What is a cloud-based POS system?

By Ben Taylor| 2018-05-02T09:43:01+00:00 August 26th, 2015|Tags: , |

Cloud-based point of sale (POS) is now an extremely viable alternative to a traditional, locally-hosted POS system. It’s a particularly good fit for small businesses, as you’ll see when you read on.

Before we discuss cloud-based POS specifically, it’s useful to consider exactly what a point of sale system is. Essentially, POS is where a customer pays a seller for a product or service. It can take the form of anything from a simple cash register to a computerised system that stores its data on an on-site PC or off site server.

Until fairly recently, most retail businesses would store all of their point of sale data locally, including the prices of items and records of transactions. This data would usually be held on an on-site PC or server (or perhaps a server on a private company network, in the case of large retail chains.)

Now it’s possible to store all this data online (in the cloud). This isn’t just an alternative way of doing things – it in fact provides businesses with a whole host of benefits.

Consider the following:

  • All the data you need to run your firm’s POS is online, and accessible from anywhere with a web connection. This not only means greater resilience for cloud-based POS systems. It also means you can, quite literally, take your POS system with you. This is ideal if you sell products in multiple locations or operate at shows and fairs.
  • The cost of setup is vastly reduced; Many cloud-based POS systems can run on nothing more than an iPad (or other tablet), and even the smallest businesses can get themselves up and running with enterprise-class features for a very small initial outlay (as little as around $50!)
  • The fact your software “lives” on the Internet means it can be updated without any need for engineer visits or on-site upgrades.

How cloud-based point of sale bolts together

A cloud-based POS system can consist of anything from a single iPad running a POS app to a fully-fledged system for a bricks and mortar store, that duplicates all the functionality of a traditional cash register.

This can mean a cash drawer and receipt printer, a machine for taking card payments, and even a stand to hold the iPad. As an example, Shopify allows you to set up a simple POS system with nothing but an iPad, but also sells hardware bundles that allow you to completely recreate the traditional point of sale “checkout” experience – right down to bar code scanners, should you need them.

Not that long ago, a professional point of sale system was a huge investment for a small business, and could sometimes involve complicated setup work and a commitment to ongoing upgrade costs.

Cloud-based technology is a great fit for small businesses. Perhaps you’ve already moved some of your other systems into the cloud – such as your email or your accounting system? Now is a great time to do the same for your point of sale.