The 5 Best Cloud-Based Payroll Solutions

payday circled on calendar

Online payroll services can make the difficult monthly process of running payroll, calculating, filing and paying taxes a breeze. Cloud-based online payroll services are a secure way to ensure your employees are paid correctly and on time and that your business stays tax compliant.

Our expert research has led us to find the best cloud-based payroll services, with our top picks being Gusto and ADP Payroll. We love Gusto for its simple and well-designed platform as well as being a full-service payroll provider. ADP has been running the payroll game for a long time and offers a dedicated small business solution, making it accessible for those new to running payroll. 

Read on as we break down the best in the business – or if you’re short on time, use our free comparison tool to find the best payroll service for your business. We just need some brief details from you and you’ll be contacted by trusted suppliers with no-obligation quotes. 

Payroll ProviderBest ForPrice (per month)Our Expert Rating 
GustoStartups $39-$149 + $6-12 per person4/5
ADP Payroll Businesses looking to scaleAround $10-$15 per employee4/5
QuickBooks Payroll Businesses looking for a full tax service$22.50-$1253.5/5
DeluxeBusinesses looking for payroll and HR services$39 + $7-$12/employee3.5/5
Wave Businesses already using Wave products$20-$35 + $6/employee3/5


Best for Startups

We love Gusto for its simple and easy-to-use platform. Gusto is a full-service payroll platform without a steep learning curve, so you can get set up pretty quickly. The fact that it doesn’t require you to sign up for a fixed-term contract makes it a great option for startups or those new to payroll services. Because of this, our experts deemed Gusto to be one of the best payroll software for small businesses.

Your payroll can be automated, assuming it stays the same each cycle. Even if you don’t choose automation, you’ll be sent timely reminders to run payroll. You’ll also be sent reminders on any tax updates, ensuring you’re kept up to date with legislation and are staying compliant. You can also run unlimited payroll cycles, meaning you aren’t locked into weekly or bi-weekly payroll runs but can run payroll whenever you like. 

Gusto calculates, files and pays your federal, state and local taxes for you. If you’re moving, Gusto helps you calculate taxes for your new state or country to help you stay compliant. Employees can set themselves up to have easy access to their payslips and W2’s, and can also request an advance on their paycheck without needing to speak to anyone in the business. Even after employees have left, they can still access old payroll information.


  • Unlimited payroll runs
  • Easy-to-use platform
  • One-month free trial


  • Poor customer service

How Much Does Gusto Cost?

Let’s talk numbers:

  • Core – $39 per month plus $6 per person, per month
  • Complete – $39 per month plus $12 per person, per month
  • Concierge – $149 per month plus $12 per person, per month

The Core plan is great for small businesses, but you can easily scale to the Complete plan as your business grows. Concierge is designed for large businesses as it includes HR solutions. 

ADP Payroll

Best for Businesses Looking to Scale 

ADP Payroll is a cloud-based, all-in-one HR platform. A longstanding member of the payroll services industry, ADP has a lot to offer. Alongside payroll services, it also provides hiring solutions which allow you to run background checks, access thousands of job boards, schedule interviews and send out offers of employment. If your business is looking to streamline these tasks and make the hiring process easier, these features could come in handy. 

Plus, ADP offers tons of app integrations to streamline your business’s operations by allowing you to work from one platform. ADP Payroll provides basic payroll services as well as processing your tax deductions, while its integrated HR solutions can automatically add new hires to payroll. 

ADP offers plans that are designed to scale, which means you can adjust the platform and features available to you as your business grows. ADP offers a small business solution, but it can also cater to medium and large businesses. With this platform, you only need to pay for what you need, which means you won’t be wasting money and resources on unnecessary features. The pricing is flexible as you pay per employee, per month which means your costs depend on your business size and you’re not stuck in a contract. 

If you’re after a payroll service that includes HR solutions or you run a small business and need a flexible platform, ADP Payroll could be the right service for your business. 


