How Get the Most Out of Your POS System

hand working point of sale system at a store

Many small businesses that provide goods or services have a Point of Sale, or POS, as the primary workstation. As such, many of the business’ core processes run through it. These systems have a plethora of great features that are built right into them, and if you fail to take advantage of them, you could be wasting valuable time and resources.

The truth is that a POS system is not just a cash register; it is a central hub for the management of your business. Some of their more advanced options can fly under the average user’s radar, so let’s make sure you don’t miss out on taking advantage of them!

Choose the Right Terminal Structure

POS systems require terminals to work, and there are several different ways that these terminals can appear. You should choose the right one to fit your organization’s needs. Here are four ways you can implement a POS system:

In-store

Traditional on-premise POS systems are your typical systems. Basically, the business hosts the server at the location, and the POS system runs on local hardware. In-store POS systems are great for small businesses that don’t require anything too technical in the backend computing system. This type of POS system is common in retail and hospitality, and they have some higher costs in terms of hardware maintenance and management, but they are overall quite easy to use and secure.

Cloud-hosted

If you host your POS system in the cloud, you can reap the benefits of saving on capital costs. You also don’t have to worry about maintaining hardware, as the provider will likely be the one handling that responsibility. Cloud-hosted POS systems are generally quite affordable and reliable, as long as your Internet connection is stable. With most cloud systems, however, security can often be a sticking point, and you are out of luck if the Internet goes down for any number of reasons.

Mobile

Mobile POS systems use some type of external hardware connected to a tablet or smartphone. These can save businesses plenty of money, but there are downsides when it comes to maintaining the technology, as tablets and smartphones are prone to damage every so often compared to a register that just sits on the counter all day.

Kiosks

Self-service kiosks have really taken off in popularity as of late, as they reduce the need for customer interaction, saving time and money by freeing employees to perform other tasks. This has the downside of alienating customers who are not particularly tech-savvy, though, and customers might complain when they inevitably experience problems with the system.

Before you can choose the correct POS system for your business, you must first understand what the consumer needs. From a retail perspective, something with a barcode scanner integrated into it would be ideal, as well as a reliable printer. A restaurant, on the other hand, might need a scheduling program that can handle reservations. The same can be said for a hotel or salon, which might need booking systems. Therefore, we urge you to carefully consider what the best fit for your business’ customers is.

Understand POS features

While there might be many different POS systems to choose from, there are even more decisions to be made in terms of specific hardware and software. Other features you should consider include:

  • Inventory control
  • Payment processing
  • Return pricing
  • Labor management
  • Integrated Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) capabilities including supply chain management
  • Reports and analysis

These features are some of the most common ones that provide high-efficiency gain for businesses when used with a POS system. With integrated ERP capabilities, companies can more effectively control the supply chain right from the POS system, taking inventory management to the next level. Out of all of the above, we think this has the possibility to make the biggest difference for businesses.

Let’s use a restaurant owner as an example. With a label maker, you can easily manage inventory by adding barcodes to products on your shelves. This helps staff know when it is time to order more products, and it is only possible in any easy capacity thanks to a POS system utilizing the above system.

POS systems can even handle the time management aspect of your business, including scheduling, reservations, employee time cards, and other needs. Thanks to cloud-hosted solutions, scheduling, and other employee information can easily be shared online so that businesses can ensure they are always staffed accordingly.

If you correctly utilize all of the features of your POS system, you might be surprised by how much control this gives you over aspects of your business that you might not have foreseen. You can even customize reports and analyze operational information, giving you the knowledge it needs to make informed decisions.

AE Technology Group can help your business implement the correct POS system for its needs. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

Disposing of Connected Devices: What You Should Know

pile of electronical devices - technology concept

Unfortunately, technology does not last forever, and today’s culture of upgrades means that users of smartphones and other devices are constantly updating even when they don’t need to. This practice can extend to businesses, too. Businesses need to have a strategy in place that they can use when it is time to upgrade from older devices, including the way that you dispose of them. Disposing of connected devices should be done effectively without sacrificing the environment and your data privacy/security. Read on to learn how to do so.

