Murphy, Christmas and Computers

I have posted before about what this coming week is to us… so naturally, murphy’s law says now is the time for computer trouble. (Better now than next week I guess)

Day before yesterday in the afternoon: Call from the shift manager that the internet is not working… (We clear credit cards and take online orders that way… so kind of a P>I>T>A>)

Yesterday: Determine that the issue is a dead DSL modem. (Thank you Century Link for the dud) Obtain new model from Staples. Box says it works with Century Link. After 2-3 hours of screwing with it, turns out not to be the case.

Still yesterday: Obtain another modem 170 miles away in Denver drive back to the store and get there during dinner so can not shut down the system to install. After-hours support from both Century Link and Microworks very patient with my stress level but in the end, this task can not be accomplished while the POS is running and we put it off to morning.

Today: Microworks Tech Support (still the best I have ever encountered anywhere) have us up and running with the new modem configured to work with our 6 station POS, online order system, credit card processing and caller ID in about an hour… well before we open for the day. That tech support contract is among the best money spent. This was not their problem since the failed piece of gear was not from them, but no way this get solved without the help. The ability to come into the system from outside instead of talking me through entering everything is HUGE.

Whew. Thanks Microworks!

It’s amazing how critical the internet has become to running our businesses. One of my biggest fears is an internet failure during a dinner rush!

I have my server computer set up to quickly tether my cell phone to it. If the internet goes down we can be up and running again as quickly as I can get here (or within minutes if I’m already here.)

The Friday before Christmas has been one of our better lunch days so of course our power decides it was time to blank out for 45 minutes…at noon. We have a 20 min. battery backup on the main server, guess with all the profits I’m supposed to be raking in I better look at a 60 minute unit!

Luckily I suppose we’re the kind of community where “everyone knows everyone” so folks that were ready to pay out and leave we’ll just send a copy of their tab. Some folks we just did a quick paper and pen job with, but it’s a PITA anymore to not have the ability to process your credit or gift cards.

How did they connect to the system if the internet was down?

Do they have some dial-in-backup modems or something?

Not sure what they are using for CC processing, but most have the capability for dial backup - and CC’s automatically process over the dial backup if the internet is down, so you can continue to operate normally.

I would recommend evaluating a MiFi solution or cellular hotspot and buy some USB wireless NICs if this happens again. DSL only would make me nervous :slight_smile:

Registered guest…

Internet was not down. Modem was toast. Bought new one. Then they come in… not so complicated to do.

Credit card processing through the POS does not have dial up as it is not an outboard machine.

Steve, this is out of pure curiosity… Why did you have to get Prism involved because of a failed modem?

Because Prism configures the modem so that the online order system can reach through the modem to the POS.

@retail180, Those solutions would not address the online order system. Also, DSL is by far the most reliable internet around here and in fact was not an issue in this case. The issue was the modem which could happen to cable, wireless or dialup too.

In the years we have used it DSL has NEVER been down. Cable internet, on the other hand which we have at our home, is down at least once every month or two for a hour or more… so not sure where you are going with your comment about relying on DSL. I can not think of another service I would rather rely on.

If the DSL modem was broken, how could the internet not be down?

Sounds to me like the your new router needed to be configured with your DSL connection userid and password. And then the router needed to have some settings added to port-forward your online ordering to your internal station that processes online ordering.

With regard to your CC processing - what do you mean by “it is not an outboard machine”? I figured it wasn’t. Most systems simply have an old fashion dial up modem connected to a serial port on you “main server” - when the CC processing doesn’t get a response through the internet, it automatically switches to use the dial modem instead.



Prism does allow you to use a telephone line as a backup but I find it pretty useless. Dial up takes much longer on my computers as it does on my stand alone terminals and the computers give a message of “No dialtone” if they aren’t able to connect right away. This is common due to another computer already connected to the phone line processing a card for another order. I find it easier to have two stand alone terminals on the counter for the rare times that the internet is not working.

A stand alone unit might be a good idea to have. This is the first time ever our internet service was not available for use and the issue was not the internet service. If this ever happens again I might go that route. A stand alone with dial up would have worked, but a stand alone internet based machine would have had the same problem as it would have connected through the same defective modem.

All in all it was headache but manageable. We lost 3-4 orders where the customer did not want to do an old fashioned knuckle-buster CC form. (Funny since that is how all CC were done not so long ago)

In 14 years of service, Microworks has always been outstanding when we needed tech support and this was no exception. Setting up the modem as “registered guest” describes is not part of my skill set and if this is something that only comes up every 10 years it does not need to be. Sounds like you (RG) know alot about it. Good for you.

The main purpose of my post was just to chuckle about the timing of everyday headaches of small business ownership and also to compliment Microworks for being there… not to imply it was some major accomplishment or to debate the merits of different internet service providers or card processing mechanisms.

Merry Christmas.

bodegahwy -

I did not intend for my post(s) to appear I was knocking your technical knowledge. That was not my intent at all.

I guess I was thinking that you shouldn’t have had anywhere near as much trouble getting going again as you did - and that you shouldn’t have really needed to do without CC processing. Again, not your fault.

These things happen so infrequently it’s almost not worth worrying about, I know. But just in case I’d go ahead and buy and have setup a duplicate modem/router so you could just switch it out if this ever happens again.

The main trouble is that we live in the middle of nowhere (nearest interstate is 90 miles away) and the modem we were able to get on the spot locally did not work for our needs. Once we had the right piece of equipment and were able to work when we did not need the POS running for operations it was no big deal.

We do stock spares for many key items like label printers, touch screens and even an old computer that could be connected to the network. I also think that having the “cube” or some other smartphone based CC processor would also be a good alternative and might be even simpler and less expensive for an on-the-fly solution.

At one point, I thought I had mastered ‘redundancy.’ In so far as I had back-up cell phones with internet ability (simply plugged one in and pointed the network to a fallback adr). However, I soon discovered all providers, phone, cable, cell towers, all shared the same little 4 hr backup tower. So if an electrical outage occurred for MORE than 4 hours, everything was down. I have a 15K propane gen that runs the store during power outages. I’ve always had carbon imprinters, but in extended power outage situations they really come in handy. For the record, the few times I’ve used them, I’ve never had a problem (knocks on wood) - the pos keeps track of the entries and can dump them in one batch, once you have internet connectivity restored.