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There are many types of time clock software, ranging from free and simple open-source standalone programs to expensive and complicated programs that integrate with payroll software. A physical time clock might or might not be needed for the functionality of the software. Some time clock software packages are software as a service (SaaS) or cloud-based, and others reside on a company's local computer network. Features and compatibility vary greatly from system to system.
The one feature available with all systems is the capturing of an employee's "in" and "out" punches either via a computer terminal interface or via a physical time clock. Punches can be gathered using direct entry, time cards, badges or biometrics. Basic reporting for management is generally offered, and almost all time clock software tracks overtime and breaks.
The smaller — and typically less expensive — programs generally have fewer features and often do not integrate with payroll or accounting software. Most of the larger, more robust time clock software programs integrate directly with accounting and payroll programs and offer an array of additional features such as tracking of vacation time, paid time off (PTO) and other benefits. There are a seemingly endless number of features and combinations that are available with each type of time clock software.
Different types of time clock software offer different methods of interface. The most common is a personal computer (PC) entry method. This is often coupled with a web-based entry method. With this method, time and attendance information is entered using a computer terminal and opening or logging into the time clock program. In many configurations, PC entry is available in addition to a physical time clock.
Physical time clock variations that combine with time clock software include punch-card systems, biometric devices and badge readers. The punch-card system is the oldest variation and is simply a card that is physically inserted into the clock, which then timestamps the card. Biometric devices — devices that can securely identify a specific person — come in many shapes and sizes. There are fingerprint readers, hand readers and retina readers. Badge readers offer two ways to clock in and out: proximity scanning and swipe scanning.
Another difference in types of time clock software is whether it is networked. This means that some systems work only on a single computer terminal or from a physical time clock entry method. Other systems are installed on a company's server and can be accessed at any computer terminal on the network. A cloud-based system is available on any device that has an Internet connection.