Choose the Right Operating System for your Enterprise

Choose the Right Operating System for your Enterprise

The operating system that drives your enterprise is more than the core beneath your software apps. You’ll be investing deeply in a system that should support your business operations for many years ahead. The costs for licensing, software (now and apps to developed), hardware, and tech support require that you take a close look before you leap.

When Microsoft announced that it will no longer support CE/Windows Mobile in 2020, about 15 million users—90% of the enterprise market— were left with a quandary. Do you stick with that OS until you hit the dead end where you need support and it’s just not there? Do you rewrite your legacy systems? You could also make the OS migration to a system that will be supported in the long run. Android, for example, is picking up steam, not just as a result of Microsoft’s decision, but because developers are recognizing the potential for an enterprise-grade Android system.

What do we mean by “enterprise grade”? Well, as you know, Android is an open-source platform, which causes some IT professionals to cringe at the prospect of managing security. With a powered-up version, like Zebra’s MX Extensions, you gain the added security to maintain a safe environment beyond your single host system. Zebra has taken the desirable familiarity of Android and made it exponentially stronger and more secure.

The next factor in choosing the right operating system for your enterprise is the hardware compatibility. Can you acquire the computers, printers, scanners, and other devices that will work with your OS choice? No one wants to go out and replace all of their technology, so assess what you have. Which devices need to be replaced and which have more life? Is there a way to take a scalable approach to updating your hardware during the OS migration?

With Microsoft pulling out of the market in three years, you have time to ponder your choices, but unless you want to be pressured into making a sudden transition, develop your strategy now. Establish a timeline. If you need help identifying the components and evaluating your choices, contact Informs

RFID Technology: The Future of Retail

ATTENTION ALL RETAILERS: We know what you’re probably thinking…. What the heck is RFID anyway? If you’re new to retail, or haven’t heard of RFID, let’s start off by reminding you what RFID is all about. RFID stands for radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. This technology uses a method of identifying items through radio waves. The RFID device works much like a barcode and scanner, except it is far more efficient and cost-effective! The technology utilizes a reader and tag that work simultaneously allowing for optimal service at the quickest pace.

RFID technology isn’t a new concept either. It has been around for nearly seventy-six years and has experienced significant advances in the past decade, and most particularly in recent years. These advances include a lower cost of ownership, improved reader form factors, greater global standardization, and innovations in passive ultra-high frequency (UHF) tags, which are all furthering RFID interest and adoption.

While all of these advancements are great, the single-most convincing argument for implementation of RFID devices in retail stores, can be found in the proven return on investment (ROI) that item-level tagging provides throughout the entire supply chain process. If you haven’t had a chance to look at the many benefits of RFID technology recently, consider these five great reasons why you should implement RFID in all of your retail stores:

  • Increased Inventory Accuracy. Studies have shown RFID technology offers the best solution to track merchandise for stocking and marketing purposes.
  • Reduced Inventory Management Labor. Both apparel and footwear retailers utilizing RFID in their stores have reported inventory labor reductions of 75 to 92 percent. In tests prior to the introduction of RFID technology, only 200 items per hour were counted using a manual process. Following the introduction of RFID technology, 5,000 items per hour were counted.
  • Reduced Inventory Carrying Costs. With RFID technology, retailers have been able to sustain leaner inventory levels, while reducing associated carrying costs more than ever before.
  • Improved Sales. Item-level RFID has shown an increased sale of items per transaction because the technology is fast and is cost-effective.
  • Protection Against Theft. We all know that shoplifting occurs more regularly than we would like to admit in retail. It’s been estimated that shoplifting alone costed U.S. retailers $32 billion last year. By using RFID to support electronic article surveillance (EAS), retailers are notified in real time when items are being stolen.

Almost all of the benefits listed above apply directly to a retailer’s in-store operations, yet, in today’s fast-paced world, retailers understand now more than ever, that being able to distribute items and fulfill orders from inventory located in any part of the supply chain is more efficient, more cost-effective, and more likely to result in greater satisfaction and an enhanced customer experience. Furthermore, nearly all retailers agree that the key to accurate inventory management is technology, most notably RFID.

