Selecting point of sale, or POS, equipment is a critical decision for any small business owner. This is the gateway of financial interaction between your business and its customers. POS equipment is the hardware and software that handles customer transactions and communicates them with merchant account providers if needed. Without them it is impossible to process debit and credit transactions. In today's marketplace where fewer people than ever carry cash, it is an essential tool for any growing business. These systems include barcode scanners, pin pad entry points, signature stylus, credit card readers or swipers, keyboards, computers, printers, touch screen displays, fingerprint IDs, and cash registers. A software component that manages user interface and hardware integration is another major factor in the equation.

Choosing specific point of sale components is not as simple as it sounds. A thorough evaluation of your business structure is essential to developing a custom tailored POS system that can carry your business forward. A wireless system is great for mobile vendors or restaurants, while emphasis on customer display may make smoother transactions in a retail outlet. Like the automobile industry, most POS equipment is sold through resellers rather than then manufacturers. Expect to pay between $2000 and $8000 for a high quality custom system fully with a service agreement. While used systems may be less expensive, you may have to install and service the system yourself. Software costs could easily overrun any savings benefits of a used system. Price should not be a major concern in your decision making process. A substandard setup means decreased efficiency, which could cost your business thousands per day in lost revenue. A malfunction at peak hours could run cashier lines out the door, some customers never to return.

POS equipment is divided into two major categories: Hospitality and Retail. Retail systems are less complex as most transactions are done instantaneously. These systems may integrate peripherals such as weigh scales and pole displays to keep the customer informed as items are scanned. Other features could include security features, such as fingerprint IDs for cashiers. Smooth interface and speedy communication with merchant services is the goal of these systems. Management and organization is the emphasis in the Hospitality sector. In a restaurant setting these systems need to be able to relay orders to a kitchen or bar, manage open accounts as new items are ordered, and track server table responsibilities. Spend some time analyzing service agreements. Will you receive regular software updates at no additional charges? Will you have to pay for hardware upgrades as your business grows? What is the reputation of the proposing vendor? You need to know if they are going to take care of you when you need it the most.

About the Author

Jennifer Loganthan is the President and CEO of Stradafee Limited. Stradafee is an electronic payments company as well as eCommerce and merchant account providers. For more information on &sec=article&uinfo=<%=server.URLEncode(1869)%>" target="_blank">merchant services please visit &sec=article&uinfo=<%=server.URLEncode(1869)%>" target="_blank">