Best VPN Services

Best VPN Services

The pandemic has changed work permanently. Before COVID-19, only 9.8 million (out of 140 civilian workers in the U.S.) worked remotely.

Today, almost 70 million people are working remotely.

Are you working remotely?

If you are, there’s a good chance that you’ll need a virtual private network (VPN).

Small businesses with employees that need to work remotely are also going to need a VPN as well.

Today, we’re going to take a look at VPNs — what they are, why you need them, and how to find the VPN that’s right for you.

The Top 7 VPN Services:

  1. NordVPN Teams — Best new service from industry leader
  2. ExpressVPN — Consumer favorite, best-in-class
  3. Perimeter 81 — Best for small business teams
  4. VyprVPN — Best VPN for speed
  5. SurfShark — Best for the price
  6. Mullvad — Best for anonymity
  7. TunnelBear — Best for beginners

What’s a VPN, and Why Do You Need One? 

A VPN is a private network that’s run through a public network — imagine that a remote worker sitting in Starbucks had an extra-long Ethernet cable. They plug one end into their computer, and the other end directly into their company’s servers at work.

That’s basically what a VPN does; it creates a secure and encrypted tunnel from your computer to a server on the internet.

This is great because it means no one can access the data you’re sharing with your computer and company server. You have privacy and data security.

We’re going to look at seven of the top VPN Services, explaining the pros and cons of each service.

How to Choose the Best VPN Service for You

When you’re looking for a VPN, the first thing you’ll want to do is identify your needs.

What do you want your VPN to do for you?

Beyond privacy and data security, are there other features you need from your VPN?

In general, most people focus their attention on four specific criteria.

Speed and Reliability

If you’re planning on using your VPN for things that require a lot of data or activity, you’ll want to choose a service that’s optimized for speed and reliability.

For those who share large files routinely or stream video consistently, you’ll want to select a VPN that provides unlimited connections, unlimited bandwidth, and high download and upload speeds.

When it comes to speed and reliability, there are factors you control and factors your service provider controls.

Factors within your control include:

  • Improving Wi-Fi stability
  • Using a wired connection (which is always faster)
  • Upgrading your internet connection speeds or your VPN
  • Choosing a VPN service with more servers or servers closer to your desired location.

Factors outside your control include:

  • Number of servers
  • Server load
  • Server location/distance (longer distance = slower speeds)
  • International bandwidth restrictions (i.e., VPNs in Australia are slow due to underwater fiber optic cables carrying a set amount of data at any one time)
  • VPN protocols
  • Complicated peering relationships between networks (also reduces speed)

You’ll want to test your VPN speed so you can verify the claims your provider is making. You’ll need two things to do that — an accurate testing method and a baseline for your tests.

Here are some of the more reliable speed tests you can use to verify your VPN speeds.

Next, run a speed test on the same connection, with and without your VPN. If you’re on Wi-Fi, stay on Wi-Fi for both tests. Run the tests twice to get an average speed. Run your tests using the same VPN server/location you plan on using with your service.

Security and Privacy

VPNs should be secure by default; the VPN service you choose should have the basics of security and privacy protection down.

Here are the most important security and privacy requirements you’ll need to consider when choosing a VPN.

For security:

  • Handshake encryption: This takes place at the beginning of the VPN session where you and the server you’re communicating with exchange private keys that encrypt or decrypt data and messages to acknowledge each other.
  • Authentication: Reputable VPN services will use a hash algorithm to automatically verify the packets they receive, making sure that data from a middleman hasn’t been injected into your packet. They’ll also verify that your data hasn’t been tampered with or changed in any way.
  • Ciphers: This is an algorithm, like AES, that encrypts and decrypts your data in a series of clearly defined steps. Using a key to encrypt your data makes it impossible for unwanted eyes to spy on your data unless they have the specific key that was used to encrypt the message. So the unencrypted message “VPNs made easy” would become “FVWWOluB9rHb5KUtyJYqlA==” using the AES algorithm.
  • Encryption strength: 128-bit AES encryption is faster but less secure; 256-bit encryption is slower but more secure. Stronger encryption is obviously harder to break, so this is more of a priority if you’re focused on security.

For privacy:

  • Activity logs: Many free VPN services track your activity — the websites and pages you visit, files downloaded, etc. These free VPNs sell or monetize your usage activity on their VPN without your permission or knowledge.
  • Connection logs: Other VPN services track assigned IP addresses, connection start/end times, or bytes of data transferred. This typically doesn’t include your data, but it can be combined with other data (i.e., the IP address you used to log into your Slack account) to expose your identity.

If privacy is important to you, you’ll want to stick with log-free VPN services that don’t track your activity or metadata.

Compatible Devices

If you have an iPhone, but you use Windows on your computer, you’ll want to verify that the VPN services are compatible with your devices.

While most VPN services are compatible with the standard platforms (Windows, Mac, Android, Linux, and iOS), some aren’t available on all platforms. The VPN that’s Windows ready may not be available on Android or iOS.

You’ll want to verify that your devices are all compatible before signing up.

Connections

How many devices can connect to your VPN service simultaneously?

The availability of connections tends to vary from service to service. Some providers allow just one; others allow up to three, while others are unlimited. You’ll need to identify what you need ahead of time.

It’s not just connections that you have to worry about, though. You also have to take a look at the availability of countries and the availability of servers.

