Q: My POS system needs to be replaced so I’m evaluating the different options. Things have changed since I first bought my POS, what do you think of the iPad-based systems?

The newer versions of iPad or tablet POS are widely considered ‘Cash Register Version 3.0.’ First was the clunky cash register, providing a cash drawer but little data; then came the bulky and expensive POS systems producing great tracking and plenty of paper reports to go along with them; and now the new tablet POS. The emergence of cloud computing spurred the possibility of these POS systems to be deployed as software’s a service, which can be accessed directly from the Internet. Cloud-based tablet POS systems give companies instant centralization of data, 24/7 access to data from anywhere with Internet access, ease of deployment and training, and lower costs.

A full-blown POS system will average $10,000-$20,000 depending on the provider and the number of terminals. A good chunk of that money goes to wiring, hardware and professional services. A new tablet-based POS system will cost around $1,000-$5,000, while professional services have been lower due to the ease of installation and training. You will pay a monthly fee on top of this, ranging from $49 to $275.

The question is not whether these tablets are the new POS, but rather, when to purchase one. The technology is evolving and is in the early adopter stage.

Tablet technology should mature within the next 10 years, with the majority of companies using the technology. This is a decision point as the technologies the technology is newer, and the newer the technology, the riskier it can be. Those who purchase now are early adopters and have challenges to overcome.

Most of the new systems are wireless and offer cloud-based storage. There are some things to keep in mind when purchasing one of these new wireless solutions:

Make sure to have strong and reliable wireless service.
If the internet runs into interference or goes down, performance can suffer. If there is heavy interference in your space, you’ll need extra wireless access points to deliver a good strong signal between work areas. This is one area to overbuild since POS has an impact on service to the guest and employee. Wireless channels are shared, and you’ll want to make sure you get more than your fair share with a robust wireless connection. Find the fastest, most stable connection available to minimize downtime.

Understand processing charges.
Although processing charges may be very transparent in tablet-based POS systems (generally a flat percentage of the transaction), you may offset some of the reduced system costs with higher processing fees. Your ability to negotiate these fees or find a better deal on processing may be limited.

Ensure sure your network is secure.
If you offer Wi-Fi to your guests, ensure it’s on a network that is separated from the network where the POS is located. Limit guest access to reasonable speeds to prevent one user from using a disproportionate amount of bandwidth and limiting the rest of the guests in your location. Also, emphasize security with employees so they do not use other publicly available networks to process sales transactions.

The most important factor in making a decision to use a tablet-based POS system is choosing the right company and support behind the software.
There has been an influx of new companies in this space pushing to acquire market share, many of which have little-to-no previous experience supporting a POS. Some systems are being pulled out as fast as they went in – wasting time and money. Choose a provider with an established POS solution and a proven track record of deploying, supporting and upgrading POS systems. There’s no substitute for established providers, as they have a migration path that has been thought out and tested for years, and in some cases, decades.

For more information on improving profitability and driving sales, contact AMP Services at rbraa@ampservices.com. Rick Braa is the founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing in helping companies grow profitability.