All in One POS System vs Custom POS System: What’s the Difference?

Cam Summerson
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Whether you’re buying a new POS system or upgrading an existing one, shopping for a POS device can be a challenge. Should you buy an all-in-one? Or is it better to buy the hardware and add your own software? There are pros and cons to each, and depending on your situation, one may make more sense than the other.

Hardware Selection Guide

What is an all in one POS system?

An all in one POS system is one where the hardware and software are married — they are both provided by the same company. Square, Clover, and Toast are all popular all in one POS providers. The systems themselves vary by company, but they generally offer a touchscreen, cash drawer, barcode scanner, receipt printer, and credit card reader.

All in one systems can come in various form factors, like a tabletop POS or a portable mPOS (mobile POS). Most companies offer a selection of all in one options so merchants can choose which options best suit their needs.

What are the advantages of an all in one POS?

There are a few reasons to go with an all in one system over a custom piecemeal option.

  • Simplicity: When the same company offers the hardware and software of your POS, you’ll manage both in the same place. This also makes tech support easier.
  • Expandability: If you need to add a new system or a different type of POS, all in ones makes it easy to expand (assuming the company offers the form factor you’re looking for).
  • Cost of ownership: Most of the time, it’s more economical to buy an all in one system than an off the shelf POS running software you develop in-house or purchase from an ISV (Independent Software Vendor). In some cases, the provider may even offer free or heavily discounted hardware since they’ll make money from transaction processing fees in the software.

What are the disadvantages of an all in one POS?

While there are several reasons to go with an all in one system, there are certain downsides, as well.

  • Shorter lifespan: You’ll have to replace all in one hardware far more often than a custom POS system, which can last for a decade or longer.
  • Provider limitations: With an all in one, you’re locked into a hardware ecosystem — if your model is missing features or you outgrow it, you’ll have to upgrade the whole system (assuming the provider even offers a system with the features you want).

Custom POS vs all in one POS

If you’re not keen on the limitations of all in one systems, there’s another option: build your own POS system. For this solution, you’ll purchase an off the shelf POS system or piecemeal your own with a tablet, cash drawer, card reader, and other peripherals. You’ll pair this with a third-party or in-house custom POS software solution for greater flexibility and, oftentimes, scalability.

What are the advantages of a custom POS?

The choice to go with a build your own POS system may seem daunting at first, but you’ll get some notable advantages.

  • Options: The biggest advantage here is unquestionably the availability of options. You can choose your exact hardware (including mixing and matching peripherals), then pair it with the software that works best for your situation.
  • You own it: With all in one, you essentially “rent” the hardware from the provider. With a custom POS, the hardware is yours. You pay for it; you own it. That means if you want to change, modify, or upgrade it, you can.
  • Extended lifespan: Since you own the hardware, there are fewer limitations to what you can do with it. For example,  if your Windows system starts to perform slowly, you can easily flip it to Android to dramatically extend its lifespan.

What are the disadvantages of a custom POS?

Going the build your own route isn’t without its own challenges.

  • Higher upfront costs: If you’re ever shopped around for a point of sale system, you know they’re not cheap. And if you have to buy multiple systems, well, that cost adds up quickly.
  • Limited technical support: If you’re using discrete hardware and software, the tech challenges can be greater. Sometimes that means a lot of troubleshooting on your own, which is time consuming and potentially costly.

When you need a partner to supercharge your POS, we’re it

Want to know a secret? Building your own POS doesn’t have to be a challenge. The right partner can help you find the best hardware for your needs, offer a functional software solution, and help you manage it. Whether you have a small business, restaurant, food truck, or any other retail business, we’re ready when you are.

POS Device Management

Image source: Phonlamai Photo/


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Cam Summerson
Cam Summerson

Cam is Esper's Director of Content and brings over 10 years of technology journalism experience to Esper, including nearly half-a-decade as Editor in Chief of a technology publication. He currently oversees the ideation, execution, and distribution plans for numerous types of content from blog posts to ebooks and beyond.

Cam Summerson
Learn about Esper mobile device management software for Android and iOS
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