A POS system can have various different components, depending on the type of system you choose, your industry, and the size of your business.
The most basic part of any POS system is the POS equipment like the computer, or central control unit. This is the hub or central unit for the system that is connected to any other terminals or registers. You should designate a separate computer for your POS system, rather than using your personal or office computer. Usually you purchase the computer as part of the POS system.
The hub is linked to any other terminals you choose to use. For example, at a restaurant, the main computer is usually in the office, which is linked to terminals at the host stand, in the restaurant, and in the kitchen. The computer can also be linked to your merchant services account of transactions if your system will accept credit cards. POS systems with various terminals need a consistent and steady power supply, which can be obtained either by power filtering or by dedicating a specific circuit solely to the POS system.
Beyond a central computer and dedicated power supply, the components of a POS system will vary depending on your business. Most businesses choose to link several terminals to the main computer. The following are common components of a POS terminal:
A terminal with a keyboard usually also has some type of display screen (like a computer monitor). The user will input the sales information using the keyboard. Service businesses like auto repair shops and hotels often use keyboards to input and calculate sales amounts. Keyboards can be standard, like a hotel front desk would use, or customized. Most retail stores use some version of a customized keyboard.
Keyboards are a good choice for businesses that offer a variety of services and products and frequently add new ones, or that customize sales frequently. Simpler keyboards with a set amount of programmable keys (like those used at movie theaters or fast food restaurants) can also be a low-cost option to touch screens for businesses with a set amount of products or services. Keyboards usually cost anywhere from a hundred dollars to a few hundred for a programmable model.
Touch screens are popular with businesses that have a fixed number of product offerings, a high number of employees and sales, and transactions that need to be completed quickly. Employees can input sales information quickly and process transactions immediately. Most restaurants use a touch screen so orders can be processed and sent to the kitchen for preparation. LCD screens are the most popular, but are also the most expensive. These screens tend to have long life spans and are easier to maintain so can be a good investment. A POS system vendor can discuss touch screen options further.
Handheld (portable) terminals
Keyboards and touch screens are usually components of a stationary POS terminal like an order input station at a restaurant. Handheld terminals are mobile terminals- an employee can input sales information without having to walk to a specific place or station. Like stationary terminals, handheld or portable terminals can utilize touch screen technology or a keyboard.
Service and retail businesses alike have made use of this technology. For example, Apple stores allow customers to pay for products via the portable terminals carried by employees. These terminals can be expensive depending on the level of technology they use, but can also save a business time and money in allowing for speedy transaction processing and cutting down the wait time if multiple employees use the same terminal to input sales.
The type of POS equipment you will need depends on your business. A scanner, a check or credit card processing machine, or signature capture devices can also cut down on transaction processing time.