SurePayroll is a convenient way for small white-collar businesses to pay their workers. Since it's entirely Web based, you don't have to download and install any software, and you can manage payroll from any Internet-connected computer--handy for on-the-go bosses. Its interface, designed for business owners who aren't accounting pros, is a breeze to navigate, although we'd like to see more context-specific help in some sections. Competitor PayCycle automatically e-mails you when payroll checks and tax payments and forms are due. But SurePayroll file and pays taxes electronically for you, so your business doesn't have to fill out and send tax forms. SurePayroll also offers better security and more direct-deposit options than the less expensive PayCycle. On the downside, SurePayroll lacks a tip-allocation system--essential for restaurants--as well as a time and attendance interface that would help blue-collar shops track hourly workers. That said, SurePayroll is great for small companies with straightforward payrolls; however, restaurants and construction companies may prefer PayCycle. With pricing in mind, PayCycle makes more sense for businesses with a handful of employees, and SurePayroll for those with up to 100 people. Since SurePayroll lives online, you won't have to install any software. Simply go to the company's Web site and sign up. You'll have to manually input company and employee information such as names, addresses, social security numbers, and bank account data for direct deposit. Unfortunately, like rival PayCycle, SurePayroll can't automatically import these details from accounting programs such as. If typing sounds tedious, you can fax this information to SurePayroll, which will input it for $150.
The SurePayroll interface is well structured and easy to navigate. Five tabs line the top of the screen--Account Center, Payroll, Reports, Employees, Company--and make it a snap to jump to any section of the program. A left-side column displays a list of tools that varies according to the task at hand. In the Company section, for instance, it shows links to Deductions, Benefits, and other company-related topics.
First-timers will appreciate Payroll 101, a handy tutorial that provides step-by-step instructions for getting your payroll up and running. The tour is self-explanatory: On the Payroll Entry screen, for instance, clearly labeled boxes make it a no-brainer to enter regular hours, overtime, extra pay, and so on. However, we think that a payroll wizard should walk you through the payroll process. SurePayroll is designed for white-collar businesses with up to 100 employees, and it best suits shops with straightforward payrolls, such as a salaried or hourly staff with direct-deposit bank accounts. You'll have to cut paper checks with your own printer for employees who get paid the old-fashioned way. Unfortunately, SurePayroll lacks some features in PayCycle that are essential to blue-collar businesses, such as a time and attendance interface for handling multiple pay rates. Also missing is a way for restaurants to track tips.
Then again, SurePayroll can claim several advantages over PayCycle. Staffers can log in individually to access their pay history, 401(k) totals, and other personal details. Even better, they can't access sensitive coworker or company facts. Don't try this with PayCycle, which allows only see-everything boss access.
Both payroll competitors offer 128-bit encryption and regular backups on their secure servers, but SurePayroll's security is better. For instance, when we logged out of SurePayroll and hit the browser's Back button, we were safely escorted to the login page. But when we logged out of PayCycle, it returned us to the last-displayed payroll page, complete with sensitive data. SurePayroll also lets you route direct-deposit funds to up to three bank accounts per employee, to serve workers who want to, say, automatically split their paycheck between a personal account and shared family accounts. PayCycle, on the other hand, lets you route funds to two accounts per employee.
Then again, SurePayroll costs more than PayCycle--a big deal for start-ups guarding every penny. With a biweekly payroll, for instance, SurePayroll charges $28.95 per payroll plus $1.75 per employee. For a five-employee office, that's close to $70 per month, including tax-filing and deposit-deposit fees; PayCycle offers a comparable service for only $40 per month. SurePayroll generously provides free phone and e-mail support. Its phone-help hours are weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. CT. Our Monday morning and Friday afternoon calls were answered promptly, with no wait times at all, and SurePayroll's support staff was polite and professional. Our e-mail queries were answered within 24 hours, and one reply arrived in less than an hour. On the other hand, the skimpy online help could be better integrated with the payroll interface. On the Company screen, for instance, we'd like to see pop-up definitions for tax-related terms such as FUTA Status because many small-business owners won't know such accounting acronyms (FUTA stands for Federal Unemployment Tax Act, by the way).