Hard facts about Calamari alternatives

There are more than 400 solutions for time and attendance tracking available out there. While Calamari clearly stands out from the crowd (averaging 4.7 of 5 gathered from 375 reviews), there are multiple other options available.

Apart from comparable software, companies have numerous alternatives when it comes to tracking the attendance of employees and contractors. The only option that is unviable for the company is to not track the attendance at all.

Why do you need time and attendance tracking software?

The attendance tracking is currently a must for all companies that will act compliant. The difference is in the legal environment to stick with and the reason behind it.

Attendance tracking in the EU

When it comes to EU-based companies, the legal foundation of the obligatory time tracking was in the ruling of the European Court of Justice, where the judges decided that it is obligatory to track time worked by employees regardless of the type of contract or other factors. The motivation behind that was the need to calculate the time worked and prevent abuses.

The ruling is the effect of the court battle between Spanish trade unions and Deutsche Bank, where the unionists insisted on tracking the time to make sure that all overtime has been paid and held under control. Since the ruling, not only Deutsche Bank, but all employers in the EU have to track the time of their employees.

Attendance tracking in the US

When it comes to the US legal order, the key reason to track employee time is in Wages and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The act regulates the basic employment laws, including the minimum hourly wage and overtime rules for every employee. Obviously, one needs to track the worked time of the employees to prove that the company stays compliant with the law.

Also, it is popular in the US to have a wage paid for every hour worked, opposed to the EU-based model of a fixed wage for a fixed number of hours. This makes the time tracking sheet a basis for paying the wage.


Calamari alternatives for attendance tracking

According to Capterra, Calamari is the best tool to track time and monitor the time off, at least when counting the average rating in conjunction with the number of reviews. With hundreds of positive ones, Calamari manages to keep the rating on the fringe of five.

But assuming one is looking for alternatives, here they are:

Own, internally built solution

A tempting one, especially for tech-savvy organizations with numerous coders on board. If the engineers are delivering thousands of lines of code, would it be a problem for them to deliver a simple yet tailored time tracking system for the sake of their employer?

Last but not least - it will be done with no additional costs - and by that, for free!

Actually - it would be a problem. First of all, Calamari is a company focused entirely on delivering a time-tracking product. Our coders devote their full skill and attention to the product. Also, there is a significant back-office supporting coders with either legal advisory, quality assurance, or project management. It would be a tremendous cost to a comparable in-house team to the goal of building the time tracking solution to be used internally.

Yet assuming that the solution would be sturdy and delivered once, there would be the need to assign at least two coders for a quarter to deliver something in half as convenient and reliable as Calamari is. According to Glassdoor, a software engineer makes $106,557 yearly. Thus, the cost of man-hours only of assigned specialists would have stacked to 53.275.

This is a cost of man-hours only. An additional cost is built from the projects that would be done without these engineers - ones with more priority or done for a client that would actually pay for their work. Also, there is a need for hosting, maintenance, and development of the solution - another hidden cost that would stack for the final price of the internal project.

An alternative is to build the solution “in the meantime”, yet every company is full of projects that are stuck in Limbo of “when time allows it”. When it comes to time and attendance tracking, it is a matter of compliance, so there is no space for freezing the project.

And last but not least - for the price of manhours only, one would have a lot of months of Calamari paid in advance. So it would be a project of tremendous cost and a long time to see a positive ROI - not a good deal at all.

A bigger vendor is better

There is a sense of professionalism seen when using software from tech giants. It varies from using “Business standard” Microsoft instead of “free for all” Google docs, or a vibe of being “big enough” to use SAP ERP instead of a spreadsheet.

There are bigger vendors who provide an attendance tracking system as a part of their suite. And these can be cool, yet with several challenges:

  • A smaller company like Calamari is agile enough to change for a single client - a thing impossible for enterprise software;
  • Calamari can be an equal partner for SMB - there is no imbalance of power between both parties, so the dialogue is easier. A client company will not experience endless talks with a contact center when using Calamari - and it sure will when switching to an enterprise software;
  • Enterprise attendance tracking is usually a part of a bigger set of tools - the client company may not use it, but it will PAY for them. Paying for unused features is not a good deal;
  • Calamai is focused on delivering the best UX of attendance and time tracking - when it comes to bigger players, attendance tracking is usually a minor feature, so polishing the UX of it is not the top priority.

Last but not least, Calamari is evolving in an agile way. Thus, our tool is constantly adding new features and polishes existing ones. An enterprise software values stability first, so it is unlikely for it to adapt in a startup-like manner. In the end, time tracking and leave management are the core features and the main reason for Calamari’s existence. When it comes to a bigger vendor, it will be only yet another feature.