Throughout the entire the supply chain, RFID technology allows retailers to maximize their inventory control and maintain flexibility from initial manufacturer orders through direct-to-customer shipping. Today’s RFID devices help increase the level of productivity in every retail store, by operating as both a sales channel and a fulfillment center. Additionally, this device helps enhance customer satisfaction and ultimately, improve end-to-end supply chain ROI.

This system of technology works and we are confident that its level of usage will only continue to grow in the future! If you have any further questions regarding RFID placement in retail stores, please do not hesitate to visit us at: https://www.informsinc.com/.

Retail IT Pain Points [Part Three]

In our last two blogs, we talked about some of the pains IT professionals feel in the tough retail industry, where maintaining POS systems is a constant, everyday task. Today’s final blog of the series will explore even more of those pains and how Informs, Inc. can help. Let’s dive into those pain points.

Remote Security and Backups Are Annoying: We hear you. Retail IT environments are inherently distributed, complex and mixed. Perhaps you feel like you don’t have the time or staffing resources to be everywhere your POS systems are deployed, and you don’t have to be. However, these devices absolutely must be backed up and secured as reliably as possible due to strict regulatory and compliance requirements. The solution? Centralized the management of your data protection, security strategies and compliance. Backups should be able to be conducted automatically or manually on demand, and security breaches should be dealt with quickly and efficiently.

I Don’t Have the Time or Budget for Virtualization: You need to ensure the availability of POS systems says that IT resources (such as storage, applications and server capacity) need to be pooled across the business and shared between users who are geographically distributed. Having an architecture like this can save money, increase productivity and create efficiencies, but it can also be expensive and complex to migrate and maintain. You need a holistic view of all IT resources and virtualization and cloud computing to be affordable for your company.

My Company’s Decision Makers Don’t Understand IT: Corporate decision makers don’t always understand IT, and this can lead to miscommunication and missed opportunities. It’s important that you are careful to articulate the work your team has done to support your organization’s goals. You need easy-to-read reports that keep decision makers informed of your department’s ongoing and needs. They also help you plan for scheduled maintenance, upgrades and expansions. Reports can be run with a simple push of a button.

Working in IT for the retail business doesn’t have to be as difficult as it is today. Contact Informs Inc. for information on how we can help.

Retail IT Pain Points [Part Two]

In our last blog, we talked about some of the IT pain points in the retail industry, where managing POS (Point of Sale) systems seem to take up the majority of IT professionals’ time. In today’s blog, we’ll focus on even more pain points IT professionals in retail face and how we can help.

Downtime is Lost Revenue: The time it takes to update your organization’s POS software can mean making a sale (or several sales) and losing business to a competitor. Gartner estimates that one hour of network downtime—planned or unplanned—costs the average company $ 42,000.  Some form of planned or unplanned downtime will happen to your POS systems during business hours, and you need a solution that two people can use a computer at the same time. A web-based console can be operated remotely in the background, and it keeps a POS device up and running throughout the maintenance process. It’s non-disruptive and shows that no lost sales can be attributed to the IT department.

Users Need to Be Up-and-Running Quickly: New IT users need to be educated and trained on your company’s IT policies and procedures. Salespeople need to be finished quickly so they can behind the cash registers as soon as possible. To streamline this process, you need to apply pre-configured user profiles to new employees. Use workflow technology to build user profiles and automatically apply them to new users remotely and with the push of a button. This allows you to focus on more pressing matters.

Not All Users are Experts: IT professionals are often plagued by “hobbyists” who’ve taken a computer courses or played around on their personal laptops. These users believe that they can install patches and run security scans, or even fix simple problems with the POS system. These users mean well, but they can pose a huge risk for your organization if a user downloads a virus that wipes out the POS system. You need a serious, enforceable approach to security.

