Should I get a cloud based point of sale for my coffee shop?

One of the main questions new business owners ask is: should I buy a cloud or non-cloud POS for my café? There are the good and bad in cloud solutions, I will discuss in details in this blog.

Introduction


Cloud POS is the technology of storing transactional and product information in a remote computer/server that is usually located offshore (United States, India and Australia are popular locations). The process is quite simple, data is stored in a database and a program is used to access this data to retrieve and/or store information. It has become increasingly popular with the introduction of iPad Apps.

Advantages


One of main advantages of using a cloud solution for point of sale is cost. iPad and Android applications are relatively cheaper than Microsoft (Windows) based programs. This cost process is historical where Apps were always relatively cheaper than Windows programs. Take for instance Microsoft Office 2016 ($299) Vs Microsoft Word for Android ($1.15).

Setting up a complete solution for your coffee shop could cost you around $750: iPad $400, Printer $200, Cash Drawer $100 and App between $40 and $299.

Another great advantage is the ability to easily access this information on your iPhone/iPad from anywhere since all the information is stored in the cloud.

Disadvantages


If cost is an advantage, storing information on the cloud has its disadvantages. Most notably is the speed when it comes to retrieving this information.

When you purchase a Windows program, all data is stored locally, on the same computer that you’re using, therefore accessing the database takes milliseconds. Compare that with download chunks of data each time you want to download your product price list! This is dependent on your Internet speed but usually takes between 1 and 5 seconds.

Take for instance a database schema with the following attributes:

Product Name, Category, Price, Stock Availability and Barcode. For each product in your price list, the information retrieve must have all of the above, therefore, on average each product is about 10-15Kb, multiply by 300-400 products you end up with 3.5MB each time you open the App.

Another disastrous disadvantage is the instability of Internet especially in remote locations where Internet is shared in a shopping centre and quite often stops in the middle of your peak business hours.

Finally, storing data in a remote server and deleting transactions can be transparent to all agencies. This is critical to cafes wanting to delete unpaid orders.

Summary


While cloud POS solutions have some good advantages, the disadvantages are far too great to take the risk. If you can afford a Windows POS solution ($2,500 - $4,000) we highly recommend you purchase a non-cloud based point of sale for your café.

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