QuickBooks Point of Sale and Hosting

QuickBooks Point of Sale in a Hosted Environment

Retail operators and multi-location store owners often face difficulties in attempting to bring cohesion to their accounting, financial, and operational data.  In so many situations, the retail location –  where inventory is sold and money is exchanged – is far-removed from the administrative location where the financial systems and business reporting exist.  It seems that the best case scenario is to create a means for the remote (retail) locations to operate with real-time access to centralized customer, inventory, and financial data from a primary source. Application hosting services can provide this centralization,  and a platform for standardization, of systems.  Further, the application hosting model can deliver security and managed service which ensures that the systems are available and performing as required.

Even though hosted applications and centralization of the systems and processes in a POS environment may appear to be the right answer, there are caveats and considerations that speak to the realities of today’s technologies.  These caveats should be strongly considered prior to undertaking any reformation of systems and processes relating to the retail locations.

The first fundamental reality which must be addressed is connectivity.

While a retail or store location may enjoy Internet or network connectivity, there should be great consideration given to the wisdom of connecting these locations only and exclusively via remote access systems.

Retail is a dynamic business, and the sale is made when the customer is ready and willing to buy.  Any retail location must be able to process this sale in order to meet the immediacy of customer demand.

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If the systems in use are exclusively accessed remotely, then the connectivity to those systems become of paramount importance in the ability to do business.  At the very minimum, any remotely-served retail location should have redundant connectivity options, with local personnel being familiar with the connection failover process.

A second strong consideration for a hosted or remotely-deployed POS or retail system is local device support.

Devices, such as card readers, scanners, cash drawers, receipt printers, etc. typically require local PC/computer drivers in order to function.  When served by a remote system, this connection between the host and the local devices may not function.  Limited device support for POS hardware can significantly impact the location’s accuracy and efficiency.

QuickBooks POS was designed for use on a single-user PC environment.  The application is not well-suited to a hosted deployment for multiple users, as the software only allows one instance of itself to run on each computer.  This alone eliminates the benefits of a server-based computing model for POS, whether onsite or hosted. The multi-lane option requires all stores to be connected via the same LAN, so remotely connecting multiple locations isn’t really do-able, either.  This is why there is a multi-store option, allowing the various stores to operate independently and send the daily data back to a master location via a store transfer or email process.

In many cases, the suitable answer is to keep the POS systems running on the local computers and network, and run the accounting applications on the host. The host system, whether it be an on-premises server or a location in the cloud, could also run the software which integrates the POS data with accounting.

integratedFor example, with an installation of QuickBooks accounting the point-of-sale “master location” on the host, the core financial data is able to be secured and protected in the virtual environment without risking lost productivity (and lost sales!) due to connectivity failures at the retail locations.  The end-of-day process at each location is to then copy the POS data to the host system where it is integrated with the accounting system. If the POS system is something other than QuickBooks POS, it simply means that there is another piece of software – the specific POS integration tool – required to transfer the POS data into the accounting software.  QuickBooks desktop accounting integrations are available for most popular POS systems including Micros, POSiTouch, Aloha and others. The integration software (often just a QuickBooks plug-in) would be installed on the computer running QuickBooks, enabling the entry of the POS data into the QuickBooks accounting system.

It makes a ton of sense to centrally manage the accounting and financial data for the business, in a secure location away from the retail storefront and frontline workers.  It’s just that the accounting is easier to host and makes more sense to run as a centrally-managed, hosted solution.  POS, on the other hand?  Not so much.

For a small market vendor or the largest of retail stores, point of sale needs to be up and running at all times, driving receipt printers and cash registers/drawers and barcode scanners. Run the POS system on-premises where the action happens, but keep accounting and finance safe and secure somewhere else.

jmbunnyfeetMake Sense?

J

Confused about QuickBooks and the Cloud? Join the club

cloud-computingIn most regions around the country high-speed broadband is readily available, and using the Internet for working and playing online is a part of everyday life.  Facebook and Twitter and Instagram are household names and just about every conversation starts or ends with a reference to a meme.  It seems that everyone is connected and app-savvy, using high technology while doing business, doing homework, or doing just about anything.  Yet this move to online and cloud technologies has come with a high price tag for some businesses, especially small businesses trying to keep up with the pace of change and who are being encouraged to adopt just about every new thing that comes their way.  It’ll make them more efficient, more profitable, more attractive to customers, more interesting to prospects, and will allow them to do more in less time.  All of the “apps” for this and that have created a great deal of confusion for the average small business owner who may need a few tools to help get business done, and who is now facing the daunting task of figuring out which ones to use as the type and number of tools grows exponentially every day.  It used to be so simple, but now even the simple things are becoming difficult to understand – like QuickBooks, for example.

QuickBooks desktop editions, born from Quicken personal finance management software, continues to be the most popular small business bookkeeping solution available.  Yet QuickBooks is now offered as either desktop application (software you install on your PC), as a hosted solution (software installed and run on service provider systems and which you access via the Internet), or as an online application (QuickBooks online edition).  Initially, the lines were fairly clearly drawn – the desktop software gets installed on the local machine and the online edition runs from Intuit’s servers.  Then things got a bit more complicated as hosted services rolled out, and users were able to have their desktop QuickBooks managed with a service provider and accessible via an Internet connection.  Now, just to add to the confusion, Intuit delivers a new desktop app to access the online version of QuickBooks.   What?!  Yeah, you heard me.  There’s a desktop app to install to the PC (97MB!) that accesses the QuickBooks online system.

When Intuit, like to many other software companies, began pushing the online-only version of their solution, the messaging was all about making life easier with “no software” to install or manage.  Customers could simply sign up and have all the features and capability they need using only the browser on an Internet-connected machine.  Failing to consider that computing devices (PCs, tablets, phones, et al) continue to get smarter and more powerful each day, the software companies firmly believed that everything would eventually be on the Web, and the “access device” wouldn’t matter any more.  However, things haven’t turned out quite as planned, and users continue to not only demand desktop and device-based apps, they will often forgo the browser-only approach until a better app and interface comes along.  The truth is that the market wants apps and software running on their devices because the user experience and performance is almost always better than with a purely browser-based approach.  Browsers are great for visiting websites, but not so much when it comes to running business applications.  Sure, there are a lot of browser-based solutions out there, but not too many of them are as trusted or as heavily used as their desktop-based counterparts or competitors.

There is little argument to be made regarding the fact that many software developers are working towards entirely online application models, where little or no software would exist on the device and all data is managed and stored online.  What is arguable is whether or not the “fully online” model will ultimately win, or whether software will continue to be installed and maintained on the device.  Performance, functionality, integration with other applications, and usability will all influence the buyer’s decision regardless of the marketing hype.  It may simply be that users will have to try each model before they decide which one works best for them.  It seems that, with the introduction of the desktop app for QuickBooks Online, the QuickBooks-users club has voiced an opinion which sounds a lot like they liked the desktop software approach best.

Joanie Mann Bunny FeetMake Sense?

J