What is the cloud?

Why Cloud?

We recommend you use a cloud-based or hybrid point of sale system. 

All of the systems we sell here are cloud-based or hybrid, so if you don’t want to think about this, you don’t have to. But this page will explain what a cloud point-of-sale means, and how they’re different to “fixed-till” predecessors on the market.

You’ll recognise cloud-systems as the type we sell on here: iPad-based tills where you download the software as an app. You pay for that software monthly, and you can log in from any device, and all those devices are always updated.

“The cloud” just means you store all your data online. If you have a Facebook profile, if you use Google Drive, if you have an email account, you’re already storing some of your data on the cloud. Your data is being stored on a computer (“server”) owned by a big technology company. The drive itself is in a server accessed through a satellite, over the internet. And this is a good thing. Check out why in this video:

What does that mean for me?

Using “the cloud” has lots of implications. Our strong opinion is that the cloud is a positive thing. 

Cloud POS software always…

  • Can logged into from any device
  • You can download the app with the front-of-house functions to any device which can download an app and has the right OS (e.g. Apple, which is sometimes called iOS; or Windows; or Android
  • Updates everything simultaneously across different terminals
  • Continuously improves the software; no updates or patches required, and no need to buy new versions.
  • Must connect to the internet to work (ask about “hybrid systems” if you’re worried about this)  

All the cloud POS software we sell also…

  • Works via tablets. Tablets cannot access “non-cloud” point of sale
  • You can therefore retain the same hardware if you decide to switch software 
  • Is paid for monthly, sometimes called “SaaS” (Software-as-a-Service) – except in the case of freepos, which is free. 
  • There’s no contract. You can switch software whenever without buying a new till.

Cloud software sometimes….

  • Depending on integrations, will synchronise with your online store and accounting software.

 

Why else?

There’s a list of advantageous features that cloud-software has; but we also find that: 

  • The tills are cheaper.

Your hardware costs should be lower with cloud-based software, with individual tills costing about £600 depending on which printer you choose, and whether you opt for accessories. Not only will individual tills be priced higher for fixed-till POS systems, but watch out for hidden costs associated with software which requires specific hardware to work. “Only our man can fix it, and that will cost you” is a common refrain. 

  • The payment processing is cheaper.

Cloud systems typically have a range of integrations available for payment processing, except in the case of Freepos, which are processors who throw in free POS software as an added extra. In contrast, fixed till systems are likely to steer you to their “preferred” payment processors, which sometimes subsidise competitive software pricing. Remember: if you’re paying between 0.55-1%, you’re on a great rate; if you’re between 1 and 1.75%, you may be on a good rate depending on your size. If you’re paying more than 1.75%, we can get you on a better rate whatever your circumstances, as 1.75% is the absolute maximum any merchant should pay. 

  • The software is better

Because there’s no “sunk” hardware cost (what is sunk cost), you can change your software any time. This means that software companies have to compete harder for your business – if you don’t like them, you can just leave. 

 

Is there a way of getting cloud software without using “subscription” models? 

No. Well, not really – unless you choose freepos which won’t charge you at all. For more advanced EPOS softwares, they’re nearly always subscription models.

We hear this a lot. We could offer reasons we think subscription models are better – namely, that software companies allocate their developer resources to the “latest” version – and you’re always on the latest version. Or that there’s no funny business around trying to get you to “upgrade” by letting the older software become geriatric. We could even argue that for you, operational expenditure (monthly costs) are preferable to capital expenditure (buying stuff outright) when it comes to financial planning.

But if we’re honest, the real reason that software companies have gone “subscription” is this: because their income is more predictable, they’re easier to invest in, or to loan money to. Because they’re easier to invest in or loan money to, subscription software companies dominate their rivals who sell things outright. They hoover up the best software talent and produce the best products.

Because they have the best products, here we are recommending them to you, even though you tell us you don’t like subscription models. The good news is this: the software is better as a direct consequence of your subscription billing.

 

Is this a new thing?

No. The cloud was invented in the 1960s along with the first iterations of the internet. The cloud came into widespread use over a decade ago, with companies like Facebook offering accounts which could be logged into from any device. Facebook was launched in 2004. 

This change is over a decade old, so it’s not a new gimmick – the cloud has been here for a long time, and is here to stay. 

Accessing the Internet

Cloud-systems store your data overseas, so you’ll need access to the internet in order for it to work. Your internet speed isn’t very important – we’re not doing anything very data-intensive like video streaming. Any WiFi plan bought commercially should work.  What *is* important is that your internet isn’t always cutting out. To mitigate this risk, we’d encourage you to think about “lines of defence” – what backups can you put in place. 

Cellular Data SIM. 

A first backup could be buying an iPad in which you can insert a SIM card. If your WiFi internet disappears, you can reconnect to the internet via the mobile data plan you might choose with the SIM. If an iPad has a SIM card, it works just like a phone would in terms of calls or cellular data.

Cellular Data Dongle. 

You might choose to use a dongle which can be connected to your router. Like a SIM, this would

Hybrid Systems. 

If you’re still concerned about the internet cutting out, consider choosing a hybrid system.

Hybrid systems, or systems described as having “offline mode”, have various functions available while you’re offline, should your internet cut out. Some “hybrid” systems such as Touchbistro may require a local server to work, so that they can continue running the software when you can no longer connect to the mega-server you’re using overseas.

Lots of systems describe themselves as “hybrid”, so it’s good to press a salesperson for exactly which features are available offline. There’s a spectrum in what’s available when you’re offline. 

Here’s a breakdown of what features are likely to be available/not available if your internet cuts out: 

A) Except in premeditated cases, all credit card processing requires the internet to work. (TfL and international flights do have systems in which the money is deducted from the buyer’s account the following day – but this is specialist). Should your internet go down, the first thing you’ll lose is your ability to accept card payments. This is true with all systems including “fixed till”.

B) Front-of-House functions, including the simple ability to sell things continues to be possible in nearly all cases with hybrid systems. The data of what you have sold will collect locally for a short while and then upload to the cloud when the outage stops.

C) Integrations with online systems such as your e-commerce site, or a cloud-based accounting systems such as Xero or Quickbooks, cannot survive a loss of internet connection, including with fixed till systems. If your internet goes down, the information on these systems will be temporarily de-synchronised, and will re-synchronise when internet connection is established. 

D) Separate tills running on the same internet may temporarily de-synchronise things like inventory levels while your internet is down. But we need to draw a distinction here. There’s WiFi, and there’s the internet. The WiFi connects all of the devices to the router; the internet connects the router to the rest of the world. What’s broken? If your WiFi is still working, but your internet is down, a good hybrid system should continue to synchronise the inventory levels in all your terminals as you continue to sell.

E) Reporting should be available via any device; but it will contain only the information up until the moment of outage. If you are logging in and you are using the same WiFi as the terminals, and the WiFi is still running whereas the internet is down, you may be able to access up-to-date reporting.

F) Inventory Management should work with a solid hybrid system, but features which focus on numbers of stock levels may be affected because the information will not be up-to-date until internet connection is reestablished.