Management

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Management

Ransomware

POS SOFTWARE


 

Currently, I estimate that every month we have at least one point of sale client having issues regarding Ransomware and unfortunately many of our customers are falling victim to Ransomware attacks. We have had three (3) such attacks this week.

Our support manager Phil has put together step by step notes for you.

 

What it does

This form of attack encrypts all of your data and prevents you from using your computer unless you pay a fee. If this happens to be your server then this means your shop will not be able to trade.

What to do

Your only other option is to reformat your server and restore from a backup.

However, in many cases, we are finding that despite our best efforts there are no backups available as they too have been encrypted.

 

What can you do about it?

 

Your choice of Operating System

Firstly you should think about the version of Windows you use in your store. Windows 10 has a lot of features built in that make it much harder for Ransomware to take hold of your system.

 

If you are not running Windows 10 in your store, especially on your server and the computers you use to connect to the internet, then you should consider upgrading these as soon as possible.

 

While not as good, if you must or insist on running Windows 7, you should at least ensure that all Windows Updates have been installed. Windows Update includes many security patches, some of which may stop Ransomware from taking hold of your system.

 

In Windows 7, Click the Start button and in the run (or search box) type “windows update” and then press enter.

Click on the Check for updates and install updates button.

Windows Update may want you to restart your computer at some point and you should do so.

Remember that if this is your server then your shop will not be able to trade while your server is restarting.

When you have restarted, repeat the above process until there are no more updates to install.

 

If you are running Windows XP, then you are leaving yourself wide open to attacks from Ransomware. Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP in April 2014, so for five years there has not been any security updates for this operating system.  There is little you can do apart from replacing the computer with one that has Windows 10 as its operating system.

Make sure you have a backup

 

Ransomware attacks are happening, and as much as you may try to prevent them, it may happen to you. If it does, you either have to pay up and encourage these criminals to continue their actions or have someone reformat and reinstall your computer system.

 

Reformatting and in reinstalling the operating system is the easy part. What nobody can replace is the data. Your customers, stock, sales history etc.

 

To protect yourself and ensure you will be able to replace this, you should be taking a regular backup copy of your data and remove it from your network so that Ransomware cannot access it.

 

I will deal with Posbrowser, but you should also find out how to do the same with your other important data such as your accounting and payroll data and any documents you may store on your local hard drive.

 

Posbrowser uses SQL server. One of the features of SQL server is that you can take online backups.

This means that you can take a backup without having to bring the system offline and stop trading.

 

So find a time during the day, a regular time. 

Also, find a USB stick. Now go to your server and plug in the USB stick.

 

Open Posbrowser and from the main menu select System Maintenance / Backup and Restore.

In the “Backup to a location” section click the three dots and navigate to the USB drive you just plugged in and click OK.

Note that if the three dots are greyed out, you are NOT on your server!

 

 

Then click the Backup button and the backup will start.

Wait until you see a message telling you the Backup was complete.

 

 

 

If you see any other message, you should contact POS Solutions Support for advice.

 

When it finishes,

DO NOT JUST TAKE OUT THE USB STICK – REMEMBER TO EJECT IT SAFELY.

This is the only way you can ensure that the backup has been written to the USB stick correctly.

 

If you want to be double sure, after you have removed the USB stick, you can insert it again and restore the backup to your training system via the “Restore to Training” tab in the Backup and Restore document.

 

When you have removed the USB drive, place it in a safe place, and DO NOT put it into a computer again until you are ready to do another backup of your system.  Don’t let Ransomware have a chance to get access to it.

Even if this backup is a couple of days old, because you are not in on the weekend, it is a lot better than having nothing at all.

You should take the time and make an effort to protect the most valuable part of your business – your data.

 

 

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Less paper saves money

POS SOFTWARE

Paper on our desks

Remember when we all had desks like this.

Each page costs a calculation for a laser printer a few years ago here estimated that an average cost was between $0.05 to $0.08 and went up to $0.12 to $0.15 for a page if a colour printer was used. These costs have not dropped.

If you have to print the delivery lists daily, use our Point of Sale software to email to the deliver's mobile, over the year this alone has saved our clients hundreds of dollars a year.

Often  I have seen people print a massive report when all they need is the final summary on the last page. Why not print the report to the view screen and then printout only the last page?

