Telecommunications have changed. Have you?
Brought to you by Heartland Payment Systems
By Bob Carr
You’ve heard it before: Out with the old, in with the new. But when you believe what you currently have is good enough —as is the case with so many restaurant operators when it comes to telecommunications —why make a switch, right?
Few restaurant operators understand the breadth of telecommunications services and management tools currently available, and most continue to use outdated technologies that are not only inefficient but costly as well. It’s time to change that by introducing a more efficient way to integrate today’s various services and processes into your business.
By the time you’re finished reading this, you’ll realize that accessing new telecom technologies is a lot like taking a coin out of your pocket and flipping it; but in this case you are going to win whether you come out heads —by saving hard dollars through reduced telecom costs; or tails —by realizing it is affordable to employ more management services that are crucial to your bottom line.
Many restaurants could reduce the costs of telecommunications, while maximizing the speed and effectiveness of all of the important tools and applications that rely on broadband connectivity, simply by moving to 21st Century telecommunications technology and replacing piecemeal services with a unified management approach.
And if you think you currently don’t spend a lot on telecommunications because “free telecom”is included in your payment processing, think again. You may be paying retail —or possibly a lot more than retail —for your connection to your processor with a “bundled rate.”Bundling telecommunications into your processing or servicing fees can be the most profitable business model for processors and the most costly for you!
Simply put, you may not be getting the deal you thought you were. But there are ways you can manage payment processing costs, along with all of your other telecom costs, and save some serious dollars each and every month.
Every restaurant uses a complex set of devices/services that can be integrated into a single communication medium to consolidate cost and deliver more content to the owner-operator’s desktop. The value of an integrated network solution is not in the telecommunication method, which is now a commodity, but in managing these various devices and services with a single business solution engagement provided by a single company.
These devices/services can be split into two categories —Real-Time Transaction Services and On-Demand Data Management Services. The most common of these services are listed below.
Real-Time Transaction Services:
Card payments (credit/debit/prepaid)
Gift and loyalty cards
On-Demand Data Management Services:
Point of sale (POS) system
Back office accounting system
Internet access (including public Wi-Fi)
Inventory control and purchasing systems
Remote digital menus
Cooler/freezer temperature monitoring
Computer based training (CBT)
Help desk remote support
Automated software updates
Various types of broadband services can be used to accomplish the consolidation of the listed applications into one communication source. The common mediums are DSL, cable, VSAT, dial,-up, cellular 3G/4G, MPLS and, less common, point-to-point metropolitan wireless.
The trends are changing with more options now available to more locations. Many operators are realizing there is no need to build a large point-to-point centralized network for small amounts of data. This is costly and not an efficient way to route IP traffic.
Consumer-grade DSL, cable and cellular are the most commonly used, low-cost means of building a wide area network if the proper integration and security appliances are implemented. A distributed network topology, which segments the network traffic between credit/debit/prepaid services and all other services, is needed in the event of an outside security audit. This is a requirement of PCI-DSS.
The distributed topology allows for credit/debit/prepaid traffic to be sent directly to the respective host processor, regardless of the home office’s network up/down status, with much more speed and load balancing capability. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is the most common encryption when routing payment traffic, but you can take it one step further by aligning with an end-to-end encryption-capable payments processor for the highest security.
Distributed topology also allows for non-payments traffic to be sent directly to and from the home office for content delivery and aggregation of operational data. VPN (Virtual Private Network) encryption is typically used to establish a private tunnel between the restaurant and home office. Regardless of which communication or encryption method is used, there must be a back-up communication method for payment and other mission-critical traffic in the event of a broadband outage. Dial-up or cellular backup is used as a low-cost method to keep your mission-critical traffic online.
Buy vs. Build
Restaurant operators are becoming more sophisticated each day in regard to the networking environment. Driving the need for a managed, wide area network (WAN) are real-time monitoring applications, POS and other software upgrades, back-office accounting system updates, PCI compliance audits and remote digital sign changes.
Operators have a buy vs. build decision to make when deciding to implement a network. If they decide to build, there is a significant dedication of time and expense to the initial procurement and rollout, as well as the ongoing expense of maintaining the network’s adds/moves/changes —not to mention managing multiple broadband carrier relationships.
If an operator decides to buy, there is typically a short-term spend, long-term save and overall better functionality to serve the restaurant’s constantly changing environment. It is a much better —and less costly —solution than what operators were previously purchasing over the past decade. Anyone in the position of determining to build or buy a network should seek outside guidance for such a large investment that will serve current and future restaurant locations for many years. An effort needs to be made to get it right the first time.
While saving dollars is terrific, what is most compelling to the restaurant operator is the idea that a single solution could allow for more rapid growth by simplifying the implementation of devices and services requiring connectivity during rollouts. There’s little doubt in anyone’s mind that new tools and applications in this category will come along, and the operators who can bring them online rapidly –without investing precious intellectual capital on technology learning curves –will be the winners.
It’s time to make the change.
Bob Carr is the founder, chairman and CEO of Heartland Payment Systems, one of the nation's largest payments processors. Heartland and its transaction processing services and products are exclusively endorsed by the National Restaurant Association, Council of State Restaurants and 45 state restaurant associations.