If you have specific availability needs, you’ll want to verify this with your VPN service provider ahead of time, then confirm this during your free trial or guarantee period.

Other important VPN considerations include: 

  • Payment plans: The cost you’ll pay for VPN services varies considerably, and it depends on the features you choose and the length of your subscription.
  • Customer service: If you need on-demand customer support (in case something goes wrong), you’ll want a VPN service that provides live chat or phone support (which will impact the price). If that’s not as much of a concern, then a provider who offers email support may be a better option.
  • Free trial or money-back guarantee:  If you opt for a service that offers a free trial, you’ll want to choose a service that gives you enough time to try things out. Some VPN services’ free trial period is quite short, which may not be enough time to verify the service on your end. A money-back guarantee is ideal because you have a way out in case their service isn’t what you’ve expected.
  • User friendly or tech-savvy: If you’re not comfortable with setting up and configuring your VPN, you’ll want to make sure you find a provider with a user-friendly interface. Some providers will configure your VPN for you virtually, so everything is done for you ahead of time.

Now that you have all the important considerations spelled out, it’s time to consider which type of VPN service is going to handle the job best.

The Different Types of VPN Services 

It’s important to make a distinction between VPN technology and VPN services.

As we’ve already discussed, a virtual private network boils down to a secure, private connection between your device and endpoint. That is VPN technology.

VPN services, on the other hand, provide a suite of tools that allow companies to take advantage of VPN technology instead of having to set it up themselves.

Using VPN services, you can not only protect your internet connection and guard your privacy but gain access to extra customer service with configuration guides, automatic setup, and live chat support.

Generally speaking, VPN services break down into these four distinct types:

  • Remote Access VPN – Provide a secure connection from a user to a remote server to gain entry to a private network.
  • Intranet-based Site-to-Site VPN – Provide a secure connection for various users in different, fixed locations to connect to each other’s resources. For example: With a site-to-site VPN, multiple local area networks (LAN) can connect to a single wide-area network (WAN). Think of one company with numerous locations sharing resources.
  • Extranet-based Site-to-Site VPN – Difficult to implement, these VPNs are common in large-scale business environments where you are looking for a secure connection between two separate intranets, but you do not want them having the ability to access each other directly. Think of two different companies working together.
  • Cloud VPN – Also known as virtual private network-as-a-service (VPNaaS), is designed for organizations that rely on outsourced cloud data centers instead of in-house infrastructure. A traditional VPN doesn’t work if your organization stores all of your data in the cloud. A cloud VPN allows users to access a company’s resources — applications, data, and files through a website or via a native desktop or mobile app.

As a user looking to secure your privacy and access the internet, or secure business data for your remote workforce, you’re most likely looking for commercial VPN Services.

Let’s take a look at our picks for the top VPN providers.

1. NordVPN Teams — Best New Service from Industry Leader

  • Pricing: $7 – $9 per mo.
  • Number of servers: 5,000+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 response within 3 hrs.
  • Single sign-on: Yes
  • Multi-device support: Yes apps on all devices

NordVPN Teams is a new VPN service from an industry leader. NordVPN is known for its consistent performance, a strong stance on privacy, and aggressive security features. The company is based in Panama, where there are no mandatory data retention laws and no legal obligation to collect your data. It’s also important because Panama doesn’t participate in the five eyes or fourteen eyes alliances.

They don’t track, collect, or share your private data — activity, usage, or metadata. They invited one of the big four auditing firms PriceWaterhouseCoopers AG, to run an industry-first audit of their no logging claims to verify that they’re telling the truth.

NordVPN is one of the few providers that offers double VPN, an advanced VPN security feature that routes your traffic through two VPN servers instead of one, encrypting your data twice.

They provide two-factor authentication and single sign-on, which are standard features for top-tier VPN services. They also provide you with a kill switch, if your connection drops for even a second, the kill switch will cut off all the Internet traffic on your device, ensuring none of your information is exposed online.

For business customers, they provide you with a dedicated account manager that’s assigned to your account.

Your Control Panel enables you to manage user accounts, control permissions, and create gateways. You can oversee user activity, monitor server load, add new users, and create custom teams from inside your control panel.

Pros

  • A trusted brand name
  • Thousands of servers around the world
  • Single sign-on (SSO) functionality
  • Strong on security
  • Apps on all devices
  • Fast speeds
  • Cryptocurrencies and cash accepted

Cons

  • Slow app and server connections
  • Open VPN connection is not user-friendly
  • No split tunneling
  • Shared IP addresses

2. ExpressVPN — Consumer Favorite, Best-in-class 

  • Pricing: $8.32 per mo. (annual), $12.95 (monthly)
  • Number of servers: 3,000+
  • Money back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 live chat
  • Multi-device support: Yes

ExpressVPN doesn’t have a product strictly designed for businesses. They’re consumer-focused, which is great if you’re a sole proprietor or a remote, contract, or freelance worker on your own. Their apps are compatible with almost every device on the usual platforms; they also have apps for nontraditional platforms, including— Linux, Kindle Fire, Chromebook, and even Barnes and Noble’s Nook!

Since they’re consumer-focused, their apps are user-friendly, easy to set up, and simple to maintain. They provide you with all of the standard encryption and security features you’d expect from a top-rated VPN provider. And, they also provide you with some unique features like split-tunneling or using their own DNS servers.

Like NordVPN, they have a no-logging policy as their company is based in the British Virgin Islands. There’s no mandated government surveillance and no data retention laws.

