Deciphering Between Digital Signage Options

When it comes to digital signage, the fact that there are more options to consider than ever before is something we have touched on numerous times in the past.  Through our entries it has always been our hope that they have helped educate you and set you up for more constructive conversations with digital companies.

Similar but differentSpeaking of these companies, each has attributes that makes them different from one another.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, what appears on the screens could be accomplished with 99% of reputable digital signage companies however it is what goes on “behind the curtains” that dictates what would be best for you.  I am not here to get in to those types of specifics from one system to another.  The purpose here is to outline the different ways companies make their solutions available to you; each of which has their advantages and disadvantages.

1- All in one- A true digital solution has content management and file management under one umbrella.  What this means is that you are able to develop, change, add, etc design elements using tools within.  In addition, you are afforded the ability to take this content and schedule it to display when and where you want it to on the screens.  What wraps a bow on this is that you are provided this ability with the actual monitors right out-of-the-box.  Sounds great right?  Not so fast...

2- Content Management Systems- CMS is software used to manage and publish content in a consistently organized fashion.  These capabilities are often tucked on the “vehicle” that drives the content- the media player.  There are varying solutions and some do have design management tools.  Quite often these are limited to predefined templates that can be purchased in parallel with the system.  In most cases CMS’ act similar to iTunes where you can create a playlist of music (content) and have it play when you want (schedule) but you are not able to actually edit the song(s) themselves (content management).

3- Free software-There are a number of “free software” solutions out there, unfortunately most are a carrot on a string to get your attention.  As for the others, you get what you pay for (or don’t pay for).  In each case, it is fine and dandy to have access to the software “for free” but what is driving the images on to your screen?  Many of these free solutions come with the caveat that you require abc media player for playback.  It comes as no surprise that these required media players are fashioned by the same company as those providing the freebie.  Put simply, everyone is in business to make money.

4- Software as a Service- via Salesforce: Software as a service (or SaaS) is a way of delivering applications over the Internet—as a service. Instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access it via the Internet, freeing yourself from complex software and hardware management.
Typically in these scenarios there is no sizable upfront cost, rather you have a monthly fee to maintain the service.  Some companies require a contract where others do not.

5- Software only- Pretty self-explanatory, unlike SAAS you pay for the software upfront.  Most often, the software has both content and file management capabilities however it does require a 3rd party media player to accommodate it.  Minimum specifications should be provided so that you can research accordingly.  Remember, some of these media players come with their own unique features.  For instance, some you may be able to network, others you may not.

6- Creative software- This has become less prevalent in the market due to the synergy and emergence between software platforms and CMS systems.  Creative digital software, that is often downloaded to your PC, acts as a design platform and content management repository for digital signage.  Once you have developed content to your liking, you then export the files and use a CMS to “organize” your files for playback.  Even easier, you could download (for instance) Adobe Flash Player on the same PC, drag your files in to it and it’ll playback instantaneously- as long as the screens are hooked up to the PC.

It is important to note that SAAS is the only scenario that is definitively web-based, meaning that you can access your system via web-browser from any computer that is online.  Many of the others share the same ability, however getting them to that point takes on many different levels of ownership.  For instance, BrightSign’s solution includes enterprise-class network management software that allows for the online management of digital signs from any location.  I feel the need to emphasize that you do not become networked simply because the system supports it.  Setting up the actual network is a whole different animal.

Scaling down even further, you can hook yourself up locally using traditional PC options- download the software, create content, publish and it hits your screens.  All management would have to be done on-site.  Similarly, you can take the same approach for non-intranet hook-ups expect for when it comes time to publish you instead save to a USB, SIM card or other and then physically place it in the corresponding playback device.

It all boils down to your needs, objectives and how you’re set up as an organization.  I cannot sit here and tell you that there is one grand system that would work for everyone and this is largely because of budget.  What I mean is, yes there are systems that from a functional perspective would work for the vast majority however it would be irresponsible from a business perspective.  Further, these such systems may be more than what they depending on what they are trying to accomplish.  Think of it this way, as a husband and father of 3 boys under 4.5, would I want a Mercedes G63?  Hell ya, but it is no where near in the budget and I’d be divorced within seconds of pulling up the drive-way.  I’ll stick with my Acadia for now.

Thoughts, comments, questions?  Let us know!  |  888-235-2579