As rarely do you need the massive report printed, use our system document storage.

A tip

Make or use your existing Gmail or Hotmail account for digital storage. You set up its filter to put the documents to put it automatically into an appropriate directory so it does not bother you.

Now if you feel that you need to print a report for audit purposes, email the report to this email address. That way you have a copy, that you can access anytime you want it. Here are some added benefit these records date and times so supplying proof of when you ran this report if required. Plus are more secure and it also saves on filing cabinets. You also have the benefit of its search engine on your documents when you are trying to find something.

Why printout heaps of statements at the end of the month? Get your clients' email addresses and send it out by email, saves as well on mailing costs and gives you a marketing list too. Here is another tip, send a copy of the emails sent to your storage email address as well. 

Of course, one of the best advantages of going paperless besides cost is on the environment. 

 

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Importance of good cameras

POS SOFTWARE

I spoke yesterday about good cameras, today the issue came up about skimmers which turned out to be an excellent example of why I do believe that all businesses need good cameras.

A skimming device

These come in many types and are widely available on the web. What a skimming device is, is an electronic device used by criminals that generally are put on an EFTPOS reader to read (skim) the information off on the magnetic strip of a credit card and then to capture the PIN number.

The idea is that a criminal comes to your shop, in a few seconds installs a skimmer then returns in a few days to your shop and retrieves the skimmer with your customers' credit card details on it.

Skimmers have been regularly caught around Australia.

 

Cameras

These people would never be caught without decent cameras.

Take a look, I think you will find it interesting. Two guys come into the shop, the guy in front distracts the cash operator, now look at the guy in the white shirt installing a skimmer. He took about three (3) seconds to install the skimmer.

Here is a discussion about the incident.

 

What to do.

I always give a test pull on any EFTPOS reader before I use it.

My suggestion to everyone is to put a marker all around the EFTPOS reader with texture, this can help as a skimmer would need to cover the mark and be in your handwriting, always have a camera on your EFTPOS unit and try to monitor it at all times. If something looks off, call your EFTPOS provider immediately.

 

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Wireless security cameras

POS SOFTWARE

What is saving retail now are security cameras from shoplifting, it seems to be the only evidence that the courts are accepting. However, have a read here on monitoring and the law if you have or intend to have cameras.

For retailers, the best security systems are those that are directly connected to your point of sale software. With such a system if for example, a customer said, I gave you a $50 and you gave me change from $20, well you just press a button on the cash register, find the transaction and playback it back. Every till should have one.

However, there are many more places to cover than the till for example the shop itself, the front and exit of the shop, the back room and some parts outside. For these often you need wireless security cameras.

They have one great advantage that they are easy to move around. However unlike wired security cameras, wireless security camera are funny things, you install in one shop a few and they work perfectly, you put the same cameras into a similar shop and it is nothing but trouble so we have to pull them out and replace them.

Here are some points

Map out your requirements on paper.

Do it carefully as I assure you that paper will get a lot of use. Try to draw it to scale if possible.

Now, put on the paper where you feel the cameras should go, generally, to save cost people follow the power points as much as possible. 

Now measure the range of these camera positions to your camera base. You will need to know the range before you can buy the camera.  What you also need to determine where you will need a narrow vision and where you need a wide-angle camera.  If you are not sure the salesman can tell you what cameras they have for such range and angles.

If you are in an area of a lot of WIFI you need to make sure that it will operate in these areas. I have seen WIFI security cameras fail in shopping centres.

Camera requirements

You want cameras that are easy to install and setup. Over their lifetime, you are going to want to move them around. This, after all, is the point of having them wireless.

Most important it is easy to change the Date and Time, you do not want to have to try to explain to a judge why the alleged robbery took place at this time but why your camera showing a different time. If you are in an area that has daylight savings you, make sure your camera has daylight savings enabled and check to make sure it does automatically adjust the cameras time. 

I would say 1080p should be the standard resolution that you should use. With prices today there is little savings going much lower and often you need that extra resolution. Remember a shoplifter can be out of your shop in seconds and you need often to make an instant decision. 

Check how good the motion cameras sensor is, you do not want lags.

Make sure the camera got decent night vision, you do not want anything that looks grainy. Some of these cameras have a function that I love when it is dark a red light like a gun shines out, it helps to deter undesirables as they can see the cameras are working.

