We’re often asked if TimeControl can be “load balanced”. The short answer for most TimeControl clients is “You won’t need to worry about that” because the volume of traffic through TimeControl can be easily handled by a single server. We’ve had up to 10,000 users on a single rather modestly sized TimeControl server in the past with millions and millions of timesheet lines and performance was not an issue. However, there are some situations in very high volume situations where being able to instantly share TimeControl traffic across many servers can be valuable and TimeControl’s architecture has been able to take advantage of load-sharing since the late 1990s.
In modern-day web environments TimeControl uses Microsoft Server’s Internet Information Services (IIS) to provide the TimeControl interface to the client. That website then communicates with the TimeControl Transaction Server which in turn talks to the database server where the TimeControl database resides. The main bottleneck for performance in that situation is the web server itself. It’s got a lot of work to do in order to render each page the user sees, collect the data the user submits, send that data along to the transaction server, get a response back and get the information back onto a web page that the user is looking at.
By using Microsoft’s Application Request Routing (ARR) and Network Load Balancing (NLB) which are a part of Microsoft Server, clients can use a web farm with multiple web servers serving the TimeControl sites to bypass this bottleneck. Your IIS and Windows Server experts can configure these tools or other third party load balancers to help provide a high-volume architecture for TimeControl. They will need to allow for “Sticky Sessions” using Client Affinity and URL Rewrites to send the data to the load balancer in order to make it work. If ultra high availability is critical, then using Health Checking can ensure that data is instantly rerouted to healthy servers before the client even knows it.
For most clients this will never be a requirement so you likely don’t have to worry about it. Because it’s so rare, HMS doesn’t provide services for configuring your network or your web servers so you’ll need to use your own IIS and Microsoft Server experts if this type of situation applies to you. There are other multi-server load sharing techniques for different situations that HMS can recommend if complex architectures which might affect performance is one of your challenges. Talk to HMS Software’s technical support team about multiple Website/TTS/ATS combinations to offload reporting or Project Management system linking.
This is a great question and I hate to give the most obvious answer but “it depends”. Because TimeControl is designed to be able to link to so many different kinds of systems, a complete deployment can include many different facets.
Let’s say that you’re keen to deploy TimeControl on its own with some basic links for individual projects in Microsoft Project or Primavera. The installation, configuration and deployment are probably not more than a few days. We created the 5 day QuikStart program for this type of situation. Clients don’t need HMS’s assistance to do this either. Many clients have figured out for themselves how to do their deployment.
If we take another situation, let’s say a new TimeControl client wants to link to their centralized enterprise project management system like Microsoft Project Server or Oracle-Primavera and also to the finance system for billing and job costing.
If TimeControl is the first product to bridge the gap between Project Management and Finance then there may be many unanswerable questions when they start.
How should rates be tackled? What level of resolution of the timesheet will Finance require? Is that the same level as Project Management? Are there coding standards or other processes that have to be identified?
Very little of these questions are technical, they’re more likely to be process related but they are critical to how the configuration should be handled. Let’s take an extremely common example. A client says “We want to track overtime”.
Both Project Management and Finance agree that’s a key criteria. “Do you need to know what task the overtime occurred on?” we ask. “No” says Finance “Yes” says Project Management at the same time. Resolving the answer to that question might take several meetings between the two groups.
A TimeControl deployment in this situation might take several weeks to complete most of which is used by the client making process-types of decisions.
Investors get asked a similar question: “When is the best time to invest?” They always answer with: “The best time would be at birth, the second best time would be today.”
Ok, kidding aside, there are some rules about when would be a good time to invest in a timesheet system like TimeControl and they have everything to do with the cost/benefit perspective. If you are an organization of 4 or 5 people, then you probably know what everyone is doing with their time already. Getting the benefits from a formal timesheet system is more complex.
Once you get to a size where that kind of information isn’t as readily available, you’ve got to start thinking of a timesheet. Another way to look at this is to think of where the timesheet data will be used. If you’re going to claim R&D tax credits from the government, then formal documentation of the expenditure of time is a must regardless of your size. So, the value of the tax claim has to be factored into your decision and the return on investment is easy to see.