First, let’s establish why you might want to work with a trusted technology professional to help you dispose of your old connected devices.

It’s Good for the Environment

What happens to your device when it gets thrown away? More often than not, it will find its way to a landfill in an off-shore country where it will sit and eventually contaminate the environment. Devices are manufactured with parts that contain precious metals and hazardous or harmful materials. There is a better way to dispose of these devices, one that is less wasteful and much better for the environment.

If you work with a managed service provider, your device will be less likely to find its way into a landfill. Depending on the age of the device and its functionality, your device might even be able to be recycled, repurposed, or donated to someone else who might still get some value out of it.

Data Privacy is Critical

The big thing that you want to keep in mind with disposing of your organization’s devices is security and data privacy. If you fail to dispose of devices with security and privacy in mind, your business could be putting itself at risk of a data breach or fines down the road. Even if your device is not found by a hacker, you could face costs associated with data privacy in much the way Morgan Stanley was in 2020; for failing to properly wipe devices, it was fined $60 million.

Simply deleting files on your devices will not be enough. Due to the way that data and files are stored on devices, you want to have a professional involved in this process so that there is no chance of data remaining on the device when it comes time to dispose of them.

Understand Your Technology’s End of Life Timeline

People often upgrade their devices even when they don’t need to. Everyone tends to jump on the bandwagon, leading to upgrades and new technology implementation even when there is little-to-no value in doing so. This naturally leads to people throwing out perfectly fine devices even when they don’t have to, just for the sake of having a brand new device.

On the other hand, some organizations wait far too long to upgrade their technology, hoping that they can cut costs by waiting until it’s absolutely necessary to do so. Some even wait until the device or operating system is no longer supported! This is a dangerous practice, as hackers are always on top of software and operating systems that are vulnerable to threats. You want to make sure that you can upgrade your devices before you put your organization at risk by using unsupported devices.

AE Technology Group can help your business while properly disposing of connected devices so that you don’t put your organization at risk. To learn more about what we can do for your company, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

Don’t Let Data Backup Concerns Hold Your Business Back

IT Engineer Installs New HDD Hard Drive and Other Hardware into Server Rack Equipment. IT Specialist Doing Maintenance, Running Diagnostics and Updating Hardware.

Your business is not unique in the sense that it stores and transmits data during its day-to-day routines. Whether it’s financial information for your clients or employee records, it is more than likely that your business holds some kind of critical data that your operations rely on throughout the workday. Would your operations be able to recover from a sudden loss of data?

While imagining this worst-case scenario might seem intimidating and downright scary, failing to do so is even worse for your business continuity. You owe it to everyone who works so hard to keep your business going to do all you can to protect it as best as possible. To work toward this goal, we recommend a solution that all businesses should utilize: data backup and disaster recovery. Data backup is one of those things that you don’t necessarily realize its true value until you need it most, and failing to have it could put your future on the line.

Data Backup vs Disaster Recovery

Data backups are copies of your business’ data that you can restore in the event of a disaster that destroys the original. These are particularly useful when you suffer a data loss scenario or security breach. Data backup has been done with tape for years, a process that involves setting the tape, running the backup, and storing the tapes in a place off-site in the event they are needed.

Tape is on its way out, however, due to issues that are prevalent in the way that it is fundamentally designed. Modern technology has addressed these issues, such as slow implementation and deployment speed, user error, and storage space. The cloud makes everything involved with the data backup and disaster recovery process so much easier by eliminating the possibility of user error, speeding up the process, freeing up on-site storage, and fully automating the process.

Data backup is only one part of a successful disaster recovery solution. You also need to make sure that you are actually able to deploy these backups when they are needed most. Since disasters can disrupt operations so profoundly, you want to have your backups ready to go in the event of data breaches, natural disasters, or user errors. Failing to have these data backups available puts your operations in jeopardy not just from an operational standpoint, but also from a cost perspective when you factor in downtime and lost productivity.

