Banking

Four cost-effective POS systems for small businesses

Point of sale software can cost a pretty penny. If you're shopping for a POS product, the ones featured here are either free or should be affordable for small businesses.

One of the hardest pieces of software for small businesses to find is the Point Of Sale (POS) system, because these products are often too expensive (e.g., QuickBooks POS) or too complicated to set up and use. Here are four POS software titles that I feel are best suited for small businesses. The list is a mixture of Windows, Linux, and web-based software titles that will do the job easily and reliably. All the products are cost effective, easy to set up and use, and run on standard PC hardware.

1: Cash Register

Cash Register is an interesting piece of software -- it's DOS-based, but it will work on almost any Windows platform (it has not been tested on Windows 8). Cash Register is a complete piece of free software that does not rely on third-party hardware or software. The interface (Figure A) might turn some users off (it's DOS-based, remember), but you should try it before you deny it. Figure A

Cash Register's sales interface where transactions take place. (Click the image to enlarge.)

The installation of Cash Register is incredibly simple:

  1. Download the installation file to suit your architecture.
  2. Move the installation file into its own folder and call it POS.
  3. Double-click the downloaded .exe file.

The POS folder will be populated with all of the necessary files to run Cash Register. To start the application, double-click the POS.EXE file.

2: Posterita

Posterita is a web-based POS system that can run your single store or your multi-store franchise. The only time there is a cost involved is if you use their payment system (they promise to match or beat your current rate).

Since Posterita is web-based, there is no software install necessary -- just register for an account. Within five minutes of registering, you should have a working store ready for you to set up payment processes, items, vendors, customers, hardware, and more. You'll want to make sure to download the manual from within the POS to see how banks are added. Basically, you must click the Settings button and then follow these steps:

  1. Click the Bank tab.
  2. Click Create A Payment Processor (Figure B).
  3. Enter the information for the Payment Processor (only X-Web is supported).
  4. Save the Payment Processor.
  5. Click Create New Bank.
  6. Enter the Name and Description.
  7. Click Save.
  8. Click Create A New Bank Account.
  9. Enter the necessary information (the Bank Account section is the Bank Account Number associated with the account to use).
  10. Click Save.
Figure B

The primary setup screen for all things cash. (Click the image to enlarge.)

The downloadable manual also contains details about how to set up the payment processor.

3: PHP Point of Sale

The web-based PHP Point of Sale can serve as a hosted solution, or you can host it on your own hardware. The downloaded software will set you back $99.00 USD, whereas the hosted solution is $29.00 USD monthly.

Both the downloaded and hosted solutions offer these features and more:

  • Detailed graphic reports
  • OS independent
  • Excel import and export
  • Gift card transaction
  • Inventory management
  • Sales processing
  • Multiple employees
  • Easy to use Interface
  • Barcode and printer support
  • Customer/sales tax tracking
  • Free upgrades
  • E-mail tech support

The benefits of using the hosted solution are:

  • 30-day free trial
  • Automatic backups every two days
  • Feature request priority
PHP Point of Sale has one of the cleanest UIs you'll ever see in a system of this nature (Figure C). Figure C

Features abound in the PHP POS user interface. (Click the image to enlarge.)
One caveat to using PHP Point of Sale: There is no built-in credit card processing; however, the third-party company TechnoLogicRepair has created an add-in module that can be set up. The company will even hold your hand as you set up processing. (Depending on your business model, you might have to complete PCI Compliance Certification.)

4: Lemon POS

Lemon is one of my favorite POS software titles; it's a solid system and deserves more attention than it gets. Lemon POS is open source, installable on Linux systems, has a great UI (Figure D), and requires a shallow learning curve. Lemon POS targets micro and small businesses. The software's features are:
  • MySQL driven
  • Role-based permissions
  • User actions logged
  • Multiple terminals using a single database
  • Sales suspension
  • Sell custom products
Figure D

You can sell services and items from Lemon POS. (Click the image to enlarge.)

Lemon POS includes a secondary piece of software called Squeeze, that is used for administrative tasks. This software will have to connect to the same database the POS software uses.

One caveat to Lemon POS: It is developed by one person, so do not expect much in the way of new releases.

