Many retail stores, restaurants and nightclubs rely on point of sale (POS) systems to assist in keeping business transactions running smoothly. POS systems provide computerized efficiency and record-keeping when executing sales procedures. There are many different components that can be used with a point of sale system, and some types of businesses will require more components than others. Depending on what the system is being used for, or what types of features are desired, most business owners can create the ideal POS system to suit their needs with the components of their choice.
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The back office server is essentially the main computer where pertinent company information, such as bar codes, prices and sales reports, are programed and stored. This component also acts as the main information source for the network if multiple units are in use throughout the establishment. No matter how many computers are included in the business network, the back office server will be the component where all applicable software is downloaded.
The monitor is the screen where sales staff views sales information as a transaction is in progress. As items are added, staff (and sometimes patrons) can view the list of accumulated items, price, tax, savings, subtotals, totals and any other applicable information pertaining to the type of business being conducted. The monitor operates in conjunction with the back office server and other components such as a mouse, cash drawer, printer and sometimes a keyboard (unless a touch-screen monitor is installed that allows for keyless entries).
Bar code scanners retrieve coded pricing information using a laser beam for various items. These components are often flat glass at the base of the counter near the cash register, with a laser beam beneath the glass to capture the bar code. Some bar code scanners are hand-held, enabling salespeople to scan items that are too large or heavy to be lifted to a counter.
POS systems at retail stores will most often have an electronic cash drawer. Like a typical cash drawer, it is used to hold money collected for goods or services. These components are also controlled by the back office server and are programmed to open after designated tasks or digital commands.
Keyboards are an essential component to be used with the back office server. The keyboard is used to enter items, services, pricing information, updates and all other information essential to running the business. Point of sale systems that function without touch screens or bar-code scanners may require a keyboard as well. Even when touch-screen monitors are used at work-station terminals, keyboards may still be useful in entering any notes, details or modifications to the purchased goods or services.
At least one small printer is usually added to the POS system. This component can be programmed from the back office server to produce customized receipts or invoices for customer use. The printer may also be used for printing sales reports or employee time cards.
Magnetic stripe readers (MSR) are used to capture credit or debit card information to process sales. An MSR component can be attached to the work station terminal to enable a customer to swipe a credit card at the time of payment. In instances when debit cards require personal identification numbers (PINs), a portable PIN pad may be incorporated into the POS system to allow the patron to privately enter her PIN. Some PIN pads and MSRs also have a signature capturing screen where customers can digitally sign credit transaction receipts.
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