Pros

  • Consumer-focused
  • User-friendly and easy-to-use
  • Apps available on all devices and platforms
  • Strong reputation
  • Top-rated security and encryption

Cons

  • No VPN services for businesses
  • More expensive than their competitors

3. Perimeter 81 — Best for Small Business Teams

  • Pricing: $8/mo. (annual), $10/mo. (monthly
  • Number of servers: 700+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 live chat
  • Single sign-on: Yes
  • # of Users: Minimum of 5 team member

Perimeter 81 is an Israeli-based business VPN service that’s unique because of its Cloud VPN architecture. It’s great for users on multiple devices. You don’t need external legacy hardware or tools. It comes with the business features you’d need to run your remote organization safely in the cloud.

Perimeter 81 is ideal for remote businesses because it protects your business from unexpected mistakes. Their automatic Wi-Fi Security and DNS Filtering features instantly shield your data by automatically activating VPN protection when employees connect to unknown, untrusted networks. According to their website, “All outbound and inbound traffic is encrypted and routed through your dedicated private servers – concealing your company’s actual IP address with an IP mask.”

This protection shields your company from man-in-the-middle attacks and unsecure Wi-Fi networks. Their service keeps your business safe from data breaches, lawsuits due to negligence, and other claims. Employee training is important, but Perimeter protects your employees and your business when they’re working.

They also provide you with the data you need to monitor network activity. You can audit resource access, monitor bandwidth consumption, and detect network anomalies remotely and at any time. All of this is important because more organizations have a “bring your own device” (BYOD) policy in place.

The potential downside to Perimeter 81’s service is access points. As of today, they have 700 public servers in 36 countries. That might sound like a lot until you realize some of their competitors have double or triple that amount in twice as many countries.

Pros

  • Single sign-on (SSO) functionality
  • User friendly and easy-to-use
  • Great for remote businesses
  • Auto-integrated with all cloud providers
  • Secure access to both managed and unmanaged devices

Cons

  • Higher price point
  • Fewer servers than their competitors

4.  VyprVPN — Best VPN for Speed

  • Pricing: $2.50 per mo. (24 mo. plan), $3.75 per mo. (12 mo. plan), $12.95 per mo. (1 mo. plan).
  • Number of servers: 700+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 response within 3 hrs
  • Privacy: end-to-end
  • Multi-device support: desktop and mobile

Owned by Golden Frog GmbH and incorporated in Switzerland, VyprVPN focuses on a few areas — speed, anti-censorship, and privacy. They call their service the “most powerful VPN.” They offer more than 200,000 IP addresses and 700+ servers, across 70 locations internationally.

Their platform resolves speed issues due to ISP bandwidth throttling. It’s common for users to state that their speeds are close to 100% of their original speeds. This is impressive when you realize that they rely on AES 256-bit encryption. They provide users with unlimited switching between servers and protocols without restrictions.

VyprVPN provides some of the same features listed from other providers — kill switch, public Wi-Fi protection, and DNS protection. But they also offer a proprietary technology called Chameleon. In this protocol, VyprVPN scrambles your metadata, so it’s not recognizable via deep packet inspection, but it’s still fast and lightweight. As a result, VyperVPN can bypass restrictions from governments, corporations, and ISPs while fighting censorship and maintaining speed.

VyprVPN also owns and operates their data centers to reduce any risk of a data breach. Other VPN providers route traffic to third-party servers, so they’re not as secure as a service that keeps things in-house. VyprDNS keeps your browsing history private. Their no-logs policy makes a breach unlikely.

Pros

  • Unlimited high-speed bandwidth
  • 70+ server locations
  • Chameleon protocol
  • 5 Simultaneous connections
  • No activity or usage logs
  • Fast customer support
  • VyprDNS
  • Self-owned servers

Cons

  • Fewer servers than bigger competitors
  • Poor speeds in specific regions (EU)
  • Slower connection times in specific regions

5. Surfshark — Best for the Price

  • Pricing: $1.99 per mo. (24 mo.), $5.99 per mo. (12 mo.), $11.95 per mo.
  • Number of servers: 1,700+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 live chat, email tickets
  • Multi-device support: Desktop and mobile platforms

Surfshark is an award winning VPN service that offers incredible value for the price. According to VPNMentor.com, SurfShark is ranked 4th out of 357 VPN services. Their service provides users with 256-bit encryption, double VPN, an automatic kill switch, and a no-log policy.

They’re headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, so like other VPNs in our list, they’re free from the five, nine, fourteen eyes alliances. While they don’t collect usage or connection data, they do collect your email address, password, and basic billing information. If you’d like to avoid sharing this info, you can use cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. They also collect unique advertising identifiers from third parties for marketing purposes and user analytics.

One detail that stands out with Surfshark is unlimited connections. The number of devices that can connect simultaneously, per license is unlimited. This is great if you’re an individual, but it’s also great if you’re running a business. There are no additional licenses or requirements once you’ve signed up. Just set your VPN up, pay for the service, and you’re all set.

Surfshark offers its Adblock VPN that blocks advertising and malware, counters phishing attempts, and boosts browsing speed. They offer premium features like private DNS on each server, camouflage mode to mask activity from your ISP, and Multihop – connecting via multiple countries at the same time to maximize footprint masking and ID protection.