What POS system do you use for your small business? Let us know in the discussion.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

24 comments
21seopos
21seopos

Well, we all know the POS is very effective and in demand today. As this can make your job easier and organized.


http://kroid.net

jtman9200
jtman9200

It's great to see POS systems that are more affordable for small businesses. When the digital age started with credit cards and scales, these systems were almost too expensive for small businesses to buy. Nowadays the technology is easily affordable. http://www.austechweighing.com.au/3

sysserv1
sysserv1

We have been using a system by a company in Birmingham, they produced training video's which we found made life really easy

http://pointosale.co.uk/pos/video.php


And when we phoned them for support they just made a new training video for each item we phoned about which was really cool

npapaghiuc
npapaghiuc

I am using http://www.posipos.com the posIPOS point of sale for iPad. It is absolutely free, with no setup fee, no monthly fee, and free data storage for all the data, including inventory and sales data, in the cloud. It was very simpel to set-up, you can actually use multiple iPads for the same restaurant, or even for multiple restaurants (if you have more than one). It works quite well for me, it supports multiple kitchen printers, and credit card payments (I am not technical, but their site says it's a secure credit card reader, with all the data encrypted when the card is swiped). 

ugalingpepz
ugalingpepz

If you want to use your Android device, you can use Kroid Cloud POS - Android Point of Sale for Restaurants: http://kroid.net/

SSFCEO
SSFCEO

This was helpful but I'd like to have learned more about integration with a cash drawer, a receipt printer, etc. We tried using Square but it was a complete disaster - unreliable, difficult to understand unless you're an old Apple hand, and ultimately it broke, leaving us stranded and unable to do transactions. I suppose if you want to play "shop" at home with your kids, Square on the iPad would be a good game but for a real-world business it was for us a total catastrophe that cost us serious time and money.

MMTech1
MMTech1

I work at a small Boat repair shop, looking for system of low cost that can do over the counter sales and also work orders, keep track of customers and inventory. Not concerned about the books part my sister does that on Quickbooks. any good ideas.

mahomedalid
mahomedalid

@necronet i have used skinkpos, is a ve complete point of sale solution for android tablets

necronet
necronet

True lots of good solution too bad I saw no good tablet option in the article maybe you want to review other tablet/handset base POS, in android Pozool (pozool.com) comes to mind which really great for small/medium Bar & Restaurants

BluefishRetail
BluefishRetail

Bluestore is a hybrid system, making use of the cloud for all the necessary data storage--inventory, price lists, store information, tax classes, user and customer info, and more are all stored in an administrative console on Bluefish's servers, accessible through an internet connection.  The terminal software, on the hand, is run locally, which means there's no interruption to a store's ability to sell if their internet connection goes down.  And because the terminal is Java based, it's inherently platform independent.  You can run it on Windows (PC or Tablet), Mac, or Linux. An iOS version is in the works, too, meaning iPad will soon be added to the mix.

bmmiller35
bmmiller35

I use http://www.superbpos.com I am satisfied with the service it offers me and the price is reasonable too. Basic version is not for IPAD, but we can use two or more software at same location. So that enables one Server and all other Clients.

adambrody
adambrody

This is great from a technological standpoint as well as the personal relationship between customer and employer. Imagine the feeling of security from both sides of the checkout stand. On the one hand, the customer can feel safe and confident knowing his/her payment was processed without having to worry about credit fraud. On the other hand the employer can process the payment with facial recognition, creating a level of security that hasn't been seen from a POS system.

KevinKog
KevinKog

Fair point on the lack of internet connectivity. Web-POS is not ideal for stores without broadband Internet (although this must also make it tough to process credit cards real time as most processors now require broadband). This does bring up another point on web-based POS vendors. You should check into how web-based POS applications work with network outages. Most web-based POS apps do not work when the internet goes down. There are a couple (VendHQ and MicroBiz) that enable retailers to ring up transactions when the Internet is down by maintaining a small applet on the computer that can continue to process transactions w/o an internet connection. These apps store the transaction data locally during outages, and when the Internet comes back online, the data is automatically synched with the "cloud". Again, cloud-based apps will continue to grow in popularity given all their advantages (instant updates, continual data back-up,ability to access the app anywhere, anywhere and on any type of device) but some retailers may have issues (such as lack of internet) that may limit their ability to realize these advantages.