  • Has a dedicated small-business platform
  • Includes HR solutions
  • Offers app integrations
  • Is a well established solution


  • Pricing is not clear
  • Added cost for a lot of the features

How Much Does ADP Payroll Cost?

For specific pricing information, you’ll need to contact ADP directly and ask for a quote, but you’re looking at around $10-$15 per employee

QuickBooks Payroll 

Best for Businesses Looking for a Full Tax Service

QuickBooks Payroll integrates easily with QuickBooks Online, so it’s a great option if you’re already using that platform – but the payroll service can still be used as a standalone. If you use these two services together, your bookkeeping records and reporting are updated in real time each pay cycle, making it easy for you to share payroll info with your accountant. 

All of QuickBooks Payroll’s pricing plans include full-service payroll, which is rare to find as other payroll providers tend to limit the number of services available depending on how much you’re paying. All of the plans include unlimited payroll runs, automated tax calculations and filing, direct deposit and an employee portal. 

QuickBooks offers a tax penalty protection, which means tax season will be a breeze for you – it offers up to $25,000 if there’s an error in your payroll that leads to a tax penalty. 

Once you’ve set up payroll, you can then set it to run automatically, giving you one less job to do. Your payroll taxes are calculated, filed and paid for you. QuickBooks is designed with small businesses in mind, making it easier for you to concentrate on more important tasks and leaving the mundane ones for your payroll service. 


  • Integrates well with QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Time
  • Offers auto payroll and tax filing and payments
  • Offers tax penalty protection


  • Higher tiers are on the pricier side
  • Features on mobile apps are limited

How Much Does QuickBooks Payroll Cost?

Price-wise, there are three QuickBooks pricing plans available: Core, which is $22.50 per month for the first three months then $45 per month, Premium, costing $27.50 per month for the first three months then $75 per month, and Elite, which will set you back $62.50 per month for the first three months then $125 per month

For a platform designed for small businesses, its pricing can be limiting for some. The Core plan provides all the basics of a payroll service and is not too steep, so this is a good option for startups or businesses on a limited budget. 


Best for Businesses Looking for Payroll and HR Services

Providing tax filing in all 50 states, Deluxe is a simple full-service payroll solution that can cover your payroll and HR needs. As well as payroll functions, you have access to a unique feature called Text to Apply, an easy way for potential employees to apply for your job openings. You can track these applications as well as those from other sources on the Deluxe dashboard. By enabling you to post to the most relevant job boards and social media platforms, Deluxe helps make job postings simpler and more streamlined. 

Once you’ve found the perfect new hire, onboarding is made easy thanks to the onboarding tools available such as customizable forms and federal and state documentation. The platform is intuitive and well-designed, making for a good user experience – although some users have complained that not all of the functionalities work as advertised. 

Customizability is limited with Deluxe, but this is not a huge drawback as it still carries out all the necessary functions for a payroll service. You can process payroll from anywhere in the world from your cell and easily change payroll dates, making it a flexible platform. 


  • Offers digital onboarding and hiring
  • Payroll can be processed from anywhere in the world


  • No free plan
  • Lacks customizability

How Much Does Deluxe Cost?

Deluxe is split into three tiers:

  • Lite – $39 per month + $7 per employee, per month – payroll services with HR features 
  • Blended – $49 per month + $7 per employee, per month – HR platform with no payroll or tax services 
  • All-Access – $39 per month + $12 per employee, per month – everything in Lite + Blended 

Lite may be on the pricier side considering it only provides payroll services, however the All-Access plan is well priced when you take into account how comprehensive it is. 

Deluxe has a lot to offer, including HR features that can streamline your business. But there are some drawbacks, like limited customizability and no free trial. 


Best for Businesses Already Using Wave Products

Wave is a simple payroll platform that’s easy to use and set up. Although it can be used as a standalone payroll service, it’s best when used alongside other Wave products as they work seamlessly together. Wave has free accounting and invoicing software that integrates well with the payroll platform, providing you with a one-stop shop to carry out important processes for your business. 

