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Even a lighter database like Microsoft Access will slow to a crawl over time if the problem of database bloating is not foreseen and managed by the system automatically. Therefore, the need to do extensive testing, debugging and improvisation of solutions to preempt failure of a database before commercialization further complicates the development.
POS system accuracy is demanding, given that monetary transactions are involved continuously not only via the sale window but also at the back-end through the receiving and inputting of goods into the inventory. Calculations required are not always straightforward. There may be many discounts and deals that are unique to specific products, and the POS machine must quickly process the differences and the effect on pricing.
There is much complexity in the programming of such operations, especially when no error in calculation can be allowed. It should enable a user to adjust the inventory of each product based on physical count, track expiry of perishable goods, change pricing, provide audit trail when modification of inventory records is performed, be capable of multiple outlet functionality, control of stocks from HQ, doubling as an invoicing system, just to name some.
It is clear that POS system is a term that implies a wide range of capabilities depending on the end-user requirements. POS system review websites cannot be expected to cover most let alone all the features; in fact, unless one is a developer himself, it is unrealistic to expect the reviewer to know all the nuts and bolts of a POS system.
For instance, a POS system might work smoothly on a test database during the review but not when the database grows significantly in size over months of usage. And this is only one among many hidden critical functionality issues of a POS system.
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Vendors and retailers are working to standardize development of computerized POS systems and simplify interconnecting POS devices. OPOS was first released in There are also nearly as many proprietary protocols as there are companies making POS peripherals.
Most POS peripherals, such as displays and printers, support several of these command protocols in order to work with many different brands of POS terminals and computers. The design of the sale window is the most important one for the user. This user interface is highly critical when compared to those in other software packages such as word editors or spreadsheet programs where the speed of navigation is not so crucial for business performance. For businesses at prime locations where real estate comes at a premium, it can be common to see a queue of customers.
The faster a sale is completed the shorter the queue and hence the more room available in a store for customers to shop around and employees to do their work. High-traffic operations such as grocery outlets and cafes need to process sales quickly at the sales counter so the UI flow is often designed with as few popups or other interruptions to ensure the operator isn't distracted and the transaction can be processed as quickly as possible.
Although improving the ergonomics is possible, a clean, fast-paced look may come at the expense of sacrificing functions that are often wanted by end-users such as discounts, access to commission earned screens, membership and loyalty schemes can involve looking at a different function of the POS to ensure the point of sale screen contains only what a cashier needs at their disposal to serve customers.
The advent of cloud computing has given birth to the possibility of POS systems to be deployed as software as a service , which can be accessed directly from the Internet using any internet browser. Using the previous advances in the communication protocols for POS's control of hardware, cloud-based POS systems are independent from platform and operating system limitations. A number of POS companies built their software specifically to be cloud-based. Other businesses who launched pres have since adapted their software to evolving technology.
Cloud-based POS systems are different from traditional POS largely because user data, including sales and inventory, are not stored locally, but in a remote server. The POS system is also not run locally, so there is no installation required. Depending on the POS vendor and the terms of contract, compared to traditional on-premises POS installation, the software is more likely to be continually updated by the developer with more useful features and better performance in terms of computer resources at the remote server and in terms of lesser bugs and errors.
Other advantages of a cloud-based POS are instant centralization of data important especially to chain stores , ability to access data from anywhere there is internet connection, and lower start-up costs.
Cloud based POS requires an internet connection. For this reason it important to use a device with 3G connectivity in case the device's primary internet goes down. In addition to being significantly less expensive than traditional legacy point of sale systems, the real strength of a cloud based point of sale system is that there are developers all over the world creating software applications for cloud based POS. Cloud based POS systems are often described [ by whom?
A number of noted emerging cloud-based POS systems came on the scene less than a decade or even half a decade back. These systems are usually designed for restaurants, small and medium-sized retail operations with fairly simple sale processes as can be culled from POS system review sites. It appears from such software reviews that enterprise-level cloud-based POS systems are currently lacking in the market.
It can also mean that the system—software and cloud server—must be capable of generating reports such as analytics of sale against inventory for both a single and multiple outlets that are interlinked for administration by the headquarters of the business operation. POS vendors of such cloud based systems should also have a strong contingency plan for the breakdown of their remote server such as represented by fail-over server support.
