EPOS buying guide. Cash register or Touchscreen POS?

Do I need a cash register (ecr) or touchscreen? Which should I choose and what are the benefits of each?

A retail business needs some form of system for cash management in order to process transactions with customer receipts, keep records of sales and store cash and credit card slips.

Our Entry Level ECR will serve the needs of many startup businesses. However the benefit of using a Pos system is the greater level of control over day-to-day operations.

The initial cost of either may seem high but it should be viewed as an investment in the business which should give years of service. 10-15 years is the average life-span of a good cash register with upgrades every 5-7 years.

There are a number of basic questions to ask you before purchasing any system and a good vendor should also help you determine your needs.

  • What type of business is involved? Retail or hospitality/low or high volume sales?

Hospitality outlets, with the potential of spillages/wet hands, may have particular needs. If you are dealing with lower volume/higher expense items……

  • How many different products are you retailing or likely to retail?

Does the product range you sell have barcodes?

  • Will you need to pay close attention to inventory?

A cash register won’t really help here regardless of what the salesman tells you. Trying to manage inventory on a cash register even with management software in use is not very efficient or accurate.

  • What vat or tax rates are attached to the products you sell?

This needs to be set up properly if you have more than one rate of tax.

  • Are you the owner/operator or will you employ staff/management?

If you are the sole user then a cash register may be sufficient. If staff or managers are involved you will need some control over tracking sales/voids etc

  • How busy will your shop be? A grocery store will have a higher volume of customers through each hour than would a footwear outlet and more than one terminal may be needed.
  • How much can you afford to spend initially?
  • What warranty comes with the equipment and are there any hidden costs?

Warranty can vary from 1-3 years. Or 0-3 months if buying used equipment.

  • Will you need much hand-holding initially and does your choice of vendor provide this?
  • Does it meet the requirements of the revenue commissioners regarding data retention and has this been configured correctly?

Cash registers benefits include:

  • Lower initial outlay
  • Less training needed to operate
  • Basic reporting of sales

Pos system benefits include:

  • More and better variety of reporting
  • Easier to handle stock inventory
  • Easier to upgrade

However, even with Pos system there is a choice between PC based and Embedded systems. These look similar and will carry out a lot of the same functions but only one runs on a windows platform and there can be good reasons for some businesses not to go this route. I will outline the main features of these 3 types.

Cash Register

These range from our basic stand-alone models to network-ready machines which can be connected together to share data and customer information. A range of devices such as barcode scanners, cctv and kitchen printers can also be attached as well as linking to a back office pc package to give a basic stock control and management system.


Epos System (PC)

Called Pc-Pos terminals these can come in the form of a traditional desktop computer with keyboard and mouse with or without a touchscreen monitor or as an integrated touchscreen computer where the hard drive and motherboards are contained within one unit.

These integrated terminals are designed for point-of-sale operation, being more robust than standard computers. They are designed to take up a small footprint and usually come with serial ports to allow a choice of receipt printer formats.

They can also be wall and pole-mounted and are frequently bundled with a receipt printer, cash drawer and barcode scanner.

A Pc-Pos terminal will have a windows operating system installed and requires an Epos software package. Your supplier will normally supply the unit with all of this included. If a number of applications are needed to run on a terminal then the Pc-Pos is often the route to go.

The addition of broadband allows remote support from your supplier as well as the ability to link outlets together.

Epos System (embedded)

These sophisticated terminals have been around for many years and were often the best choice in the days when pc based systems were much more expensive. With advanced technology these units match Pc’s for performance and have the added benefit of requiring neither windows nor hard drive, so no moving parts.

For example the AX-3000 from Uniwell has the touchscreen features of PC-Pos and can be used as a stand-alone terminal or networked together.

An embedded epos system is particularly suitable for hospitality outlets where speed of service is needed. Great for bars, nightclubs, fast food outlets etc.

They are very robust and because windows o/s is not needed these systems are less susceptible to data corruption, overheating and viruses than its Pc based cousin.

Start-up is in seconds rather than minutes and the terminal can be powered off mid operation without the loss of any data. This means downtime is minimised and also less maintenance.

Before Pc’s everything was embedded, cash registers, Atm’s, ticket machines etc. Because of improvements in technology the trend is towards embedded again. They are easy and quick to operate and also very stable and secure.

If you look around you will see many embedded devices, mobile phones, sat navs, games etc all use embedded technology.

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