Your disaster recovery solution should aim to minimize downtime through the use of a cloud-deployed backup to temporary hardware. It’s not meant to be a permanent solution; it just keeps you in business while you work to replace it. A common rule you might hear about is the 3-2-1 rule of data backup. You should have three copies of your data ready to go at a moment’s notice: one on-site or on-network, one located in the cloud for ease of restoration, and one in a secure off-site data center. This redundancy makes for an ideal solution and certainly one that minimizes downtime and data loss.

Implement BDR Today

A data backup and disaster recovery solution like BDR is the best way to approach your business’ continuity concerns. AE Technology Group has the knowledge and expertise to walk you through this process every step of the way, from determining your specific backup needs to the deployment of solutions. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

How to Get Control of Your Email Inbox

Photo of computer screen up close showing email inbox with 179 unread emails

As you read this sentence, think about the current state of your email inbox. Is it clean and crisp with only a handful of new emails on a daily basis, or is it an entangled mess filled with hundreds (or even thousands) of unread and often unimportant emails? If it’s the latter, you’re in luck; we’ve got some tips to help you finally get a grip on your email inbox.

First, we need to start by controlling the level of emails that flow into your email inbox. Let’s discuss some of these methods.

Send Fewer Emails

This is a pretty simple rule; if you cut down on the number of emails you send, you should, in theory, cut down on the number of emails you receive. Generally speaking, email is meant to be used (and is most effective) for tasks that are not immediately pressing. While we understand that this isn’t always possible, even a little action on your part could make a world of difference. If you send one fewer email a day, you can potentially cut out at least one email in your inbox per day.

Depending on the topic, you might be able to use an instant messaging application or a phone in place of the email. These are generally more reserved for immediately pressing tasks rather than the passive nature of an email, but you do cut down on the chance that your email will be lost in the ether.

Unsubscribe from Email Lists

A business owner needs to stay up-to-date on the latest happenings in their chosen industry, and doing so might entail subscribing to email lists. These are automated lists that send you emails on a regular basis, and if you don’t keep up with them, it is easy to lose track of how many you have subscribed to. These quickly add up and can often drown out emails that actually are important.

A good rule to follow is that, if you have not opened an email newsletter from a particular organization or website in the past month, it’s safe to say that you are no longer interested in reading their content. Granted, some email newsletters are monthly, but if they are, they shouldn’t be clogging up your inbox. We’re talking about the real offenders that might send you several messages a week (or even a day). Many email newsletters have an Unsubscribe link at the bottom of the message, but you should be careful with these; the last thing you want is to walk into a phishing attack.

Archive Whenever Possible

The idea of deleting an important email can paralyze you with inaction. While you could organize your inbox into folders and other segments for management, even this can sometimes create situations where you start to accrue too many messages. The fact that you don’t know what will be important in the next couple of months or years is also a challenge, as you cannot possibly expect to predict the future.

An email archiving system that is backed up and maintained by your organization can resolve these issues. If you have important messages that you need to keep around, you can simply archive them in a system where they can be searched for and pulled out at a later date. Most cloud-based platforms like Office 365’s Outlook or Google Workspace’s Gmail give you this capability.

Schedule Time Every Day

If you are having trouble making a dent in your inbox, you just do whatever you would normally do for a large and daunting task: break it down into more manageable chunks and chip away at it over time. If you delete or archive more emails a day than you receive, you should theoretically be able to clean it up in a respectable amount of time. Devote a short amount of time each morning or afternoon to checking and managing your inbox. You might be surprised by how much this helps in the long run.

Implement Spam Protection and Technology Solutions

AE Technology Group can help your business manage its email and implement great new technology solutions that keep threatening or time-wasting messages out of your inbox. To learn more about how we can help you with spam and email management solutions, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.

