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I work in an education reform office in a thrid-world country. My IT skills aren't the best, but they're the best around and I get asked to do a lot of things I don't really have the knowledge to manage.

I'm trying to set up an automated system for requesting, approving, and recording leave (like, vacation time from work). I've had a few ideas, but none of them seem good enough. I'll run them by you. THE CATCH IS THAT WE DO NOT HAVE (and cannot get) A SERVER. More generally, we can't pay for anything.

1) A buttload of gmail filters on a new account. Not too hard to set up, but very difficult to tabulate leave. Is there any good way to go through a bunch of emails and extract data from them? (I.E. create a list of how many leave days each worker has remaining.) I was thinking of using a mail client (thunderbird with IMAP)... but then... can I get data out easily?

2) An open-source tracking program. I was thinking something like http://www.orangehrm.com/ . Problem? Can't host this sucker. At least, I think I can't. I really don't know anything. If we have a website, could I host it? Would it be enough to have a computer running some of the time to provide occasional access?

3) A wiki. This seems like a pretty sweet idea, actually. The idea being that I could create a whole bunch of pages with different permissions. Unfortunately, my limited google skills can only find hosted wikis WITHOUT free custom security (e.g. pbwiki). Bummer. Do you know anything better?

What do you say? Can you fix any of these or suggest a better idea?

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For free wiki site you might try Wikidot for Personal Website / Blog - wikidot.com/learnmore:personal. –  harrymc Oct 14 '09 at 8:45
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4 Answers 4

You could set up Google Docs Form for collecting requests and then in the spreadsheet have a column not on the form for recording whether they are approved or not.

Alternatively, you could use a spreadsheet like this and give everyone access to it.

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Out of curiosity, have you considered getting a cheap, VPS-type server? Slices are available from Slicehost and similar vendors for as little as $10/month.

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Can't do it. That's actually quite a bit of money here... at least, more than our (nearly) bankrupt office can stomach. If there ever is a budget for automating leave, this looks like a great option. Thanks –  Andrew Oct 14 '09 at 8:21
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Tell you what Andrew, since you are working in an Education Reform office, I'll pay for your VPS if you end up thinking that's a solution that would work for you. –  phoebus Oct 14 '09 at 9:26
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Or you can just use one of several I already have up and running. –  phoebus Oct 14 '09 at 9:29
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How about a shared calendar on Google calendar? I admit that it's not really tailored to your task, but it's free, quick to set up, and it should get the job done.

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I was going to suggest WhosOff.com which does exactly what you are asking for, however I just noticed on their web site that they have withdrawn the free edition, so this is no longer an option. There are various other online staff holiday planning tools but they don't have free versions either.

The one I did find and which might do the job for you is Onyaka.com. This is a very simple online staff planner and is completely free. I'm afraid I haven't used it myself so can't give you much information about the functionality.

Another idea, not sure if this would work for you: You could just have a simple spreadsheet where everyone fills in their leave. Use an online document (like Google Documents) then everyone has access to it from everywhere. It's quite basic but should work to track leave time, remaining holiday etc.


Edit: I just stumbled across the following: HR.net lite. This is free for up to 15 employees (not sure how many you have?), includes holday and absence tracking as well as lots of other useful human resources tools. It requires a web server, however if you don't have one then it will install a free open source one. So all you need is a computer (any computer) connected to your network which can be accessed by your employees. As long you don't have more than 15 staff this would be a good and free solution.

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it might be worth the OP contacting the staff of these sites (particularly higher-ups in management), and asking for a donation of their service to his organization. they might be willing to do so for good publicity and potential tax writeoffs. :) –  quack quixote Oct 16 '09 at 15:44
    
Brilliant idea, definitely worth a try. In particular as WhosOff.com offered a free option until recently anyway, which still seems to be running for existing users, it is just closed for new users. They might make an exception, doesn't really cost them anything but might be good PR for them. –  ssollinger Oct 20 '09 at 11:54
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