Point of Sale (POS) software - Essential Guide

Point of Sale (POS) software, also known as electronic Point of Sale (ePOS), is an essential application for retail or hospitality businesses because it manages checkout operations and is what the customer sees when they make a transaction.

Point of Sale (POS) software, also known as electronic Point of Sale (ePOS), is an essential application for retail or hospitality businesses because it manages checkout operations and is what the customer sees when they make a transaction.


What is POS software?


POS software or POS systems are located wherever a transaction occurs, which generally tends to mean the terminal that is used for checkouts.

Some systems are the equivalent of an electronic cash register, used to make and record a sale in a restaurant, cafe, retail store or supermarket, and also in hotels, stadiums and casinos

But point of sale systems can also be used as part of a more sophisticated IT system, linked into back-office stock control, ordering, and customer relationship management (CRM) applications.


What operating systems do POS systems run on?


POS systems are manufactured and serviced by a range of firms and tend to run on a range of operating systems, including DOS, Windows, Linux and Unix.


What networks do POS systems use?


POS equipment can use a variety of physical layer protocols, although Ethernet is currently the preferred system, being fast, flexible and inexpensive.

However, wireless technology is increasingly being used, particularly for drive-thru restaurant systems.

These often use wireless or headset systems which enable communication between the kiosk and the main POS system.

What are vendors doing to standardise POS systems?


POS vendors and retailers are working hard to standardise the technology behind POS systems, to drive down manufacturing and product costs.

OLE for POS (OPOS) was the first commonly-adopted standard in 1996, and was created by Microsoft, NCR Corporation, Epson and Fujitsu-ICL.

An alternative open standards system, JavaPOS, was developed by Sun Microsystems, IBM, and NCR Corporation in 1997 and first released in 1999.

JavaPOS is for Java what OPOS is for Windows, and is largely platform independent.


What are the latest advances in POS software?


The restaurant industry is increasingly adopting wireless POS because of the flexibility it offers. Many high end restaurants, as well as high volume restaurants and pubs favour wireless handheld POS devices.

Waiting staff use a PDA-sized POS system that can register orders and send them directly to the kitchen in real time. Customers are able to view their transaction and pay for at the table.

Web based POS systems are also on the rise. These offer even more flexibility because they can run on any computer with an Internet connection and browser, which means most smart phones and PDAs as well as mobile terminals.

The web-based software does not require any software installations or updates, and runs on secure servers in multiple data centres which have real-time backups.


How can I secure my POS system?


It is possible to secure your POS application by using ‘whitelisting’ security software so that only approved applications or devices can access the network.

UK retailer Marks & Spencer is using this to secure over 16,000 POS systems, and also to enforce Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS).

The "whitelisting" software, which is from Bit9, stops malicious, illegal and unauthorised software from running, thereby preventing data leakage.


POS product list


  • Actinic
    Actinic has an affordable EPOS system for independent retailers, and can also provide computerised till systems for many types of retail business. All systems are Chip & PIN compatible.
  • EPOS Retail
    EPOS Retail sells its HOSPOS (Hospitality point of sale) software system for restaurants and hotels.
  • Microsoft Dynamics
    Microsoft provides POS and retail management for individual and chain stores through its Dynamics product line.
  • SalesStream
    SalesStream is a UK-based supplier of Windows EPOS retail software suite, SalesStream EPOS. The firm said it requires no expert knowledge or expensive engineer visits and runs on a single PC.
  • SAP
    Business software giant SAP offers its own POS Software suite which it says can help to reduce costs and enhance customer experience.
  • Volanté
    Designed for the hospitality industry, Volanté’s POS management system is developed entirely in pure Java[http://www.java.com/], and is object- and network-oriented, which enables it to run on Windows 2000/XP, Unix and Linux.
  • Wasp Barcode Technologies
    Wasp Barcode Technologies sells several ePOS and retail point of sale software systems designed for small and independent retailers.

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