Pros

  • Best value for the price
  • Unlimited connections/devices
  • Built-in ad-blocker
  • Whitelister
  • Private DNS
  • Double VPN
  • No logging
  • Engaged customer support

Cons

  • Medium-sized network
  • Moderately reduced speeds in specific regions

6. Mullvad — Best for Anonymity

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  • Pricing: $5.50 per mo.
  • Number of servers: 315+
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: Email

Mullvad believes privacy is a universal right.

Privacy isn’t the same as security. If you’re looking for a VPN service that will go to extreme lengths to protect your privacy,  Sweden-based Mullvad is at the top of the list. They don’t require an email address or even a password from their customers. The company randomly generates a unique code for your username. You use this code to log in to the desktop apps or add credit to your account. They even allow customers to send cash in the mail to pay for your account!

They want to know as little about you as possible.

Mullvad will store your account number, your counts, paid time remaining, and the number of simultaneous connections that are used by your account. This data is kept in temporary memory, then purged once you log off. They log the total number of current connections for a given server, the bandwidth used per server, and the CPU load per core on each server. None of these items contain personally identifiable information.

Mullvad only offers connections in 38 countries, and they only have 315 servers. They don’t use virtual servers, so your VPN connections are running on physical hardware at the location specified. The speed varies based on your location. If you’re in Europe or North America, speeds are generally good. If you’re in Australia or Asia, the performance is generally much slower.

Pros

  • Privacy-focused
  • Simple and user-friendly
  • WireGuard support
  • More anonymity than most VPN services
  • No affiliates or resellers

Cons

  • Focused exclusively on privacy
  • Slower speeds in certain locations
  • No password protection

7. TunnelBear — Best for Beginners

  • Pricing: Free, $3.33 per mo., $5.75 per user, per mo. for teams
  • Number of servers: 20
  • Money-back Guarantee: 30-day
  • Support: 24/7 email support tickets
  • Multi-device support: Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android

TunnelBear‘s service is designed to be incredibly simple for newbies.

They’re based out of Canada, which is a member of the five eyes, nine eyes, and fourteen eyes alliances. This means data that goes through or is stored in Canada is subject to intelligence agreements —they may be legally forced to share your data. TunnelBear states that they have a no-logging policy, so everything seems okay until you read this in their privacy policy.

“TunnelBear makes good faith efforts to provide you with the ability to delete your Personal Data. However, there may be circumstances in which TunnelBear is unable to delete all your Personal Data.

For example, we are unable to delete it where we are legally required to keep it, including where we need it to continue to offer you the service or if you are involved in litigation with us, we would be required to retain your personal data, which is limited to the fields we discuss above in 1.21.3 and 1.4.”

This data includes your email address, twitter id, paid user designation, operational data, and personal and financial data.

If this isn’t a concern for you or your organization, TunnelBear is a great option for individuals and businesses that want to get started with a VPN but aren’t as knowledgeable as they’d like.

TunnelBear includes the standard features you need to get started with a VPN — AES 256-bit encryption, tunneling (Android only), hashing, and more. Their service is reasonably priced and designed to help inexperienced people get started with a VPN.

TunnelBear is transparent about its service, sharing the results of its independent security audits each year on its website.

Pros

  • Designed for inexperienced users
  • Generally open and transparent about their service
  • Low cost
  • Built for individuals and teams
  • Offers a free plan

Cons

  • May share your data with governments
  • No phone or customer support

Conclusion

Whether you’re a freelancer, an entrepreneur with a small team, or a growing business looking for options, a VPN will provide you with the security and peace of mind you need to keep your remote team connected and working safely.

Your needs are unique, and they’ll dictate which VPN service will work best for you and your business. Weigh the options against your needs for speed, security, privacy, compatible devices and number of connects.

Millions of people are working remotely, and that number continues to grow every day. If you’re not already using a VPN service, now’s a good time to start.

How to Use Print on Demand Services to Grow Your Business

How to Use Print on Demand Services to Grow Your Business

Print on demand can be a convenient, cost-efficient way to get your creations out there. Of course, like anything in business, there are pros and cons to using print on demand.

However, the many opportunities available with print on demand services are almost limitless. Putting your creativity to work, you may find print on demand is a great way to supplement, experiment with, or support your business goals.

What is Print on Demand?

So you have a great new idea. Maybe it’s a new design or a new book.

What if you could get it out on the market without the expensive overhead of a bulk order?

That’s where print on demand comes in. As the name suggests, an item is printed when the demand calls for it. When you or one of your customers orders a product, only then is it printed and shipped out.

A type of dropshipping, print on demand allows you to engage with a third-party seller who customizes a blank item from their inventory of options with your design or personalization. Your customers can place their order through that seller, or you can purchase your products in smaller quantities.  

Print on demand is available for a wide range of items from a variety of vendors. We’ll discuss a few specific vendors below, but here are a few categories of items you can print:

  • Books: Fiction and non-fiction books, e-books, workbooks, notebooks and journals, photo books, coffee table books
  • Apparel: T-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, socks, bibs, kids’ clothing
  • Household Items: Kitchen towels, cushion covers, tote bags, pet products, mugs
  • Office Items: Pens and pencils, notepads, mousepads, thumb drives
  • Paper Items: Posters, stickers and labels, folders, bumper stickers

Create something new. Get it out there quickly. That’s what print on demand is all about.

The Benefits of Print on Demand

Print on demand is a popular revenue stream or marketing strategy for many businesses, and for good reason. Here are a few of the benefits.

