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The point of sale (POS) is the time and place where a retail transaction is completed. It is the point at which a customer makes a payment to the merchant in exchange for goods or after provision of a service. At the point of sale, the merchant would prepare an invoice for the customer (which may be a cash register printout) or otherwise calculate the amount owed by the customer and provide options for the customer to make payment. After receiving payment, the merchant will also normally issue a receipt for the transaction. Usually the receipt is printed, but it is increasingly being dispensed electronically.

The POS in various retail situations would use customized hardware and software tailored to their particular requirements. Retailers may utilize weighing scales, scanners, electronic and manual cash registers, EFTPOS terminals, touch screens and a variety of other hardware and software available. For example, a grocery or candy store may use a scale at the point of sale, while a bar and restaurant may use software to customize the item or service sold when a customer has a meal or drink request.

The point of sale is often referred to as the point of service because it is not just a point of sale but also a point of return or customer order. Additionally, today POS software may include additional features to cater for different functionality, such as inventory management, CRM, financials, warehousing, etc.

The advent of cloud computing is gave birth to the possibility of POS systems to be deployed as software as a service, which can be accessed directly from the Internet, using any internet browser. Using the previous advances in the communication protocols for POS’s control of hardware, cloud-based POS systems are independent from platform and operating system limitations. Cloud-based POS systems are also created to be compatible with a wide range of POS hardware and sometimes tablets such as Apple’s IPad. Thus cloud-based POS also helped expand POS systems to mobile devices.

Cloud-based POS systems are different from traditional POS largely because user data, including sales and inventory, are not stored locally, but in a remote server. The POS system is also not run locally, so there is no installation required.

The advantages of a cloud-based POS are instant centralization of data (important especially to chain stores), ability to access data from anywhere there is internet connection, and lower start-up costs.

[source: wikipedia]