Photo by adrianTNT (Flickr)

Photo by adrianTNT (Flickr)

How fast can you set up a POS? It’s one of those question philosophers have been grappling with for millennia, but no one has yet given a definitive answer. Because really: what is time, anyway? Is it an objective component of the knowable universe, or just a linguistic construct created by humans? And why didn’t philosophers think about this kind of stuff instead of monkeying around with computer software? We may never know. We can say with certainty that with the advent of cloud computing, software setup times for the end user are shrinking rapidly. A huge part of this is that users just don’t have to install the software anymore. The software makers are the ones that set up the server hardware and install the software, carving out little slices of the server for each of their customers. By the time the end user pulls up to the keyboard, all that’s left to do is for her to enter the business’ data into the system. And so how long does that take?

I can answer that definitively: not long. It depends. But not long. And once you’ve done the initial setup, adding locations is much shorter than that. But installation times: they’re like an IT geek’s fish story. We all have one. This is neither the time or the place for such grandstanding, so I’ll just say the Novell server upgrade of ’98 is a 36-hour period I won’t soon forget. But the last 17 years has seen an eon’s worth of progress, computationally speaking. For instance, how many of you even know what I meant by “Novell” in my earlier sentence? These days, the IT geeks still have their fish stories, but they’re kept under wraps, behind closed doors and locked away in some subterranean data center. The new owners of the installation time brag-tale are the ladies and gentleman of cloud software developers, and their stories go the other way. What’s the fastest time-to-production you’ve ever seen with one of your customers? The tales echo through the industry as either accepted truth or urban legend.

Well, I heard tell this one feller who had his entire point-of-sale up, running, and ringing in 30 seconds. Woulda been 15 – 20, but the man was having a severe rheumatic outbreak. His fingers curled like a worm on a hook, I tell you, but he done it. He stuck with it and done finished that install, yessir.

OK, so that sounds a little absurd, but the fact is cloud software can be implemented quite speedily, and Kounta is no different. I’ve done the install myself, for the sole reason of maintaining my credibility with you, my dear readers who trust and hang on my every word for guidance. And so: I ordered a pizza for delivery and then created a mock Kounta account from scratch at the same time to see which I would finish first.  Kounta won. And after such a fast POS setup, I began to write this piece to kill the time before my pizza gets here. Granted, I only set up about 10 items of products, but that’s kind of the point: that’s the only part of the process that might actually take you a little bit of time (and that can be mitigated with a bulk import). Here are the steps and a breakdown of the time required for each of them:

  • Time to Beat: 17.2 seconds.

    Time to Beat: 17.2 seconds.

    Create an Account, 1 to 2 minutes – To fill out the required fields on this initial form took me 17 seconds. I’m a fast typer, though: it might take you 30. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for the verification email and clicking on the link to activate the account.

  • Enter Company Settings, 2 to 5 minutes – This consists of company-wide settings like the business name, address, phone number, and entering in any tax rates that might apply to your sales. Then you set up a location for the store, enter in the same kind of contact info to show on the receipts, and that’s that.
  • Enter Products, variable – This is dependent on how many products you have and how detailed you need to get for each (with modifiers and variants). If you’re entering products one by one through the Kounta app, expect it to take a couple minutes for each item. If you’re one of those ridiculous hipster boutiques that sells exactly three shirts and a single pair of spats, shame on you. But also, you’ll be done in no time. But even if you’ve got a ton of products, doing a bulk import by CSV will save you a lot of time. Yes, it could take you a few hours or more to create the document, but this can also be done in advance of installing everything–say, while you’re waiting for your shiny new hardware to arrive. At that point, importing all your products is a matter of minutes during the actual set up process.
  • Install Hardware, variable – Maybe you’re reusing existing POS terminals. With that, pretty much all you have to do is type http://my.kounta.com into a web browser, spend a few minutes setting up printers, and you’re ready to go. Or maybe you’re buying some tablets (you’re not buying PCs in this day and age, are you?). An iPad can be set up in minutes (this is by design, by the way: any longer than 10 minutes and the ghost of Steve Jobs fires the whole iPad team, effective immediately). You can bulk set up the Kounta app using third party tools, and registers can be assigned from a central location (meaning you don’t have to run around setting up each register individually). The same goes for any peripherals you might have if they’re cloud connected.
  • Sign Up for Kounta’s Business Plan – If you haven’t already (maybe you’ve been giving it a try with the Lite version), now’s the time to enter your credit card digits and subscribe to the Kounta service.

And there you have it. Kounta is set up. And unlike the urban legend I invented above, I’ve heard stories of Kounta installs in sites with up to 15 registers that took less than an hour that actually happened. And as I hinted at earlier, if a business expands and opens a second location (or more), those new stores can be spun up in minutes–literally. Those of you who know me, know that when I say literally, I literally mean literally.

The author, installing Kounta.

The author, installing Kounta.

Products, pricing, employees, customers: they’re all managed centrally. Setting up a new store is as quick as entering in the site info, assigning registers to devices and peripherals to registers, entering in the users and tweaking anything location specific in your inventory (maybe prices are different). And it’s a good thing it doesn’t take long to do any of this: my pizza just arrived, and it’s not going to eat itself.