Printing on Demand Means Lower Overhead

Rather than purchasing inventory, which often requires large, bulk orders, you can sell items one at a time. That means you only have to pay when an item is actually purchased. Whether you’re starting lean or aren’t sure how popular a product will be, you can keep your overhead low and costs in line with exactly how many you have sold.

There May Be Less Work With Print on Demand

If you want to sell a new product line, you may not want to spend time looking for a new vendor or be responsible for research or shipping. The third-party vendor takes care of the printing and the shipping for you, letting you focus on more product lines or ideas. It’s a great way to get the product out there without a lot of work on your part.

Printing on Demand Often Takes Less Time

We’ve all been there. You come up with a great idea in the middle of the night, and it needs to become a reality the next day. But, you don’t have time to print and gather inventory. Print on demand allows for this kind of spontaneity and flexibility.

You May Face Lower Risk With Print on Demand

Let’s be honest: Not every idea is a winner. Rather than shelling out a lot of money on inventory, putting you on the hook for selling those products, print on demand allows you to test out an idea without putting all your eggs in that basket.  

You may find your customers respond to your design, but only on certain products, but not others. Or they may love the design for a time and then be done. And when they’re done, you can be, too.

With lower risk and lower overhead costs, it’s an option that makes sense in many circumstances.

The Drawbacks of Print on Demand

There are a lot of reasons to turn to print on demand for your next idea, but there are downsides as well. Consider some of these drawbacks before deciding whether this option is right for you.

Print on Demand May Have Lower Profit Margins

In general, print on demand costs more per item than inventory you purchase in bulk. This means you’ll either have to pass these costs on to your customers by charging more or absorb the costs and make less per item. This may not be a problem if this is a supplemental or side project, but it’s worth calculating.

There Are Often Limited Product Options With Print on Demand

When you work with a print on demand vendor, you’re limited to their inventory. Maybe you would prefer that sweatshirt in plum or a more modern style hat? Well, the company doesn’t necessarily have that kind of flexibility. You usually have to just go with what the vendors have available.

You Usually Have Less Control When Printing on Demand

With print on demand, you don’t have much control over the products, including the quality of design, where the product is made, and so on.

For some, this isn’t a big deal. You’re just trying to get the design out there. But for others, this could be a sticking point. You may not want your brand or designs associated with a product you don’t have ultimate control over.

Printing on Demand Means Shipping From Somewhere Else

This can be an issue when it comes to customer service and general follow up. When a customer orders a product from a print on demand vendor, it’s not coming from you—it’s shipped from the vendor.

This means their logo and address are associated with the shipping, and they have control over when it ships and how it’s tracked. But, you may be the one customers will come to when there are problems, not the vendor.

Overall, print on demand could be a great option if you can handle a more hands-off approach. But if you’re the kind of business owner who needs that hands-on touch throughout the process, then you may want to reconsider how well print on demand is going to serve you.

Who Uses Print on Demand Services?

With so many different products available through print on demand and endless customization options, theoretically, just about everyone could use this service to benefit their business.

Here are just a few common groups that leverage print on demand to further their business goals:

  • Content creators, artists, and designers showing off their skills
  • E-commerce business owners expanding their offerings
  • Social media influencers selling merch to their followers
  • Start-ups getting the word out about their brand
  • Growing companies sharing their logo or slogans with loyal customers
  • Nonprofits fundraising for their causes

As discussed above, the best people for print on demand services are creative, fast-moving business owners who want to get a product on the market but don’t want to spend a great deal of time, money, or energy to produce and ship items in-house.

5 Reasons Print on Demand Can Benefit Your Business

If you’re the kind of business owner who’s ready to engage with print on demand services, your wheels may already be spinning with ideas. What can you make next?

Before you dive in, think about the goals you have for this project. Let’s take a look at the many ways you can use print on demand to benefit your business.

Grow Your Audience With Print on Demand

Print on demand allows you to create new products during a specific season or for a niche customer base. You can get the products out to them, practically overnight, and reach an audience you could have missed otherwise.

Use Print on Demand to Advertise Your Brand

Advertising your brand through merchandise can build a small income stream and support your overall marketing efforts by spreading the word about your brand. This is especially useful if your brand is connected with a local market or a specific audience that tends to gather at special events.

Print on Demand Could Increase Your Customer Base

Printing on demand often allows you to diversify your product offerings and reach more buyers. For example, if you offer one-offs or customized products, print on demand can let potential customers who aren’t ready for a larger investment to connect with your brand at a lower price point.

Print on Demand May Level Up Your Image

Many print on demand services, like some discussed below, have been around for a while and built some street cred with buyers. Rather than taking a chance on printing items yourself, leaving customers to wonder about the quality, print on demand lets you engage with popular third-party companies that do the work for you — and make you look good by association.  

Get Immediate Feedback With Print on Demand

Not sure if your next big idea is going to hit it out of the park? Print on demand lets you test the idea among your customer base. In fact, you could create some products using print on demand and send the idea or sample products to your most loyal fans to get their feedback before you spend too much time on it.

Print on Demand Options for Businesses

The options for print on demand are almost as limitless as the ideas you can create for them. However, here’s a short list just to get you started.

(These aren’t in any particular order, and the list is certainly not exhaustive. If you have a favorite print on demand service we haven’t shared, please comment with your recommendations.)