The secure solution on on-prem infrastructure

The doubt regarding transferring the data to the external company is justified, at least at first glance. The problem grows when the personal data of employees are of concern. According to the Retarus data smaller organizations (1–250 employees) have the highest targeted malicious email rate at 1 in 323. So in fact, the world appears to be a dangerous place, willing only to grab the data and run.

In this world, holding all data inside the organization is in fact even more dangerous than handling it to an external partner like Calamari. Our data is stored in a secure AWS cloud ecosystem. Thus, from the hardware and storage point of view, there is an army of overpaid cybersecurity experts monitoring the data 24/7. Excluding the biggest organizations like banks, there are no more secure environments existing than a large enterprise cloud.

Also, Calamari needs to keep in compliance with personal data-related regulations like GDPR. Thus, if the company transfers the data to Calamari, there is a legal framework existing that ensures the protection and transfers the risk to the Calamari.

Last but not least, dealing with employee personal data is a bread-and-butter for Calamari, literally the core of the company’s operations. It is unlikely for the company to have as many good practices and internal security-related procedures.

A software that has a missing feature

Calamari is a tool focused on delivering results without being bloated in the way enterprise tools usually are. But that can result in some features missing at first glance. But this is usually not the entire truth.

Despite being a clean and minimalistic tool, Calamari holds a good deal of sophistication and has numerous features and integrations already built-in. If one cannot find it at the first glance, the best way to deal with the problem is to contact the support team. It is highly probable that the feature is already available in Calamari, yet one just didn’t spot it in the panel.

To avoid situations like this, the Calamari team is constantly working on improving the UX and UI of the solution.

Another reason to contact support instead of switching the vendor is to make Calamari better. Capterra is full of reviews with users pointing that after the contact Calamari added some integration or feature to better fit one particular client.

Last but not least, the simplicity and cleanness of Calamari are usually considered as a strength rather than a weakness. Keeping business processes simple and reducing their complicatedness can be a relief for the business.


A spreadsheet, that will be for free and everybody knows how to use it

Using a spreadsheet in place of a dedicated software solution is always somewhere there, especially since there are online sharing tools like Google Sheets or the latest Office 360 installments.

While the vision may be appealing, using the spreadsheet instead of a dedicated solution comes with numerous risks:

  • Data security - a spreadsheet is easy to share and copy. If it contains personal data, losing it can be a severe GDPR violation. The more sophisticated the sheet, the more data it contains, either implicitly or explicitly. For example, one can assume the political views of the employee based on the correlation between one-day-offs and political events. Thus any leakage can be disastrous in results for the company;
  • Compliance - a spreadsheet, with its ease of modification, can be not enough to prove the company stays compliant with legal norms;
  • Automation - a spreadsheet, even the most sophisticated one, is nothing more than a spreadsheet and it cannot leverage the advantages of mobile app or integrations. It is a yet-another-spreadsheet to use daily, so the users are keen to forget about it.

More about the advantages and disadvantages of doing so is explored in our Pros and cons of the timesheet in Excel (or Google docs) blog post.

A less tech-oriented variant is to manually track time using a stopwatch, pencil, and notebook. While this comes with little to no cost at all (you don’t even have to turn on the computer), it is a fully manual and workload-heavy way of tracking the time. Not to mention the doubts regarding compliance. But contrary to common beliefs, it is not cost-effective.

Why manual tracking is expensive

While the tool can be free or semi-free (one needs to pay for a spreadsheet or at least for new pencils) the key challenge is inefficient time management. Thus, while the company has illusionary savings on the tool, the real costs leak as a time consumed for manual tracking, copying the records to the documents, and, what is the most painful part - reducing the errors.

Any other system

The number and rating from Capterra clearly shows that Calamari is the best pick, but sometimes one can just want to switch it. Apart from the fact that there is nothing better than Calamari out there, migration is not as painless as it seems at first glance.

The staff needs to be trained to use the new system. According to our experiences, even a tool as simple as Calamari needs an introduction. Without it, the user is at risk of making a silly mistake that would further result in hidden mistakes in the hourly summary.

Also, the data needs to be transferred. While exporting from Calamari is a no-brainer, the new program may struggle with ingesting the exported data, Thus, there may be the need for a manual adjustment of the delivered database - a huge amount of manhours of frustrating and mistake-prone work.

The new system is also the need to get used to the new help center, get a new contact manager, and know procedures. While in the ads everything looks cool, the new system may not be as friendly as shown.

When it comes to Calamari, a great base of Capterra reviews is a great social proof that the company delivers what it promises.


There are many Calamari alternatives out there and they may work great. But Calamari is unique and the social proof of numerous positive reviews is further reinforcement for claims made.

If you wish to talk more about features, tools or workflows to be automated with our tool, don’t hesitate to contact us now!


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