Anyone that has ever spent time working in a restaurant knows the panic and wide-eyed nervousness that accompanies the phrase ‘the POS software is down!’
As someone that grew up in a restaurant family and worked my way through college in various dining settings, merely writing that phrase sends chills down my spine. I still remember the way crashes used to send the kitchen and the front of the house into a frenzy – and how they never seem to happen at 2:30 pm on a sleepy Tuesday. Nope, these crashes made their ugly appearance at 7:00 pm on a busy Friday night, with a full line of hungry diners spilling out onto the sidewalk. All of whom seemed to sense the attendant anxiety. As you can imagine, my tips and the restaurant’s takings were not good on those nights.
The Problem(s) with old POS Software
Most restaurants have spent the last few decades fighting with old-fashioned, server/client, Windows-based computer systems. The need for a computer server to store data locally and cables to connect this server to the front of the house registers made these systems expensive to purchase and install. And the sheer number of moving parts made them prone to break, especially in fast food preparation and service environments filled with liquid and flying elbows. The kicker? If you wanted help with fixing – or even just using the system – you were expected to pay $150 for a phone call with your service provider. So, you’d end up in a farcical situation where a restaurateur would be trying to fix a complicated piece of technology, trying to save $150, all the while costing himself far more in lost sales.
Maybe that’s why server/client Windows-based POS systems are now seen as a dying breed.
Enter the Cloud
While the notion of cloud computing isn’t a new one, its stronghold in the technology world’s collective conscious is, with Apple, Google, Salesforce, Dropbox, and others all making the concept increasingly well-understood and popular.
In essence, cloud-computing takes the hardware and software you used to have to buy, install, and maintain yourself and makes it available as a service, like a utility that you simply access online and pay for as required. Hence the expression Software-as-a-Service. It makes your local server a thing of the past, as all your data is now stored in a secure data center somewhere in, let’s say, Idaho. You can access great business apps like POS Software, loyalty, employee scheduling, sales management and more online without ever having to actually buy the software.
Still have questions about cloud computing? Here’s a great intro video by Salesforce:
1. Data Storage
With cloud-based POS software, your data (all your sales, customer emails, tax information, and more) is stored in a secure, off-site data center. That means that you don’t have to worry about your data being lost because your systems crashed, your electricity went out, or simply because you dropped marinara sauce on your server. What’s more is this kind of storage is infinitely and quickly scalable, so storing more data is as simple as clicking a button to access more storage.
2. Data Access
Small and growing business owners often spend absurd amounts of time in their shops. Being able to keep an eye on your store from your phone or laptop while on a train, stuck in traffic, or while having a glass of wine on the couch gives the owner the freedom to do other things in life while still maintaining control of their business. The best POS Software even comes with data reporting apps for your smartphone, so you can keep your finger on the beating pulse of your business.
3. Easy Installation
The days of having to rely on a consultant to come out and install your POS Software are over. Nowadays you can download an app, sign up online, and input all of your inventory and prices. Again, scaling with the cloud is simple too. Want another register? Just buy an additional tablet and download the relevant app.
4. Cost Effective
Cloud computing has also disrupted the traditional business model of POS providers. Old fashioned, legacy POS companies relied heavily on selling hardware and software for high one-off costs and then avoiding a long-term relationship by charging for any additional support or involvement. Cloud providers, in contrast, charge a much lower monthly fee and make hardware much more readily and cheaply available.
5. Free Support
As a knock on effect of that business model change, cloud-based POS providers tend to offer much better customer support. At ShopKeep, for example, we know we need to earn your business every single day, so we make sure to provide industry-leading, award-winning customer care.
6. Integration with other Apps
One of the most overlooked benefits of the cloud is the way it makes it easier for small business owners to integrate their POS Software with other software providers, such as accounting software (e.g., QuickBooks or Xero), loyalty programs, or email marketing software.