more limitation that a lot of these free versions have - they only support tracking a small number of projects.
Typically, this number ranges from one to three. This small range will work for your team if you only have very few clients. But even some freelancers have more than three clients at a time, let alone entire companies. Besides, even if you have two clients now, you still have to account for any future expansion of your business.
Getting project flexibility is essential when you’re working with a number of different clients and chances are that a free time keeping app won’t be enough for most average businesses in this respect. Full-fledged versions will let you track an unlimited number of different projects and you’ll get a lot more data this way. Data that you can use to optimize future projects and workload.
One more flexibility issue that even some of the best free time tracking software have is restricted access to all the data and reports. In other words, you as an administrator can access the dashboard and see all the statistics, but if you wish to share this privileged access with, for example, your employees, other executives or even your clients, you’ll run into a problem.
Most free version only support one access point and one admin. This might not be as serious of a problem as limited number of users or projects, but it’s still restrictive in a very important way, especially once you realize how useful all the different access options can be.
As an example, some paid tracking systems offer multiple manager logins which is handy if your company has organizational layers or any type of hierarchy. You can also end up having employee access which give workers insight into their performance, thus promoting transparency and encouraging self-improvement. In addition, you can get client access, which is great for accountability and building rapport. These are definitely things worth investing a bit of money into.
The success of any business, time tracking included, depends on the good customer support, so you’ll probably never be left entirely to your own devices in case you experience an issue with what was supposed to be the best free time tracker. The difference between that and any paid software, however, lies in the extent of this support.
It’s in your time tracker provider’s best interest to keep you as a paying customer - that’s about the most natural thing in the business world. That’s why you can usually get around-the-clock live support which includes email, phone, or chat. Or all of the above. Your every issue will be handled immediately, which is crucial for maintaining the regular operations within your own company.
On the other hand, time track software free download usually entails that you’ll have to wait in line for support at best, or that you’ll have to rely almost entirely on help center and FAQ resources at worst. And depending on how seriously you take time tracking and optimization, this might not be good enough.
Most regular software will have some advanced features that you might find useful for one reason or another. So, you’ll be able to install the system on remote workers’ computers, use screenshot feature, implement automatic time tracking, aggregate data on a variety of levels, customize the dashboard and reports, and so on.
However, you’ll probably struggle to find free time tracking software with screen capture or easily implement remote employee time tracking free of charge. Most free solutions support only the most basic features - measuring how long your employees do each task. Some of them might have integrated attendance sheets or payroll calculator, but not necessarily both. That’s about as much as you’ll get. If you want some of the more advanced functionalities, you’ll likely be disappointed to discover that you’ll have to upgrade.
Of course, the need for these additional features will depend on what you plan to achieve with your time tracker, so, based on your needs, cheap time tracking software could turn out to be good enough for your business. But if you want an all-encompassing solution that will be able to help you with more than one business goal, that will probably come at a price. That’s not to say, however, that the investment won’t return many fold eventually.
If you’re absolutely sure that your company is never going to have more than three employees and the same number of projects, and you don’t need priority support, any of the additional features or access options and you never will, then the best free time tracking app might just do the job. But if you need a bit more flexibility and functionality, one of the paid solutions is the only way to go.
One thing, though, that you can use project time tracking software free versions for is as a starting point - to see whether the idea of tracking time and performance fits your company culture and the way of work. After that, do what’s best for your business.