Cloud POS: App vs. Remote Desktop


A Point of Sale App is a software designed to "consume" Cloud services through code optimized for the Operating System of the device. Deployment is done from a web page or a marketplace. The App term became popular with mobile devices, but it also applies to PCs.

A Remote Desktop POS is based on a Thin Client resident or installed in the device used as a Point of Sale, whose only job is to replicate the user interface of a conventional application program running on a remote server placed in chain headquarters or in a datacenter.

The Remote Desktop advantage is to continue using legacy applications while removing the complexity from the store and moving where it can be better managed by a technical team. The App purpose is similar: remove the complexity, but with “a grain of salt” because in the POS remains a light application software able to manage normal operations, even during faults in the connection or to the central server.

The many benefits of an App-based POS, that we will see in detail, have an obstacle: to exploit all the Cloud advantages, a radical redesign is needed, but this is an investment supported by SaaS (Software as a Service) providers.

• SLA. The Service Level Agreement is definitely higher in an App designed to leverage the power of modern Cloud platform, thanks to, for example, the automatic management of faults and updates. Moreover, a Public Cloud is always equipped with multiple redundant Internet connections. Finally, if the App is based on a local cache with Items, Customers and Promotions, POS operations becomes independent also from local connectivity.

• Scalability. Apps fully leverage local resources now abundant also in the cheapest Tablets or Smartphones, while reducing the workload on the central server that, with the same power, can handle more stores. The use of asynchronous messages queues further increases scalability as it help to even out peaks and valleys of requests to the central server. If instead of a traditional server is used a service designed through new rapid scale-out Cloud paradigms, then the scalability becomes nearly infinite, and efficiency very high.

• Speed. POS are not only "mission critical", but must be also very fast and a Remote Desktop is subject to the inevitable connection latency to the remote server. Also at peak time additional delays are due to concurrent access to the same database. Instead an App based on a constantly updated local cache, provide always the maximum speed.

• Cost. Both Remote Desktop and App that can work on touch-enabled low cost hardware as Tablets and Smartphones, whereas Thin Clients based on special hardware are more expensive because of low-volume production. With Remote Desktop some software infrastructure license cost often must be added, but the main App savings are on central resources that can be less powerful for the same response time and store number, since the more local processing is used, the less it is the weight on central resources.

• Bandwidth. An App that process sales locally and communicate with asynchronous high level messages, exchange less data and less frequently, using less bandwidth. Moreover, if the App use safe queues, it works also on intermittent connections as mobile POS via WiFi or directly connected to the telephone network. • Evolution. In a SaaS designed for Cloud, adaptation to chain specific needs is done through fast configurations instead of lengthy and costly customizations, sometimes with negative ROI. This limitation to "imagination and waste" imposed by a certain level of standardization, has enormous advantages. With the complete sharing of hardware and software (multi-tenancy), the problem resolution or new features are immediately available to all users, always aligned to the latest version.

• Integration. POS designed for the Cloud are usually based on open and standard interfaces (APIs) that facilitate integration with any external system such as, for example, Business Intelligence, Predictive Analytics, CRM, eCommerce, Customer App ... for a truly Omni-channel experience.


POS software has been often seen as a differentiator and several chains have invested heavily in proprietary developments or heavy customizations that now make it difficult to move forward. In these cases there are no easy and painless solutions, but the sooner the chain get out of this deadlock, the sooner it will be able to face the challenges of the contemporary customers.