It’s Time to Revisit Your Password Best Practices

Closeup of Password Box in Internet Browser

When a hacker tries to access one of your accounts, the first challenge they must overcome is the password. This is why industry professionals always encourage you to create them with security in mind. The latest guidelines issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, are not quite conventional or traditional, but they do give valuable insights into how password best practices.

What is the NIST?

The NIST is the authority on all things password-creation, and they are no strangers to issuing various best practices. While these practices do shift over time, due to the unfortunate side-effect of threats adapting to security standards, their advice is trusted and should absolutely be considered by all. Please see below for the recent update on password best practices.

The New Guidelines

Many organizations and Federal agencies have adopted these guidelines. Here are the latest steps to take when building a secure password.

Length Over Complexity

Most security professionals have advocated for password complexity over the past several years, but the guidelines issued by NIST disagree. NIST suggests that the longer the password, the harder it is to decrypt, and they even go so far as to say that complex passwords with numbers, symbols, and upper and lower-case letters make passwords even less secure.

The reasoning for this is that the user might make passwords too complicated, leading them to forget them entirely, so when it comes time to replace the password, they will add a “1” or an exclamation point at the end. This makes them easier to predict should the original password be stolen. Users might also be tempted to use the same password for multiple accounts, which is a whole other issue that certainly does not aid in security.

No More Password Resets

Many organizations require their staff to periodically change their passwords, mostly every month or every few months. The idea here is to preemptively change passwords on the off chance that the old passwords have been compromised. Trying to use the same old password multiple times would then lock the hacker out of the account, as the password has since been changed. While this has been an accepted best practice for some time, NIST recommends that this practice be put to the wayside, as it is actually counterproductive to account security.

The reasoning behind this determination is that people will not be as careful with the password creation process if they are always making new ones. Plus, when people do change their passwords, they will use the same pattern to remember them. This means that passwords could potentially be compromised even if they have been changed, as a hacker could recognize the pattern and use it against the user.

Make Passwords Easy to Use

Some network administrators worry that the removal of certain quality-of-life features such as showing a password while the user types it or allowing for copy/paste will make the password more likely to be compromised. The truth is the opposite; ease of use does not compromise security, as people are more likely to stick to established password protocol if you make it easier for them to do so.

Don’t Give Out Password Hints

At the same time, you don’t want to make things too easy for your employees, either. One way that administrators help out employees who easily forget passwords is by providing password hints. The system itself is flawed, especially in today’s society of oversharing information across social media and the Internet in general. If Sally makes her password-based around the name of her dog, for example, the hacker might be able to find that information on her social media page, then can try variations of that name until the code is cracked. So, in the interest of network security, it’s better to just forego these hints. There are other ways to make your password system easier to deal with that don’t compromise security.

Limit Password Attempts

When you place a limit on password attempts for your business, what you are essentially doing is giving hackers a limited number of chances to get lucky. NIST suggests that most employees will fall into one of two categories in regard to password remembrance; either they will remember it, or they will keep it stored somewhere (hopefully in a password management system). Thus, if an employee is likely to do one or the other, a limit on password attempts will not necessarily impact them but will make all the difference against security threats.

Implement Multi-Factor Authentication

COMPANYNAME recommends that your business implement multi-factor authentication or two-factor authentication whenever possible. NIST recommends that users be able to demonstrate at least two of the following methods of authentication before they can access an account. They are the following:

  1. “Something you know” (like a password)
  2. “Something you have” (like a mobile device)
  3. “Something you are” (like a face or a fingerprint)

If two of the above are met, then there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the user is supposed to be accessing that account. Consider how much more difficult this makes things for a hacker. Even if they have a password, it is unlikely that they also have physical access to a mobile device, a face, or a fingerprint.

Make password security a priority for your organization now so that you don’t have to worry about data breaches later on down the road. AE Technology Group can help you set up a password manager that makes adhering to these best practices easier. To learn more, reach out to us at (516) 536-5006.