Point of sale
However, sometimes even a major data center can fail completely, such as in a fire. However the on-premises installations may not have the most up-to-date inventory and membership information. For such contingency, a more innovative though highly complex approach for the developer is to have a trimmed down version of the POS system installed on the cashier computer at the outlet. On a daily basis the latest inventory and membership information from the remote server is automatically updated into the local database.
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Thus should the remote server fail, the cashier can switch over to the local sale window without disrupting sales. When the remote server is restored and the cashier switches over to the cloud system, the locally processed sale records are then automatically submitted to the remote system, thus maintaining the integrity of the remote database. Although cloud-based POS systems save the end-user startup cost and technical challenges in maintaining an otherwise on-premises installation, there is a risk that should the cloud-based vendor close down it may result in more immediate termination of services for the end-user compared to the case of a traditional full on-premises POS system where it can still run without the vendor.
Another consideration is that a cloud-based POS system actually exposes business data to service providers - the hosting service company and the POS vendor which have access to both the application and database. The importance of securing critical business information such as supplier names, top selling items, customer relationship processes cannot be underestimated given that sometimes the few key success factors or trade secrets of a business are actually accessible through the POS system.
This security and privacy concern is an ongoing issue in cloud computing. The retail industry is one of the predominant users of POS terminals.
It can also include a conveyor belt , weight scale, integrated credit card processing system, a signature capture device and a customer pin pad device. While the system may include a keyboard and mouse, more and more POS monitors use touch-screen technology for ease of use, and a computer is built into the monitor chassis for what is referred to as an all-in-one unit. All-in-one POS units liberate counter space for the retailer. The POS system software can typically handle a myriad of customer based functions such as sales, returns, exchanges, layaways, gift cards , gift registries, customer loyalty programs, promotions, discounts and much more.
POS software can also allow for functions such as pre-planned promotional sales, manufacturer coupon validation, foreign currency handling and multiple payment types. The POS unit handles the sales to the consumer but it is only one part of the entire POS system used in a retail business. Customer information may be stored for receivables management, marketing purposes and specific buying analysis. Many retail POS systems include an accounting interface that "feeds" sales and cost of goods information to independent accounting applications. A multiple point of sale system used by big retailers like supermarkets and department stores has a far more demanding database and software architecture than that of a single station seen in small retail outlets.
A supermarket with high traffic cannot afford a systemic failure, hence each point of sale station should not only be very robust both in terms of software, database and hardware specifications but also designed in such a way as to prevent causing a systemic failure - such as may happen through the use of a single central database for operations.
At the same time updating between multiple stations and the back end administrative computer should be capable of being efficiently performed, so that on one hand either at the start of the day or at any time each station will have the latest inventory to process all items for sale, while on the other hand at the end of the day the back end administrative computer can be updated in terms of all sale records. This gets even more complicated when there is a membership system requiring real-time two-way updating of membership points between sale stations and the back end administrative computer.
Retail operations such as hardware stores lumber yards , electronic stores and so-called multifaceted superstores need specialized additional features compared to other stores. POS software in these cases handles special orders, purchase orders, repair orders, service and rental programs as well as typical point of sale functions.
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Wireless devices, battery powered devices, all-in-one units, and Internet-ready machines are typical in this industry. Recently new applications have been introduced, enabling POS transactions to be conducted using mobile phones and tablets. According to a recent study, mobile POS mPOS terminals are expected to replace the contemporary payment techniques because of various features including mobility, upfront low cost investment and better user experience. In the mids, the blind community in the United States engaged in structured negotiations to ensure that retail point of sale devices had tactile keypads.
Without keys that can be felt, a blind person cannot independently enter her or his PIN. In the mids retailers began using "flat screen" or "signature capture" devices that eliminated tactile keypads. Blind people were forced to share their confidential PIN with store clerks in order to use their debit and other PIN-based cards. The blind community reached agreement with Walmart, Target, CVS and eight other retailers that required real keys so blind people could use the devices.
Early stores typically kept merchandise behind a counter. Staff would fetch items for customers to prevent the opportunity for theft and sales would be made at the same counter. Self-service grocery stores such as Piggly Wiggly , beginning in , allowed customers to fetch their own items and pass the point of sale on the way to the exit.