If you already have an e-commerce shop, such as a Shopify site, you may want to look for a print on demand app or integration with your e-commerce platform. This could make creating and listing a seamless experience.

Zazzle

One of the early players in this space, Zazzle has been around for a long time and has built a solid reputation. When you create on Zazzle, you can leverage their expansive marketplace and potentially build your audience there.

Printify

In addition to hundreds of product options, Printify provides state of the art features to make creating and selling more straightforward.

Their Mockup Generator lets you “see” your design on a product before you order a sample. They also have a wide range of integrations with e-commerce platforms.

Lulu

Lulu is a self-publishing platform giving authors and similar types of artists a print on demand option for their creations.

For instance, rather than looking for a traditional publisher to take a chance on your book, you can get it out there immediately with Lulu’s publishing options. You can also build an author platform on the Lulu website.

Society6

Catering to artists and designers, Society6 boasts a range of products from apparel to home decor. They focus on prints and canvases, making it appealing to artists who want to sell reproductions of their work.

Additionally, Society6 actively promotes its artists, highlighting top sellers with a strong aesthetic style.

TeeSpring

TeeSpring encourages the success of its creators through incentives. Working a little differently from other print on demand services, TeeSpring offers you more products to design and sell as your monthly sales increase.

They also have a tiered system that charges less per product as your sales increase, giving you a higher profit margin if your creations succeed. Additionally, TeeSpring has Merch Shelf, a YouTube integration that can further market your products if you qualify for this option.

Conclusion

Print on demand can open several doors for your business and let you explore new ideas in a low-risk environment while reaching a larger niche customer base.

Whether you’re looking for a way to explore a new design, develop a new income stream, build up your side hustle, or jump on a current trend, print on demand could be the answer.

What product are you ready to print on demand?

The Best Payroll Services (In-Depth Review)

The Best Payroll Services (In-Depth Review)

Disclosure: This content is reader-supported, which means if you click on some of our links that we may earn a commission.

What would you do with ten extra hours a month?

You’d probably work on growing your business, right? Maybe you’d spend it creating new marketing campaigns to generate more revenue. Perhaps you’d take half a day off to spend time with your family.

Regardless, the average small business owner spends five hours every pay period running payroll. That adds up to 21 full work-days a year.

But thankfully, that’s not what your payroll process has to look like.

The best payroll services simplify and streamline the process of paying your employees. They automate time-consuming tasks and give HR the tools they need to stay on top of taxes, benefits packages, paid time off, and other payroll factors.

Choosing the right payroll service is important, because they all do things a little differently. Let’s talk about the major features you are looking for and how to evaluate the top services available today.

The 6 Best Payroll Service Options for 2021 

  1. Gusto – Best payroll service for small businesses
  2. OnPay – Most flexible payroll service
  3. Paychex – Best for larger organizations
  4. ADP – Best payroll service with built-in HR
  5. QuickBooks Payroll – Best for QuickBooks integration
  6. Wave Payroll – Most affordable payroll service

How to Choose the Best Payroll Service for You

If you’ve spent some time searching for solutions from Google or asking for peers’ recommendations, you know there are hundreds of payroll companies to choose from.

With so many options, it can feel like a difficult decision.

To help you narrow things down, let’s walk through what to consider as you go through the process.

Number of Employees

Most services charge a set monthly fee plus a small fee per employee. So, it’s essential to consider the number of employees you need to pay.

Some payroll services may limit the number of employees on certain plans while others may forego the per-employee fee altogether. Furthermore, some may also offer features that make it easier to pay many people at once.

You also need to consider whether you’re paying employees or contractors, because the process and fee structure may be different for each role.

Basic Payroll Features

The best payroll services exist to simplify the process of paying your employees. So, every payroll service you consider should have a set of critical features, including:

  • Automatic payroll options
  • Self-service portal for full-time and part-time employees
  • Mobile capability to manage payroll on the go
  • Direct deposit so your employees get paid quickly
  • Automatic tax calculations and withholdings
  • W-2 and 1099 employee management

There are other advanced features you may want to consider as well, depending on what you need. This includes things like HR tools, benefits management, wage garnishments, and more.

Tax Features

Filing tax is a complicated and time-consuming process. It can also result in unfortunate and expensive penalties if you don’t do it right.

Many payroll services offer tax features that simplify the process, like calculating payroll tax to automatically withholding employee income tax.

So, it’s important to choose a payroll service that offers essential tax features to make your accountant’s life easier.

Built-In HR Tools

If you offer benefits to your employees, you need a payroll service that helps you effectively manage things like time off, vacation requests, workers’ compensation, insurance, and more.

Furthermore, services with an employee self-service dashboard make this much more manageable. Employees can log in, update their accounts, request time off, and see an overview of their benefits package.

The cheaper options on this list tend to ditch HR features. So, carefully consider what you need against your budget before making any decisions.

Monthly Payroll Limits

If you have salaried employees or a set payroll schedule, most payroll services are adequate. However, if you pay freelancers or contractors on an irregular basis or run payroll more than twice a month, you need to be careful.

Some services offer unlimited payroll processing, while others limit the number of times you can issue payments every month.

So, carefully consider how often you need to send payments when making your final decision.

Integrations

To further simplify your business processes, it’s crucial to consider the business tools you’re already using to run your business.

It’s important to choose a payroll service provider that integrates seamlessly with those tools. Think about your accounting software, your employee scheduling software, and other essential tools related to payroll.