Same thing goes for those doing formal project management. If your business is such that you need to do better tracking of how the tasks are being progressed, then a formal timesheet system makes more sense.
If you are thinking of your cost/benefit from an efficiency perspective, we’ve created a Return on Investment calculator that lets you factor in some of the cost and benefit numbers and show you the break-even point of going with TimeControl.
The spreadsheet is downloadable by clicking here or by visiting the TimeControl Buyer’s Guide area of our website.
This is a great question and one that is asked all too rarely. Most people don’t even consider that there might be more than one kind of timesheet.
When prospective clients call us and ask about TimeControl, our first question is “What kind of timesheet are you looking for?” The most popular timesheet type is time and attendance.
If all you need to do is collect time for payroll, then this would be right for you. There is a simple time and attendance timesheet available with every major ERP and Finance system in the market today. Payroll systems are less concerned with what did you work on and more concerned with when were you at work?
Next most popular would be a Time and Billing timesheet. For professionals who need to invoice their time, this is critical. It’s not just when were you at work, it’s what client did you do work for and what is the rate we charge you out at for that client and that work? Time and Billing timesheets are less concerned with what tasks were you working on or when you were at work and more concerned with the right rates for the right time and right client.
Project update timesheets are designed to progress tasks planned in the project management system but have less interest in complex payroll rules or invoicing rates.
Flexible timesheet systems like TimeControl are somewhat more rare as they cater to multiple needs at one time.TimeControl can be used for payroll, HR exceptions like sick leave or vacation tracking, billing and project updating all at the same time.
We’re the Swiss Army Knife of timesheets and our motto around here is Semper Gumby (always be flexible). For your own decision, it’s good to determine what the timesheet data could be used for, what systems it could integrate with and, most importantly, avoiding implementing multiple timesheets when one might do.
For more on TimeControl flexibility, visit www.timecontrol.com/features/flexibility.
You certainly can. We released mobile interfaces for TimeControl as part of TimeControl 6.2 in June 2011 to work on your smartphone and tested them with iPhones, Android, Blackberry and Microsoft Mobile devices.
The interface still requires a connection to the Internet and access to your TimeControl (not all organizations allow their TimeControl to be viewed from outside their network). In fact, HMS did extensive research on a mobile version back in 1999 and 2000 for the Palm Pilot. (Remember those?) But the technology we needed wouldn’t catch up for another 10 years.
If you’d like to try TimeControl Mobile right now, you can do so on the TimeControl Trial site. Register for the site at timecontrol.com/free-trial then once you receive your log-in information, point your browser to tc6eval.timecontrol.org/mobile and use the log in information we emailed to you.
You can get more information on TimeControl mobile right here on the website at www.timecontrol.com/features/mobile.
We’ve been updating our Frequently Asked Questions this year but it occurred to us that people who check the Blog for the many technical answers that are included here might not think to look there. So we’ll be cross-posting the FAQs onto the blog here over the coming weeks.
You can see the FAQs at www.timecontrol.com/support/faq and we’ll continue to keep that section of the support database up to date even while we cross-post here.
With the advent of TimeControl version 6.9, Administrators can now configure TimeControl to have timesheets other than a 7 day week. Of course exports from TimeControl could already be of different intervals. It has been common for years to have a weekly integration with the project management system but a bi-weekly link to payroll. Timesheets could now be 14 days long (bi-weekly) or bi-monthly or monthly or quarterly or custom length. But with all that flexibility comes some decision making that has to be done. How long should the timesheet ideally be? We discuss the decision and give some guidance on how to select wisely for your own organization in the white paper “Choosing the Ideal Timesheet Length”. It’s on the TimeControl website at: www.timecontrol.com/pdf/whitepapers/tc6_choosingtimesheetlength.pdf. For a complete list of white papers in the new White Paper Resources area, go to: www.timecontrol.com/resources/whitepapers.