Our technology battle between Comcast and AT&T Internet.
I recently posted a story about the new POS (Point of Sale) system we installed at Bistro49. Although we planned for a variety of potential upgrade problems, our first days with the new system actually went quite well. The installation was easier than expected, the software was simple to configure and manage, and our wait staff transitioned to new iPads for tableside ordering with minimal training. Things were going great.
When we opened Bistro49 we inherited the AT&T Internet circuit used by the previous tenants. As many of our fellow Jackson residents know, the speed and reliability of AT&T Internet circuits are poor in most parts of Jackson, so we opted to switch to Comcast for greater bandwidth and improved reliability. Friday morning the Comcast install team turned our new circuit on and we switched the bistro over to their network. Things were fine during the lunch service on Friday. Orders went in, credit cards were charged. All good.
Then the dinner service started.
We were packed on Friday evening with reservations at most every table and walk-ins enjoying some nice evening weather by the fire pit on the patio when I noticed a particular order took several seconds to start printing in the kitchen. Then a credit card transaction couldn't process, indicating a network problem was starting to creep in. These hiccups all seemed to self-correct within a few seconds but I started paying close attention to the POS system. I'm glad I did.
Moments later the entire network went down.
Orders stopped printing in the kitchen, receipts wouldn't generate and credit card charges couldn't process. I was ready to ditch the POS system at that moment. Did I mention we were packed? Fortunately, the new system has an "offline mode" which enabled us to finish the dinner service, and we apologized to the customers most affected by the problem, all of whom seemed to understand the dilemma we were in and took it in stride. My weekend plans now included a complete post-mortem of the POS network to see what the heck happened on Friday night.
We decided to try to spend Saturday duplicating the scenario from Friday night in hopes of locating the problem. We staged a similar full house on the POS system and closely watched the network. Sure enough, it began to fail again. The greater the order and credit card activity the more the network failed. Thankfully the tables were all empty.
We traced the issue and ended up back at the new Comcast circuit. Both its wired and wireless connections repeatedly dropped connections which caused the POS system and its connected devices (kitchen printers, receipt printers, credit card processing) to fail. Obviously this an unacceptable condition for any business, especially for our busy restaurant. I've been in the computer and network field for over 30 years so I know the hardware will fail at the worst times so contingency plans are required. When the failure is in the circuit, however, there's not much we're able to do until the company, Comcast in this case, sends a tech out to fix it. Thankfully we hadn't yet canceled the AT&T circuit.
Today I spent the afternoon transitioning the network back to the original AT&T circuit. Although it's a much slower pipeline we're now fully online and everything is functioning correctly again just in time for Monday's lunch service. Whew!
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