Stay tuned for our final blog on IT pain points in the retail industry, and in the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact the retail IT industry experts at Informs, Inc. to help

Retail IT Pain Points [Part One]

Managing IT operations in any industry can be a tiring, difficult job. It takes a lot of time and patience, along with a great deal of expertise. If your company has multiple locations, different devices, or unreliable networks, there are several opportunities to make processes as efficient as possible. We’ve heard it all from IT, so we’ve outlined a few of the common pain points and our suggestions for how to remedy them in the future.

Your Devices Manage You: With systems spread across multiple locations, IT professionals are often called upon to be in many places at once.  Chasing problems from one device to another is extremely inefficient, and you shouldn’t be managing all of your time as an IT professional fixing POS systems. Investing in an IT management system you can count on will help with these issues. Nearly half of all retail organizations still utilize multiple point products to manage their systems, but the system doesn’t have to be complicated.

Devices Are Left Unprotected by the Network:  Not knowing everything that’s out on your network exposes your entire organization to risk. Unlicensed, unsupported software can lead to security, compliance, and performance issues. On the opposite end, over-provisioning is safe, but very wasteful and expensive. It can also take up needed server capacity and bandwidth. It’s important to audit your infrastructure and allow visibility into all systems. This keeps you secure, compliant and safe.

Downtime is Lost Revenue: The time it takes to update your organization’s software can mean making a sale (or several sales) and losing business to a competitor. Gartner estimates that one hour of network downtime—planned or unplanned—costs the average company $ 42,000.  Some form of planned or unplanned downtime will happen to your systems during business hours, and you need a solution that two people can use a computer at the same time. A web-based console can be operated remotely in the background, and it keeps a POS device up and running throughout the maintenance process. It’s non-disruptive and shows that no lost sales can be attributed to the IT department.

Visibility, automation, and security are all important aspects to consider when creating a technology infrastructure for your company. Gaps in your system create work and take time that really is unnecessary.  It’s important to find the technology solution that works for your particular business

RFID vs. NFC: The differences you should know about

Radio frequency identification (RFID) has been around for a while. The technology has matured, and has spun off a newer technology: near-field communication (NFC). The emergence of NFC seems to have also sparked confusion.

What’s the difference between RFID and NFC?

RFID is a one-way process. Information is transmitted from an encoded memory chip (known as a “smart tag”) via an antenna to an RFID reader. There are two types of RFID tags: active and passive.

Active RFID tags contain a power source, so they can broadcast a signal, up to 100 meters away. This capability makes RFID a strong choice for asset tracking.

Passive RFID tags have no power. They’re activated by an electromagnetic signal sent from the RFID reader. The signal doesn’t travel as far as active RFID, so they’re used for short read ranges. Passive RFID falls into one of three frequency ranges:

  • Low frequency: 125-134.2 kHz
  • High frequency: 13.56 MHz
  • Ultra-high frequency: 856-960 MHz

RFIDvsNFC

NFC is based on RFID protocols. The devices run at passive RFID’s high frequency. NFC reads smart tags because, like RFID, it features a read/write operation mode.

But NFC goes farther than RFID. The technology has two-way communication—unlike RFID’s one-directional limitation—using one of two modes: card emulation and peer-to-peer (P2P).

For example, a smartphone enabled with NFC (and many of them are nowadays) can pass information back and forth to another NFC device. Contactless payment is an example of card emulation mode. Any time you redeem rewards points via your phone, you’re also using NFC’s card emulation feature.

P2P comes into play when you “bump” your mobile device with another one to share information. Maybe you’re passing music back and forth, swapping special deals, or playing a game with the friend sitting next to you. You can even tap your device with a router, to get on that network without having to use a password.

NFC will soon likely replace QR codes in some advertisements and promotional materials. Consumers will no longer have to scan a QR code to get to the intended location, but can simply use the NFC mode to instantly get the information that the advertiser wants them to have.

There is still plenty of space across today’s industries—from retail to manufacturing, transportation to healthcare—for RFID’s one-way communication, but NFC is paving another path along the ever-winding information highway.