Final note

Much of the camera software supplied by the security companies are full of bugs. I would not count on it despite what the specifications say. 

How much to budget?

Impossible to say for the $800 they spent it was much for what they need, others that spent $20,000 will sigh and say that it was not enough.

 

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Suppliers how are you going with them?

POS SOFTWARE

Good suppliers are essential to retailers but they are always changing and what our point of sale software can do is show you over time exactly what you are doing with each of your suppliers. It makes fascinating reading.

As a rule, I think that suppliers are often accessed on various factors like price, reliability, location and competency however often its difficult over time to determine just how important they are now and how they are going with you now.

So go to register sales reports and then go to "Sales comparison by supplier"
 

Supplier options

I recommend for this report that you use a previous year and compare it to this year.

For the initial run use percentage.


Then a report like this pops up.

Supplier report

What you will see is big variations over time for each supplier.  

This will give you an idea of just how important a supplier is now to your business and how you are going with that supplier. This will help you to make better business decisions.

This report can also be used to access how in holiday periods different suppliers perform for you.

 

 

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NO point of sale system = NO business

POS SOFTWARE

A massive power surge went through a client of ours a few days ago sometime in the night, and when everything started up again, the server that runs their system gave this.

Blue screen of death

It was only in the morning it was noticed on the computer, and for a few hours, until we fixed it up, much of the shop was down.  No electronic goods and only people that paid cash could be processed. The sales were handwritten down.

The problem would have been avoided if they had a UPS emergency power unit which is what I recommend on all servers, but it does bring up a question of what is the cost if your POS system goes down?

This depends on many factors including the nature of your business, including such factors as the time it happened, your labour costs and your time. For example, in this case, the owner had to on his day off to come to work.

You would also need to consider the duration and severity of the failure. 

In this case, an emergency computer had to be brought out and installed while the existing computer had to be fixed. The total bill was several thousands of dollars. The insurance will pay most of that, but it will not pay what about 50% of the trade of the business for three hours that was estimated as lost nor the owners time.

It has all become a rather interesting exercise in risk management.  Something that is well worth considering.

 

 

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Why is my cloud backup taking so long?

POS SOFTWARE

 

One question, I get asked a lot is why does a cloud backup take so long?

The big problem is that the initial point of sale data is so big and there is a lot of data to back up.

There does not seem to be a pattern as sometimes it goes quickly and sometimes it takes forever. Part of the problem is that few SMB have commercial grade internet. So in my experience, the backup times are at least double the times quoted by the salesmen for cloud backups.

This seems to be what others report too.

https://www.cloudwards.net/how-long-should-my-backup-take/

So if you the most backup software says it's six hours for the initial backup. I would suggest you budget 12 hours.

After that many of the cloud backup software can take advantage that it has a copy and so only requires a smaller amount of time to send down, this is what we call sending the changes. How big are these changes depends on many factors including your software, whether you use encryption on your database (note you should not do this if you intend to use cloud backup which is a security issue to many people in itself), how much work you do and your cloud backup software?  Still, I would budget about double the quoted figure times quoted as a first level approximation.

All this is often not the problem in itself as the computer is just left on till its done what the problem usually is, is that while it is doing the backup the internet in the shop runs very slow. People complain that they cannot get an email, they cannot order and that if they are using EFTPOS, it does not work.

One option I do suggest is that you set your cloud backup to only work when the shop is closed say your shop runs from 6 am to 9 pm, have your cloud backup only operate between 10 pm and 5 am. This also has advantages as far as ransomware is concerned too.

Note most of our clients that use cloud backup software use it as an emergency backup to their regular backup. 

 

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Thermal receipt paper

POS SOFTWARE

Here are some more tips for buying thermal receipt paper.

I do suggest buying decent paper if only as it does not give a professional impression if you use some paper that looks cheap.

-Buy a roll first to test before buying a box. Too many people get burnt with thermal receipt paper that is not suitable for their needs. I have seen people having to unwrap a roll and wind it on a spool of a previous roll as the new one did not fit. Imagine if they had a box?

- Make sure the paper is what you want if you want double, make sure that it is double.

- I like the red/pink mark that shows you are starting to run out, some rolls do not have it, and some only show this mark right at the end so you little or no warning.

