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Which Payroll Software Is Best for Your Business?

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Rippling and Gusto are two of the best cloud-based human resources and payroll software options on the market today. They are designed to streamline processes for employee management and business finances, which is an important factor for companies that want to scale their operations.

SEE: Life can be a lot simpler with a payroll processing checklist at TechRepublic Premium

But while these products are both high-performing payroll options and share many similarities, there are also important differences between the two solutions. In this head-to-head comparison of Rippling and Gusto, take a look at each solution’s key features, pricing information and what kinds of users are best suited for the software.

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What is Rippling?

Rippling logo.
Image: Rippling

Rippling is a leading cloud-based HR software suite that offers a variety of functions for employee onboarding, benefits management, time tracking and payroll management. It is ideal for business leaders who are looking for an all-in-one employee management solution.

Rippling offers several tools for setting up and managing employee devices and apps through the cloud. The software also has finance modules to manage and report employee spending. In addition, the Rippling Workflow Automator lets you automate manual processes across systems. Rippling offers custom pricing, with the most basic plans starting out at $8 per employee per month.

Rippling’s plans are easy to customize, and customers can pick and choose which Rippling modules they want instead of being forced into a one-size-fits-all solution. For instance, a business could choose to bundle Rippling’s payroll, technology, HR, and finance modules into one workforce management platform. Alternatively, they could choose to purchase only payroll and HR through Rippling.

Each individual module carries a per-employee fee, with the basic plans starting out at $8 per employee per month. Whether you choose to buy one Rippling module or three, you also need to purchase Rippling’s operating system, Rippling Unity. Rippling Unity costs a monthly base fee that isn’t listed on the company’s website.

What is Gusto?

Gusto logo.
Image: Gusto

Gusto, formerly known as ZenPayroll, is one of the top choices for cloud-based payroll and HR software, with many features that work especially well for small and midsized businesses. Gusto’s main selling point is its full-service payroll processing, which includes automatic paycheck calculation, tax remittance, and direct deposit. It also has an in-house brokerage for businesses that offers health, medical, and dental insurance as an employee benefit.

While Rippling is an all-in-one workforce management solution, Gusto is a payroll and HR software program that’s most suited to businesses with a smaller number of employees. Other top features of Gusto include insights and reporting tools with customizable reports, team surveys, compliance alerts and more. Gusto plans start at $6 per employee per month with a fixed monthly fee of $40.

Rippling vs. Gusto: Feature comparison table

Feature Rippling Gusto
Unlimited payroll runs Yes Yes
Automatic tax filing Yes Yes
End-of-year tax forms Yes Yes
Free trial No No
Third-party integrations Yes Yes
Live phone support No Yes
Native performance management No Yes (with high-tier plans)
Health insurance coverage 50 states 37 states + Washington, D.C.
Automatic direct deposit Yes Yes
Global payroll management Yes (140+ countries) Contractors only

Rippling vs. Gusto: Head-to-head feature comparison

While Gusto is easy to set up and better suited for small businesses, Rippling is a full-service application ideal for larger companies that need a fully integrated system.

Live phone support

Rippling and Gusto both offer support for troubleshooting, initial setup and other professional assistance needed to run the application. Gusto customer service can be reached via phone, chat or email. Rippling, on the other hand, offers chat and email support, but you can’t telephone customer service directly.

Instead, if you can’t resolve your issue through live chat, you can request that an agent transfer you to a virtual call. In the virtual meeting format, you can share your screen with an agent to help them identify and fix any problems with the software on your device.

Performance management

Rippling offers a talent management module with tools that streamline hiring and onboarding. Its HR module also includes features like performance management reviews and reporting. However, Rippling does not offer a native performance management module.

Instead, Rippling integrates with many compatible third-party applications. For larger businesses, this might be the best route, as they likely need specialized performance management tools that are generally not included in HR and payroll software.

In contrast, smaller companies that don’t need extensive performance management will appreciate Gusto’s built-in performance management tools. These include automated workflows for performance reviews, customizable onboarding checklists, employee software provisioning, and more.

Full-service payroll

The strict payroll functionalities offered by Rippling and Gusto are similar. Both companies offer automatic full-service payroll processing, which includes totalling paychecks, making automatic withdrawals for payroll taxes and wage garnishments, remitting payroll taxes to the correct tax bureau, and paying employees via direct deposit.

The key difference is that Gusto offers most full-service payroll tools at no additional cost. In contrast, Rippling customers must pay extra for several payroll-specific features. For instance, Gusto doesn’t charge extra to integrate its payroll software with insurance benefits purchased through its in-house brokerage. With Rippling, health benefits administration is a separate module with its own per-employee fee.

Crucially, though, Rippling offers health insurance coverage in all 50 states. Gusto’s health insurance coverage extends to 37 states plus Washington, D.C.

Customization

Rippling outperforms Gusto when it comes to the potential for customization. For example, customers have a choice to use native Rippling modules or integrate with third-party applications. This allows companies to have greater flexibility as their needs change. In addition, Rippling offers more flexibility in the pricing structure, as customers can choose to purchase each service separately.

Remote device management

Both Gusto and Rippling offer some remote device management functionalities, but Rippling offers particularly advanced features like automatic law compliance and overtime alerts to help businesses manage employees.

Since Gusto is primarily a payroll and HR solution — not a larger employee management system — it can’t be used to remotely manage devices, set up employee software, or manage passwords. However, it does include employee onboarding features and software setup workflows.

Ease of setup

With Gusto, users have a streamlined setup option, allowing them to set up payroll through an easy do-it-yourself video guide or through free assistance from a customer service agent.

With Rippling, you will have to work with an implementation manager who will guide you through the process, which can take three to eight weeks. Rippling does not offer any do-it-yourself options to set up payroll management.

Choosing between Rippling and Gusto

If you are looking for HR and payroll software to optimize your business operations, you can’t go wrong with either Rippling or Gusto. They are quality solutions with intuitive user interfaces and fast navigation. The cloud-based format of both allows for easy scalability and enhanced security.

When it comes to choosing between Rippling and Gusto, it all depends on what your business needs most at this phase in its development and payroll processing workflow. Rippling offers more features across HR and payroll functionalities; however, some of these features are only available in higher tiers of the product. Gusto, on the other hand, is generally a better option for smaller businesses that need simple payroll tools on a smaller budget and without extensive third-party integrations.

The best place to start your software selection process — after researching with product comparison guides, of course — is at the source. Consider reaching out to the Rippling and Gusto teams directly, so you can learn more about the products, hear customer success stories and maybe even get a demo or free trial to determine which payroll software works best for your business.

Read next: Best payroll software for small businesses (TechRepublic)

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