Are you an Apple or a PC? Do you use an IPhone’s or Android? These questions are like the new personality quiz. I don’t have an iPhone. Yes, my spouse thought I was being weird, my brother was not happy with my inability to use Face Time and my friends quietly raised eyebrows. I must be crazy, I changed from an iPhone to an Android phone. But when it comes to smart phones these days, it’s mostly a matter of preference. They all have the same functionality in one way or another, (I may not be able to use Face Time, but any iPhone user can use Google Hangouts or Skype.) and on contract they are close to the same price. There are just small differences that cause people to lean one way or the other.
Basically when it comes to consumer level technology, we have a vast number of options and there’s really no wrong answer, but in business, sometimes we have to exercise a bit more caution. Not all consumer level technology is created at the same level as that we’d recommend for use in a busy independent pharmacy. Here are a few things that I’d recommend.
Surge Protectors and Battery Back-ups: There’s a big difference between your average power strip and a surge protector and/or battery backup that will actually make a difference when you need it to. At a basic level, surge protectors shield your technology from fluctuations in the power that could damage your computers and point-of-sale peripherals. At the next level, a battery back-up will keep your computers on line in the event of a power failure. We’re not talking an extensive amount of time, but you’ll have long enough to safely shut down your systems. Because this piece of hardware plays such a vital role in the overall health of your pharmacy technology, it’s important that you have the right battery back-up and surge protector to meet your needs. And certainly, make sure you are replacing battery backup/surge protectors every few years, as the protection circuitry overtime wears down to the point it is no longer protecting your hardware.
Anti-Virus: There are a lot of free anti-virus programs out there. However, when you look in their use policies, most free programs will restrict use by businesses. Therefore, if you have a problem or need support, you’ll be running into a brick wall because these free programs are for private consumer use only. Not for businesses. When it comes to anti-virus, you want to make sure that whatever you get will not interfere with updates from your pharmacy point-of sale provider or pharmacy system vendor. Check into your technology partners’ managed programs for anti-virus, anti-malware and network security.
Point-of-Sale peripherals: While receipt printers and signature pads aren’t something you can buy off the shelf at your local computer store, there are a lot of online resources that offer common peripheral hardware at very attractive rock-bottom prices. But there is definitely a catch. Big hardware manufacturers generally only sell their hardware to a very limited number of reseller, and almost none of these certified resellers will sell to just anyone online. This means that your new priced-to-move receipt printer may be from a less than reputable source. Hardware like signature pads and barcode scanners often have to be programmed to work with your existing pharmacy technology as well so the price you pay online today may only be the beginning. These online deals also come with a catch - they don't have to ensure that their hardware works with your software. "Not their problem," they'll say. It’s always a good idea to talk with your system providers to discuss their hardware outsourcing policy and find out what will work and what won’t.
Bottom line, talk with your technology vendors about your hardware needs before buying something off the shelf (or the internet). Consumer level hardware may be less expensive, and certainly, every penny counts. But you could save yourself a lot of trouble and time by choosing the right solution from the very beginning. Remember, no one ever said, "I know my hardware is down, but that's OK, as I saved a few dollars last year when I bought it."