The ugly truth about open source POS software

By Bethany Ramos

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Model shopping cart with tiny packages sitting on a open laptop

An open source POS system is designed with “open source” software that is publicly accessible and easy to modify. While this may seem advantageous at face value, purchasing an open source POS for your business may be more trouble than it’s worth if you don’t have advanced technological experience.

The potential drawbacks of an open source point-of-sale system

If a vendor is pushing an open source point-of-sale system on your business, they may try to sell you on advantages like hands-on coding, the potential for continuous improvement, and ease in management. While all of these benefits are a distinct possibility, the bad can quickly outweigh the good if you don’t have a skilled tech staff on your side.

Consider some of the most common drawbacks of using an open source point-of-sale system:

  • Hidden costs. What many businesses don’t realize as they install an open source POS is that unexpected costs can pop up after software integration. “Surprise” expenses include installation, administration, and support fees.
  • Need for technical knowledge. If you don’t have an IT staff supporting your business, it may be almost impossible to manage and upgrade your open source software without outside help. As mentioned above, this is an ongoing and unanticipated cost that can quickly add up.
  • Limited scalability. If you or your staff isn’t tech savvy, it can be rigorous to scale and upgrade your software to support multiple POS systems. Once again, you may have to throw in the towel and hire an IT support staff for guidance, adding to the total POS cost.

What many businesses fail to realize is that you will assume ownership over your open source point-of-sale software after purchasing. This total responsibility will give you ultimate control over your POS, but it will also leave you with a heavy burden on your shoulders when it comes to software upgrades, configuration, enhancements, and support. A business owner’s time may be better spent focusing on what matters most: growing their company.

How to choose the right POS software for your business

Choosing the right POS software for your industry can be confusing in and of itself, especially when comparing open source and closed source software solutions. If you’re not a software expert, it may seem like POS vendors are speaking Greek.

You can make the process easier on yourself by using these helpful guidelines to choose the best POS software for your operation:

  • Know your needs inside and out. Don’t get sold on any unnecessary software features or upgrades that won’t benefit your business.
  • Choose industry-specific software. One-size-fits-all software solutions just won’t cut it.
  • Consider scalability. Even if you don’t plan to expand in the future, a scalable software package is a must to support potential business growth.
  • Test it out with an employee. Software must be intuitive and user-friendly, easy enough for the average employee to understand and operate.
  • Ask about regular upgrades. With an open source point-of-sale system, you’ll be responsible for your own upgrades; a closed source POS from a vendor should include major upgrades, as well as optional upgrades for new features.

Choosing the right software is the springboard toward your final hardware selection for your point-of-sale system. Unless you have the tech knowledge to manage open source software yourself, it can be more convenient and economical to purchase closed source POS software and hardware from the same company. When an entire POS system comes from one vendor, you can hold them accountable for all operating issues and save money on the total cost.