The Different Types of Payroll Services

There are several different services to consider, depending on your business’s size and your specific payroll needs.

So, before we dive into my top recommendations, I want to talk about the different types and how to decide between them.

1. Hiring someone to do it for you

If you can afford it, hiring someone (either in-house or as a contractor) to run payroll for you is an excellent option. This ensures you find someone who knows how to do it and that they have the time to do it well.

However, you still need payroll software. They may have their own preferences and expertise, which may help you decide which service is right for your business.

With that said, many small businesses don’t necessarily need to hire someone.

The best payroll services make running payroll easy, so anyone on your team can take care of it in a few clicks.

2. Software as a service (SaaS)

The software as a service (SaaS) model means you pay to use the software. Most service providers charge monthly or annually for this, and as long as you keep paying, you get to keep using it.

Most SaaS tools are cloud-based, meaning you can access it from a web browser anywhere.

However, some also offer desktop applications and mobile apps you install on a specific device.

This is the most common type of payroll service and the most convenient to use because you and your employees can access their accounts from any device, anywhere in the world with an internet connection.

All of the recommendations on this list are SaaS payroll services.

3. Enterprise-grade solutions

Most payroll services offer enterprise-grade and industry-specific solutions for large businesses. They come with specialized, custom pricing to match the unique needs of enterprise-grade companies.

A software like this could be a SaaS tool or an on-premise deployment, depending on what you need and the company you choose.

Most businesses don’t need this. But if you manage payroll for a large company or find your current solution limited, it may be a good idea to consider an enterprise solution.

#1 – Gusto Review — The Best for Small Businesses

If you’re a small business looking for a simple payroll service, Gusto is a smart choice. And you’ll be in good company with more than 100,000+ other small businesses around the world.

Gusto makes onboarding, paying, insuring, and supporting employees as easy as possible. And they don’t call themselves a “people platform” for no reason.

They offer the right set of tools and services to make your life (and your employees’ lives) easier.

Running payroll takes just a few clicks, and you can enjoy unlimited payroll runs every month. Need to pay seven different contractors at different times? No problem.

Need to pay the same employees the same wages every pay period? You can set it up to run automatically without you having to lift a finger.

Plus, you get access to a wide variety of features, including:

  • Automatic tax calculations
  • Built-in time tracking capabilities
  • Health insurance, 401(k), PTO, workers’ comp, and more
  • Compliance with I-9’s, W-2s, and 1099s
  • Employee self-service onboarding and dashboards
  • Next-day direct deposits (on specific plans)

And the best part? It’s affordable.

If you don’t have W-2 employees, Gusto starts at $6 per contractor per month. But if you do have full-time or part-time employees, expect to pay a bit more. Their other paid plans include:

  1. Basic — $19 per month + $6 per person per month
  2. Core — $39 per month + $6 per person per month
  3. Complete — $39 per month + $12 per person per month
  4. Concierge — $149 per month + $12 per person per month

Gusto is perfect for most startups and small businesses. But, large companies with complex benefits packages and hundreds of employees may find it limiting.

Get started with Gusto today!

#2 – OnPay Review — The Most Flexible Payroll Service

If you’re looking for an all-in-one payroll system with transparent pricing and virtually unlimited flexibility, OnPay is an excellent choice.

Whether you’re a small company or a fast-growth startup, OnPay is versatile enough to suit your needs. Plus, you never have to guess how much you’re going to pay every month with their transparent pricing.

And you can rest easy knowing you have access to every feature OnPay offers regardless of the number of employees you have because they only provide one pricing plan.

Their software includes access to powerful features, including:

  • Unlimited monthly payroll runs
  • W-2 and 1099 capabilities
  • Automatic tax calculations and filings
  • Employee self-service onboarding and dashboards
  • Intuitive mobile app for management on the go
  • PTO, e-signing, org charts, and custom workflows
  • Integrated workers’ comp, health insurance, and retirement
  • Multi-state payroll

Plus, getting started is super easy. All you have to do is set up your account, add your employees, and start running payroll. Furthermore, OnPay automatically calculates and withholds taxes so you don’t have to worry about manual calculations or human error again.

They also offer specialized solutions for different industries, including nonprofits, restaurants, and farming/agriculture.

OnPay is $36 per month plus $4 per person per month. So, you can add new employees to the software for just a few dollars, making it excellent for fast-growing companies and small businesses alike.

And while OnPay can handle large companies with hundreds of employees, there are better enterprise options available. It’s most suitable for small businesses and fast-growth companies that need simple pricing and flexibility.

Try OnPay free for 30 days to see if it’s right for you!

#3 – Paychex Review — The Best for Larger Organizations

Paychex is an excellent choice for businesses with more than 50 employees. They also offer low-tier plans for small businesses, but they’re quite limited compared to the other small business options on this list.

However, their midsize to enterprise plans are perfect for large companies.

The larger your business is, the worse small discrepancies and human errors affect your tax calculations. And wrong tax filings equal harsh penalties from the IRS, even if it was an accident.

So as a large company, it’s imperative to have a payroll service that adapts to meet your needs. Paychex is more than a payroll service. It’s a human capital management (HCM) system designed to help you save time and reduce errors.

