How to Select a POS Computer
The POS computer is the heart of every retail operation, which is why you cannot be too careful when it comes to selecting one. Several factors merit consideration in evaluating different POS computer options. Let’s take a closer look at three such factors and why they are important:
- Frequency of component changes – Some PC vendors change the internal components of their POS computer offerings quite often, which may cause problems for you in the long run. How so? For consistent POS technology performance and best results across all of your stores, your entire system should have the same capabilities. But if you are working on a large-scale, multi-store rollout that extends over a long period of time, you may end up with different POS capabilities in different stores because a new version of your POS computer (and other hardware) has been introduced since you began the rollout process.
Consequently, when investigating POS computer models from various vendors, find out from each one the average amount of time that elapses between one component change and the next one they make. All other parameters (e.g., price, compatibility with peripherals, etc.) being equal, choose the POS computer from the manufacturer that initiates component “switches” with the least frequency.
- Potential to upgrade – With POS and other retail software becoming ever more feature-rich and demands placed on merchants by consumers continually changing, it is more than likely that you will want to migrate to a new software solution sometime down the road. It is also more than likely that accommodating any new software program will necessitate upgrading your POS computer’s memory and/or processing power.
Unless you are willing to replace your POS computer and related hardware when you rip out your old software, ensure that the POS computer you choose can be upgraded. Inquire, also, what an upgrade might entail in terms of time and cost, as well as whether each vendor provides support during the upgrade process and to what extent. This will help you narrow down the options on your short list.
- Features and capabilities – A POS computer and a traditional, general-purpose computer are not the same, and the latter typically does not have the features and capabilities needed in order to use it in a retail environment. For example, a computer that will be pressed into service at the POS needs sufficient USB and serial ports as well as connectivity options. Otherwise, you will be unable to easily integrate such mission-critical peripherals as receipt printers, barcode scanners, and cash drawers with the hardware.
Also, ensure that the POS computer you select has the proper existing CPU speed and enough RAM. Most entry-level POS computers feature at least a 1.8GHz CPU. However, this may not be enough, even if your POS software vendor indicates that it is sufficient. Opt for a POS computer with a faster CPU if the unit you are purchasing will not be your only POS computer of its kind in a given store, or if you intend to run a CCTV/security system on the hardware. As for RAM, most recommendations call for no less than 2GB, but opt for 4GB if you are going to run many other applications at the same time as the POS software.
Finally, be sure to consult your POS software and credit card processing software vendors prior to buying any POS computer. The operating system installed on the any machine you purchase should be compatible with your POS and credit card processing software programs.
Choosing a POS computer need not be a difficult process. Nonetheless, the time and effort needed to consider the above factors and questions will prove to be well spent.