Wave offers a complete payroll tax service, but it’s currently only available in 14 states (AZ, CA, FL, GA, IL, IN, MN, NY, NC, TN, TX, VA, WA, and WI). In these states, Wave calculates, files and pays your payroll taxes ensuring you stay compliant. If you’re in a state that doesn’t currently receive this full service, Wave attempts to make it easier for you by providing you with the right information such as how much you’ll need each payroll. 

Users have had some issues with Wave’s customer service, as most queries are answered by an automated bot which means it can be hard to resolve an issue quickly. However, Wave does offer a 30-day free trial, which is a great way to test out whether this payroll service is for you. 


  • Easy setup
  • Employee portal
  • Simple, well-designed interface
  • Flat pricing


  • Payroll tax services limited to 14 states
  • Poor customer service
  • No mobile app

How Much Does Wave Cost?

Wave splits its pricing into a full-service tax package and a self-service package. The full-service is priced at $35 per month + $6 per employee + $6 per independent contractor paid. The self-service is $20 per month + $6 per employee + $6 per independent contractor paid.

Our Methodology: How Did We Decide on the Best Payroll Software?

Five researchers carried out in-depth research into payroll software platforms according to a comparison framework designed by our research team leader. For each provider we’ve asked these questions:

  • How much control does it give you over your payroll process?
  • How secure is it? What security measures does it take to protect your data?
  • How much help and expertise does it offer when it comes to taxes and compliance?
  • How scalable is the product? Can it grow alongside your company?
  • How helpful is its customer support offering?

We’ve factored all these questions into our rating system and come out with a ranking of the best payroll software platforms.

Expert Verdict 

Payroll service is an important part of your business and finding the right provider ensures you stay compliant and keeps everything running smoothly. We’ve narrowed down the search for you and, having read our reviews, you should have a good idea of what your business needs. 

Cloud-based payroll services integrate easily with other systems, allow employees to access their own portal and provide automatic updates ensuring you’re always compliant. 

If you still haven’t made up your mind you can use our free quote tool to be matched with the best payroll services for your business. We just need some brief details from you including your business size and the payroll service you’re currently using. You’ll then be contacted with no-obligation quotes from trusted payroll providers. 


What Does Cloud-Based Mean?

Cloud-based simply means that the software is stored on a server away from your premises and can be accessed on the internet, as opposed to being stored physically on a device at your workplace. This is similar to how you might watch a film on Amazon Prime instead of watching it on a DVD. The difference is in how the software is stored. 

Why Should I Choose a Cloud-Based Service?

There are a few reasons why you’d want to opt for a cloud-based payroll service including security, accessibility and flexibility:

  • Employee access – your employees can access their own portal using any internet-connected device. This means they can request time off, update their personal details and view their paychecks and W2s from anywhere
  • Stay compliant – cloud-based software provides automatic updates and can calculate, file and pay your payroll taxes ensuring you’re not risking any tax penalties
  • Flexible pricing – cloud-based payroll services are generally priced per employee, which means you can easily scale up or down depending on the size of your business
  • Security – cloud-based software is secure, ensuring sensitive data and information such as finances and employees’ personal details are kept safe
Written by:
Zara Chechi
Zara is a Payments Expert, specialising in writing about Point of Sale systems. With a Law Degree from City University of London, she has used her legally-honed research and analytical skills to develop expertise in the Business Services world. Featured in FinTech Magazine, she quickly became an expert in payroll, POS systems, and merchant accounts.
Reviewed by:
Heleana Neil, Business Services editor
Heleana Neil specialises in Business Services, managing the strategy and production of content for SMBs, helping businesses with the challenges and opportunities they face today. Covering everything from payroll to payment processing, Heleana uses her expertise to help business owners make better, informed decisions and grow their companies.