Their enterprise plans include features like:

  • Recruiting and onboarding
  • Performance and learning management
  • Powerful real-time analytics
  • 100% employee self-service
  • Payroll automation features
  • Direct deposit, paper checks, and paycards
  • Salary, hourly, and contract workers
  • Paycheck garnishments
  • PTO and benefits management
  • Job costing and labor distribution

All of which are scalable for enterprises with thousands of employees (or as little as 50). Plus, Paychex services more than 650,000+ companies and has more than 50 years of experience in the industry.

So, you can rest easy knowing you’re in good hands.

With that said, getting started isn’t as easy as it is with some of the other options on this list. Because each deployment is tailored to your business, you can’t get going on your own. However, they do offer a team of specialists to help you get the ball rolling.

Contact their sales team for a custom quote to get started!

#4 – ADP Review — The Best for Built-In HR Features

ADP is the way to go if you’re looking for a payroll service with the most built-in HR features. It’s perfect for smaller companies without an HR department and growing/large companies looking to streamline the process.

ADP works with more than 700,000 businesses in 140+ countries, making it one of the most popular payroll services for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

They offer tailored solutions for small, midsize, and enterprise businesses, so you’re sure to find the perfect solution whether you have five employees or 1000+.

Their lower-tiered plans include basic payroll features like automatic tax calculations, employee self-service tools, a mobile app, PTO management, and complete compliance support.

However, ADP offers more than just basic payroll and HR. They also include time tracking, talent recruitment, HR consulting services, advanced employee benefits, and the option to outsource your entire payroll/HR department.

You can also get unique benefits, like personalized training, legal assistance, background checks, and interview scheduling too.

Furthermore, ADP offers industry-specific solutions for nine different industries, including:

  • Restaurants
  • Construction
  • Healthcare
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Nonprofits

Note: ADP pricing isn’t available online, so it may not be suitable for micro or small businesses interested in getting started quickly. If you need something fast and straightforward, my #1 recommendation is Gusto.

Request a free quote to see if ADP is right for you today.

#5 – Quickbooks Payroll — The Best for QuickBooks Integration

Quickbooks Online is one of the most well-known accounting tools on the market. And if you’re already a user, QuickBooks Payroll is an excellent addition to your tech stack.

The two tools integrate seamlessly, making account reconciliation and tax season a breeze.

Furthermore, QuickBooks’ payroll system works in all 50 states. So, whether you have a remote team or work with contractors across the country, you don’t have to worry about making errors or mishandling taxes.

You can also rest easy knowing your federal, state, and local taxes are automatically calculated plus paid for you every time you run payroll. Plus, the entire process is easily automated after your first round of payments.

With QuickBooks, you get a full-service payroll system regardless of the plan you choose.

And the user interface is aesthetically pleasing with direct deposit payments landing in your employees’ bank accounts within 24 – 48 hours.

The Core Plan starts at $45 per month, plus $4 per employee per month. It includes:

  • Full-service payroll with unlimited runs
  • Automatic payments after the first run
  • Health benefits
  • Wage garnishments
  • Next-day direct deposit
  • 24/7 live chat support
  • All 50 states

So, even their most basic plan includes everything you need to simplify your HR and payroll processes.

But if that isn’t enough, their advanced plans include:

  1. Premium — $75 per month + $8/employee per month
  2. Elite — $125 per month + $10/employee per month

Get 70% off your first three months to take QuickBooks Payroll for a test drive today!

Note: 1099 contractors and freelancers aren’t included. It comes as an add-on with additional monthly fees. So, this isn’t the most affordable choice if you frequently handle contractors or freelancers.

#6 – Wave Payroll Review — The Most Affordable Payroll Service

If you’re on a tight budget, Wave Payroll is an affordable payroll option. Wave also offers numerous other small business tools for free, including invoicing, accounting, and receipt management.

The different apps integrate seamlessly to create an affordable small business accounting and payroll solution.

With Wave, getting started takes just a few minutes, and running payroll goes even faster. Plus, they offer a 100% accuracy guarantee. You can also pay hourly, salary, and contractors and automatically generate the right tax forms.

In some states, Wave automatically files and pays your state/federal payroll taxes for you. However, in those states, Wave’s services are more expensive.

You also get access to features, like:

  • Automatic journal entries (if you use Wave Accounting)
  • Self-service pay stubs and tax forms for your employees
  • Workers’ compensation management
  • Basic payroll reporting
  • Automatic year-end tax forms
  • Timesheets for PTO and accruals

While Wave is one of the most affordable payroll services, it doesn’t sacrifice functionality and essential features. Despite being cheaper than the other options on this list, you still get all the essentials you need to run payroll for your small business.

In tax service states, Wave is $35 per month + $6 per contractor/employee per month. This service isn’t necessarily cheaper than the other options on this list.

But, it’s still a great option if you’re a small business owner looking for a simple payroll solution.

However, it’s $20 per month + $6 per contractor/employee per month in self-service states. At this price, it’s easily the cheapest option with the most features available.

And don’t forget that Wave Payroll seamlessly integrates with Wave’s free accounting and invoicing software as well.

So, if you don’t yet have accounting software, this is a smart choice.

Try Wave Payroll free for 30 days to see if it’s right for you and your business!

Summary

For most users, Gusto and OnPay are my top recommendations.

They’re all excellent for small and fast-growth businesses with the ability to scale to match your needs. Plus, they’re affordable and easy to use.

However, different businesses require different solutions.

So, don’t forget to use the considerations we talked about as you go through the process of choosing the best payroll services for your business.

What payroll services do you prefer?