KevinKog
KevinKog

Articles like this do not capture the true "cost" of a point of sale system. First, many "free" point of sale vendors require you to use their captive credit card processing partner. The POS vendor typically has an arrangement where they are paid 1/3 to 1/2 of the "profits" from over priced processing. So, if you charge even $20K a month, and overpay by 0.5%, this "costs" you $100/mo. Second, there is a huge opportunity cost of the owners time. Of the 4 POS systems reviewed, one looks like it from the 70's and two very basic systems supported by one or two people. Retailers need a system that allows them to operate their store efficiently and that can grow with them. So, every hour a retailer spends trying to figure out how to use open source software is one hour less being spent with customers or working on growing his/her business. One other point, there is a group of emerging web-based point of sale vendors (like my company MicroBiz) that deliver their point of sale technology from "the cloud" and do not require software to be installed at the store. This further reduces the time spent by the owner on IT issues. Before you invest time in a POS system, make sure you quantify these and other hidden costs. You may find that he best "value" may indeed be paying the $30-$100/mo for a web-based supported point of sale system that has all the features a small retailer needs yet is easy to use. Kevin Kogler MicroBiz Point of Sale

jimmyhelu
jimmyhelu

Are there any iPad/Android tablet software systems worth looking at? The kind that you can operate via a mounted tablet in your cafe, and then are able to go online on your laptop/desktop to do your account and other aspects?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I used to have several customers who had no access to cable; their only network connection was dial-up. These were small Mom & Pop convenience/grocery stores located well out in the sticks They've all closed their doors now, but there's still no cable or DSL available in many of those areas.

henryg44
henryg44

Hi Nick, There are several options for cloud based point of sale solutions running on iPad and/or Android devices as well. I work for ShopKeep POS, which has created a POS solution for iPads that works great for cafes. Check it out here: shopkeep.com We also just released 2 new features intended to make our app an even better solution for cafes and quick serve restaurant businesses. Get in touch with any questions, we have support 7 days a week.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

POS systems are designed be used in a host/remote environment. You'll just need to find a compatible app to run on the tablet.

GSG
GSG

In the general area where I work, we still have customers on dial up because there's no cable where they are, and they're in a valley and can't get satellite.

oxfrodstreettrash
oxfrodstreettrash

In my experience as an accountant and business analyst, many of the business apps, notoriously accounting ones, and also POS apps, keep trying to show off and pretend they are 'just like the big boys use."

I have a client, start-up food retailer, has been taking cash but i ned, on an ipad, firsly an easily customisable interface, where touch screen buttons can be easily customised for each product, and easily is essential as his prodects a very innovative, and he is always triling adding and deleting products. From that i need a feed to an analytics, again simple, of the sales amount, log of units sold. I dont need an inventorey function now or for awhile, but a flag function would be great, based on the direct inputs, just as a reminder to improve inventory management.


I need this for him asap, as hes attending a event in 2 weeks and i really want him set up at least with a ipad to record sales. Im his accountant and advisor, and i need a accurate, totally revenue figures,and availabl;e from anywhere when ever. My biggest challenge is to cost his sales items, in terms of both preparation, and cost the investment in developing new products, i told him hes likely to be shoched, as his hardest and key business decision is how tomanage the need to keep developingh new productds and offering them, to find the ones theat really sell. I need to develop a process, ideally automated, to do this, even if the figure is close enough to maake decisions.

This is the realm of analytics so id like advice there iff anyone can suggest aa few apps. Everything must be inthe cloud.

Finally seemless integration wish the cash draw and the reciept printer essential. Another case of conincing client, a smart guy,that hes not getting out of bed every day to build a business that wont grow, and whats the answer going to be when say a trade player, keen on his product wants a commercial qty, over the countedr. Simply cannot lose first sales like that.

I appreciate anyone reading all that and hope someone can help simplicity is the keyword, reliability, cost to alesser degree.....and if i can have it scalability, especially in the analytics side and more crucially, the complexity, and labour involved in costing his products, he cant afford me to do it in Excell, i have to think up a system to automate it as much as possibe and give me a usable proxy.

Stupid thing is im ahead of most accountants with much business softwae, this client although simple as a business has needs that are hard to meet. The costing of r&d is a majjor issue, affecting the decision as to expense or capitalise, and more to the poin

Thanks in advant

Michael Bennett & Co

Public Account and Business Advisors, Sydney Australia

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