The various different physical components of a POS system are called hardware. Scanners, computers, touch screens, and check readers are all hardware components. The type of hardware you buy should be determined by the software program you use. POS equipment can get expensive, so a well-researched purchase is key.
All POS systems have a computer as central hub or unit that links to other terminals or registers. You usually purchase this computer as part of the system, rather than using an existing office computer. A POS system requires a steady power connection, so it’s a good idea to devote one specific machine to the function of POS computer.
This computer will be linked to any other terminals that process transactions. The main computer is usually in the back office of a retail or service business. If your system will accept credit cards, the computer itself can be linked to your merchant services account to process batches of transactions at the close of each business day. The power connection between the central computer and other terminals will need to remain steady in order for the system to function properly. You may need to devote a specific circuit or power supply strictly to the system. This can be an important concern for restaurants, as appliances and heat tend to disrupt power supply and impair system functioning.
The central computer and dedicated power supply are the only necessary hardware components of the system. If you choose to purchase other hardware, make sure it is compatible with your software choice first. The following are some additional hardware components used by businesses:
Terminal that use keyboards will usually also have a display screen, like a computer monitor. An employee will input the sales information using the keyboard, totaling the sale and printing a receipt for the customer. Keyboards are common in service businesses such as repair shops or hair salons, where there are a variety of products and services that can be specified on a receipt. A keyboard can be a standard (“qwerty”) model or customized to have certain keys denote certain product offerings. Most retail stores keyboards to input sales.
Keyboards are a lower-cost option to touch screens for a business with a set amount of products or services. A standard keyboard usually costs up to a hundred dollars, while customized models can cost several hundred or more.
Touch screens are usually used by businesses that have a limited number of product offerings, like restaurants. Businesses with a high number of employees and sales that need to process transactions quickly can benefit from using a touch screen.
Employees can use touch screens to input sales information quickly and free of error. Most restaurants and movie theaters use touch screens, making sales easy and quick for employees to process. There are several different types of touch screens, but the most popular are LCD, which stand up well to the wear and tear that frequent use can cause. LCD screens are more expensive than “overlay” screens or older model screens, and usually last longer. A POS system vendor will have more information about the types of touch screens that might be available.
Handheld (portable) terminals
Stationary terminals (like the “cash wrap” at a retail store) are common for service businesses like spas, where customers pay for a service and then return to a reception or front desk to pay. Increasingly, retail stores have adopted portable or handheld terminals as a method of accepting customer payment. Portable terminals have all the features of a stationary terminal, but can move with an employee, eliminating the need for customers to wait in line, or for employees to take turns using a stationary register.
This can be tremendously beneficial for retail businesses in particular, who can allow the same employee to take the customer thought the entire purchase. Customers don’t need to wait in line, and can get their merchandise faster. Handheld terminals utilize wireless technology to record and process transactions, so a fast internet connection will be necessary.
Other equipment, like scanners, check readers, and credit card swipe machines can also be used as part of a POS system. You may not need as much hardware as you think. A POS vendor can tell you more about your hardware options.