Cloud-based technology is where a group of businesses that use the same technology tools shares infrastructure that is hosted somewhere outside of their physical location (on the cloud) and that infrastructure is maintained by a 3rd party. An example would be where if each business would need a $2,000 server on-premise OR instead 100 businesses could use a $20,000 server setup somewhere else (90% lower cost) and share it and actually end up with a more reliable system.
This idea is not actually new, it's been around and done for a long time but some newer technologies make it easier to implement, more user friendly, and the clear economies of scale it has become very popular over the last few years and is continuing to gain momentum in all industry sectors (government, Fortune 500 companies, and small/medium enterprises).
When you hear "cloud-based" that very often means that the software is fully in the browser and you install zero software on the computers that use it. Your email is fully cloud-based unless you use Outlook (which is software installed on your computer). One of the main upsides of cloud-based is you never have to worry about upgrading or maintain the local software, the downside is when the internet goes down or if the company that makes the software has a server crash, you cannot use it. Technically speaking Cloud Retailer is NOT pure cloud-based - it's "hybrid-cloud" which is the best of both worlds. When the internet is down you can keep using the POS to ring customers but the back-office software is fully in the cloud. In this article, we're going to discuss how we leverage this technology deployment method with Cloud Retailer and the benefits of doing so.
As mentioned earlier, with Cloud Retailer get access to technology infrastructure that no single reasonably sized retailer (IE $500M in rev per year or less) would have access to on their own. Here are a few key examples:
Most of our clients have limited to no network security. They don't have a commercial grade firewall that monitors for hack attempts. They don't have proper network segmentation; they don't have firewall experts on staff. They should, but it's not feasible, for most, it's too costly to put the equipment in place let alone have the staff required to monitor it. Cloud Retailers servers are protected by sophisticated and monitored network firewalls.
Most of our clients don't have multiple daily backups. They don't have hard drives mirrored, they don't have redundant power, redundant servers, etc. With Cloud Retailer that's in place. In terms of performance, reliability, and redundancy, you share server resources that no single retailer could typically afford.
Additionally, the resources you need as your business grows are automatically scaled up. If you went from one to five stores, would you need a new server? You'd need to have a discussion with an IT person to hammer that all out. With Cloud Retailer, if there's a problem with our database servers, we deal with it and you likely never even become aware.
Access to technical people 24-7-365
If a key part of your infrastructure fails at 2 am in the morning, how quickly are you aware of it? Our team always has team members on call 24-7-365 to deal with any critical emergency should it arise. If your server is on-premise, you likely won't know until the store opens at which point, you're scrambling to figure out what's wrong and who can help you (local hardware guy or your software people, etc.).
A feature of the Cloud Retailer system is that each POS can operate independently of any other systems so if you have a networking issue or we have a server issue your POS will never go down unless the computer or tablet it's hosted on breaks and when that happens, no other POS stations are affected.
As mentioned above the POS software lives on the device itself and stores some data locally for emergency operation. This is a significantly better type of "cloud" solution (hybrid cloud as mentioned in the introduction).
Security - credit cards
While strictly speaking our credit card technology does not relate to how we're using the cloud to host your systems the security question is often wrapped in the "cloud" conversation. Pretty much all of the "hacks" that have occurred over the years (Target / Best Buy / Home Depot / etc) have been the result of credit card swipe data going to a POS computer for a fraction of a section and then relaying that data to a credit card processor for approval. There are two issues with that:
1) A computer is a device built to run many different programs. That means POS software - and unfortunately viruses which are just programs.
2) In the technology world, a fraction of a second is ample time to steal data when a virus is sniffing for it.
Cloud Retailer uses "Card Defender" which are specialized payment terminals (that face the customer) and are built to do one thing and one thing only - process credit cards securely. They encrypt the card data before it touches your network and are built to stop working if they are tampered with (software AND hardware wise). NO CREDIT CARD NUMBER EVER TOUCHES YOUR COMPUTERS / POS. Traditional POS where you use the old swipe on the side of the screen is very dangerous in this day and age.