- Buy what you need, a typical problem is that as quality varies greatly even in the box you can return the bad ones but... For example, I have seen boxes of 50 rolls which have almost half bad rolls. If you are buying large quantities to use internally, it can take a long time to go through 50 rolls to discover all the bad ones. Good luck say over a year later trying to return all the bad ones.

- Be warned sometimes people report to me that the rolls are no way in length to the quoted length.

- Often advertisements do not show thickness. Make sure you do not get some that are too thin.

See my previous posts about buying thermal receipt paper here  and here.

 

 

Hope this helps!

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Loyalty marketing and price cannibalization

POS SOFTWARE

 

VIP members customers marketing promotions

 

I was reading an article that I thought was very interesting here and I think retailers will find it an interesting read even if like me they have some doubts about some of the points.

Here are some points I agree with

) Customers don't want or need loyalty Customers are not loyal.

) Why should customers want to be loyal? Why would people limit their range and options voluntarily? Unlike your pet, they have all the power anyway, so why should they give that up? The average customer can extract as much value from a retailer as a loyal customer, so there is not much benefit in being loyal anyway.

) Loyal customers are demanding customers.

) There is a cost in satisfying the demands of an existing customer. Give a loyal customer 10% discount, and after overheads, you got nothing out of the customer. Few of us can afford even 5% discount.

Here are four observations that I have noticed with loyalty marketing

) Since the economic incentive of most rewards programs is small, few customers are going to go well out of their way to take advantage of a rewards program. The main benefit is the information that the retailer gets on their customers. The information benefits are estimated at 1% of sales so almost all rewards programs work on 1% of sales. This is the retail benchmark. It is not as many think the increase in sales as such.

Most importantly they want their customers' email address to market too. If I send out a thousand emails every two weeks and I get a 1% response rate, I have 10 sales every two weeks.  If my basket size is $50, over the year, my newsletters have generated $13,000 extra income. 

) Most loyalty programs in my experience end out being taken up by people that were going to buy anyway at full price so offering people in the shop already discounts is very dubious. What you want is a loyalty program that will bring them to your shop.

) Many successful retailers like ALDI do not have a loyalty program. Conversely, Coles and Woolworths are more successful and they do have such programs.

) Very few customers that come or leave you do so because they are dissatisfied with the product or service they are receiving. Give them bad service or faulty goods, yes they will leave you but that is another story.

Hope these observations help at the very least give you food for thought.

 


 

 

 

 

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A business plan

POS SOFTWARE

 

 

If you are like me about now is the time of year that you look at your business and your business plans. It gives you a chance to access how you have done, what you did right, what mistakes you made in your planning and where you want to go. So I think it is not essential, but it is a good idea.

In my experience, there are three reasons SMB will do business plans, none of which are mutually exclusive

1) To clarify their thoughts

2) Get stakeholder and key staff on the same page

3) They need money from banks, lending institutions or investors.

The closer to (3) the more likely, I find that the business plan is professionally designed and written up.

A business plan generally takes about 10 to 20 hours of work, and it tends to be a lot of work. I know I am going back and forwards from our financial and helpdesk software to get figures and asking heaps of people for what they think. 

Now there are three main ways of doing it.

1) Use a template 

This would be my recommendation for starters, and if it does not work out at least, you know something about it and have an idea of what you need.

Most of the banks do provide their customers such a template free. The big advantage of using their one is that you will find their loan officers tend to think in the same terms.  

The Australian government does provide a free one too here.

2) Use some software

I used to recommend this as it does reduce the time to write a business plan by half. However what I discovered is that unless you are writing a lot of business plans but happened was that what the user gained in time using the software, they lost it in the time required to learn to use the software. The other issue as it only used occasionally, once mastered it has to be relearned the next time around.

3) Get a professional to write one up. If you are getting a professional, say 15+ hours of work at $250/hour is about $4,000. Remember although a professional knows what they are doing they need to get the information out of you, and they need to understand the business, this will take them many hours. 

Once you have a business plan, what you will find is that as time goes on, it does not take long to adapt it to the current date. 80% is the same, and it is only 20% that changes.

Finally, do not worry about it not being perfect, nothing ever is.

“A good plan now is better than a perfect plan next week.” ― General George S. Patton 

 

 

 

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