Looking for a point-of-sale system for your small business? Check out these open-source POS systems that effortlessly scale from very small to very large.
Whether you’re a retailer or a restaurateur, a point-of-sale (POS) system can make a big difference in streamlining your business. However, the scope of POS is very broad with hundreds of different POS software packages and vendors. You can expect to invest a fair bit of time figuring out what will best fit your business.
I recommend the Linux computer operating system and open source software because they are secure, stable, and efficient. All three POS systems discussed in this article run on Linux, and they all provide good graphical interfaces.
You’ll also need to think about buying POS hardware, which is a topic for another day. You can take a look at Barcode Discount (or any vendor that sells POS hardware) to get an idea of what’s available.
Backed by the well-established enterprise software company SUSE, SUSE Linux Enterprise Point of Service (SLEPOS) is a top-notch, polished, and completely reliable version of Linux. It comes with excellent management tools, such as centralized upgrades, centralized security and regulatory policies, and full disk encryption.
SUSE Linux offers a wonderful tool that you won’t find in any other operating system: the KIWI custom image builder. This lets you, or your IT people, easily customize and deploy SUSE Linux images for all kinds use: retail terminal, backend retail server, kiosks, desktop PCs, touch-screen devices, network-managed installations, and virtual machine images.
You can customize the images exactly as you need, and then install and manage them over your network. If something goes wrong you can easily roll back to an earlier version.
A SLEPOS system consists of three components (schematic pictured above): a central administration server, a branch server and then the POS terminals. Those can be pretty much any kind of retail endpoint: a PC, customer kiosks (like bridal registries or catalog stations), cash registers, and wireless terminals.
The administration server holds the master image and configuration repository. The branch servers each serve a particular location or department, and the POS terminals connect to the branch server. This architecture provides a clean, secure administration structure that easily scales larger or smaller as needed.
SLEPOS uses strong encryption for all network transmissions, and it supports the PCI Data Security Standard.
You can try a free evaluation download and, if you buy SLEPOS, licensing costs $49/year per client, $281 for a branch server, and $479 for the administration server. SUSE has partners all over the world, so you can always find expert help.
Apache OFBiz, the Apache Open for Business Project, is a high-powered software suite for small businesses with complex needs and the developer talent to install and customize it. Apache OFBiz integrates with major ecommerce, payment processing, and shipping vendors. It’s a powerhouse suite that rivals the best commercial POS/ERP business suites. Some of its features include
- Catalog management
- Site content management
- Customer management
- Order planning and management
- Inventory management
- Sales force automation
- Business intelligence
- Marketing integration
While you don’t get vendor support, you can contact independent service providers if you need outside help. The documentation and Wiki contain a wealth of information, and the Apache OfBiz Cookbook is an excellent resource. Any experienced Web developer should be able to put it together and make it do what you want.
ViewTouch is a small shop that operates out of Eugene, Oregon. Founded and run by Gene Mosher, it’s been around since the 1980s. Mr. Mosher claims that ViewTouch was the first touch-screen POS.
ViewTouch is a one-stop shop that offers complete hardware and software bundles for restaurants: touch-screens, tablets, printers, mobile touch-screens and video-ticketing systems for the kitchen. ViewTouch software supports big-screen HDTV menu boards, so you can have slick, easy-to-update displays.
ViewTouch supports all the primary functions required by a restaurant: Time clock and payroll, easy menu authoring, guest-check management, cash balance and expense tracking. One of the most important parts of any POS is good reporting, and ViewTouch offers flexible reporting that pulls up whatever data you want: food and beverage performance, employee performance, totals at different times of day, large trends and small data points.
You can slice and dice your data pretty much however you want. Pricing is very reasonable and straightforward, and they will help you customize your system to fit your needs.
Carla Schroder is the author of The Book of Audacity, Linux Cookbook, Linux Networking Cookbook, and hundreds of Linux how-to articles. She’s the former managing editor of Linux Planet and Linux Today.
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