"Retail Computer System Configuration Checklist with 21 Critical Steps for a Reliable Computer System in the Retail Environment"
- By Bob Twain
Overlooking important configuration aspects is one of the
most common and critical mistakes that retailers make (even
if you hire a professional). These mistakes can cost you
thousands of dollars in wasted time and money. And even
worse... it can frustrate your customers.
Very rarely do I walk into a retail store that has a
properly configured computer system with all the precautions
taken. And if you don't take these precautions (that I'm
about to tell you about), it's only a matter of time until
your system goes down for hours, days, or even weeks!
Whether you already have a retail computer system or you're
going to configure one yourself -- it's important for you to
make sure everything is done properly.
That's why I created a checklist for you to follow that will
help you improve reliability and avoid downtime -- even if
you hired a professional to make sure everything was
Please don't let me give you the wrong message. I don't
recommend configuring your own computer system! I always
recommend letting a professional do the work. But I know
some of you will do it yourself no matter what I say. So
this is for those of you that insist on doing your own
computer system and for everyone else to double check and
make sure everything was done properly. This could help you
avoid some major problems and save hours of precious time.
So here's your retail computer system configuration checklist
for a Windows network:
1) Install a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply)
one cause of electronic component failure is from
fluctuations in electricity (up and down). A good UPS can
solve this problem by regulating the power. I recommend that
you at least put a good UPS on your server. And it's a good
idea to use them on all your workstations too.
2) Plug All Your Cables Into the UPS
Make sure all cables
that power your computer and network are plugged into your
UPS. It's also important to make sure cables that can carry
electrical charges are plugged into a surge protector or
UPS. For example, the phone line for your modem can fry your
computer if it's not plugged into a surge protector. So make
sure your modem line, network cables, and power cords are
all plugged in properly.
3) Configure Your Network
If you have multiple computers
that need to access your retail software, then you'll need a
network. I'm not going to explain exactly how to do this
because an explanation goes well beyond the scope of this
article. But I should point out that you will also need to
contact your retail software providers to learn how you need
the network configured. For example, your software could
require mapped network drives.
4) Disable Simple File Sharing
In most situations I have
found it best to disable Simple File Sharing on your Windows
network, but you should check with your POS software
provider for their recommendation.
5) Passwords and Security
At the very least, I suggest
locking down your server with a password on all Windows
accounts so your employees and hackers have more difficulty
messing with your server.
6) Install Anti-virus Software
You absolutely must install
anti-virus on every computer that has email or internet
access (and keep the software up to date).
7) Configure Anti-Virus Software For Automatic Updates
also very important to configure that software to update
automatically every day, so you don't forget.
8) Install Anti-Spyware Software
Times have changed and
today anti-spyware software has become a requirement for any
computer with internet access.
9) Configure Anti-Spyware Software For Automatic Updates
The same thing applies here -- you should configure the
software to update automatically so you don't forget.
10) Limit Internet Access
Employees that surf the internet
can cause more problems than anything. Anti-virus and anti-
spyware software does help but if an employee inadvertently
downloads the wrong program or accepts the wrong message, it
can bring your system down. You can avoid this by disabling
internet browsing on your computers. Or another option is to
password protect internet access.
11) Remove Unnecessary Programs
Get rid of all the garbage
that you don't need. Your computers should be for business
use only. Removing unnecessary programs can speed up your
computer and help avoid software conflicts.
12) Implement Policies For Computer Use
I highly recommend
that you implement non-negotiable computer use policies for
your employees. For example, if they have internet access or
rights to install programs, you need to lay down the law. If
you don't, one of these days you'll come into the store and
find your computer has a few goodies loaded that messes up
your system. I would suggest that you enforce - no internet
surfing, no instant messaging, do NOT open anything on the
computer except necessary business programs like your POS
13) Check Power Settings
Sometimes you can avoid little
problems by turning off your power save settings. For
example, if your computer decides to go into "sleep mode",
it can slow down you POS software.
14) Configure Your Printers
You will most likely need to
install printer drivers and do some networking to get your
printers working properly. I can't explain all the details
in this article, but you'll need to get it done.
15) Install Your Retail Software Applications
software system works a little different so you should get
help from your software provider. Things you'll need to do
can include: setting up your server database, installing
server software, and installing client software on each
16) Configure Your POS Software
If you have a POS system
you'll need to configure the software to work properly. In
addition, at some point you'll need to configure the
software for your specific business. For example, you'll
need to set sales tax codes, customer types, product
categories, defaults, etc, etc.
17) Install a Back Up
You absolutely must install a good
back up system that is reliable. If you need help choosing a
back up system, I wrote a few articles about the subject a
18) Configure Your Back Up To Run Every Night
situations, it's best to configure your back up to run after
hours automatically. But you still need to remember to
change your back up device (like tapes) every day.
19) Test Your Backup By Restoring Files Once A Month
I can't tell you how many times I've talked with people that
have hard drive failure and think they have a good back up
to restore. But when they try to restore they find it hasn't
been working for months or years. That's why you need to do
a "real" test restore once a month to make sure it's
working. By the way, you should restore to an alternate file
location so you don't mess up your existing software.
20) Schedule Automatic Windows Updates
If your computer
has internet access it's a good idea to schedule automatic
updates to protect your computer from the latest security
holes and threats.
21) If The Database For Your POS Software Requires
Maintenance, Schedule Weekly Maintenance
applications allow you to run database maintenance to clean
up indexes and fix errors. In fact, most desktop databases
include maintenance programs. It's a good idea to schedule
this maintenance once a week to avoid potential problems.
Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive checklist, but
simply a list of the key steps that I see commonly
overlooked. There are small details that should be
considered when configuring a network and computer system.
In addition, you will need some level of computer expertise
since I have not included instructions on how to do all of
So please check your computer system now. If you don't, you
might regret it later.
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