“How long will my POS system last me?” We’re asked daily and rightfully so I get it. Purchasing a point of sale system is an investment. Obviously, there’s a financial commitment, but beyond the dollars, you’re investing time and energy to set up and run your system (we can help with this, but that’s another article). Just as importantly, you’re trusting your system to help you run your business. So let’s just get to the point: how long will your system last?

I’ll share a story to answer the question. We received a call today from a customer who bought their system in 2006, and they are still using it just fine. Eight computer years is the equivalent of approximately 237 human years – this thing was old.

I was so amazed, I pulled the original invoice and reviewed the specs. The scanners and printers were still fine – dated, but fine. The printer was an Epson TM-88, which is probably still the most popular receipt printer in the world, but unfortunately, this is where the issues started. Although the printer was still in good working order, it was equipped with a parallel port. Have you tried using a parallel port on a modern computer? Good luck.

Next, I reviewed the terminal: a touchscreen monitor connected to a Dell. That in itself isn’t an issue, however, the computer is running Windows XP, which means it is not PCI compliant. And the memory? 512 MB of RAM. I asked Dan Cloninger, our Technical Support Manager, what he thought about using a computer running 512 MBs of RAM. He looked at me questioningly, turned around, and just walked away shaking his head.

So what does all this mean? Based on the environment, your POS system can continue operating for years. The issue, however, is that technology will often outpace your system. So what happened when our 2006 customer asked about upgrading POS software? Well, current software can’t run on Windows XP, so we’d have to upgrade that. But, Windows 7 can’t run on a 512 MB computer, so we’d also have to upgrade that. However, a parallel port receipt printer won’t work on a new computer, so we’d have to upgrade that too. Do you see the pattern?

Bottom line, no matter what a POS provider tells you, eventually the software will outgrow your existing hardware. Free upgrades and updates are useless if the hardware can't handle the new software. Realistically, plan on updating your computer every five years or so. Printers and cash drawers can be used longer. And with updates, the software will be just fine. Ultimately, your POS system is critical to your business, and like any investment, you want to keep it properly maintained.

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