You know signage is a good option. But when it comes to cloud-based digital signage or on-premise / hosted solutions… which one is best for you?

There are so many hardware choices, software choices, screen options, kiosk options, and touchscreen options…

I’ll stop there.

With so many choices, it can make the decision to move to digital signage a tough one.

My personal opinion is that a cloud-based content management system is the best solution for businesses.

So let’s talk some about this solution, and dig deeper into the magic of it all.

Cloud vs. Hosted

First and foremost, let’s define the difference between a Cloud-Based CMS and a Hosted CMS:

1) Cloud-Based Content Management System
A cloud-based digital signage content management system is software that delivers your content to remote players (like kiosks or touchscreens) via the Internet from an off-site server. The information is stored on these off-site servers, and streams your content to each remote player, no matter how many you have.

2) Hosted Content Management System
A hosted digital signage content management system also delivers content to remote players (like kiosks or touchscreens) via the Internet, only it’s delivered from an on-site server that is hosted and maintained by your company. This delivery isn’t able to stream your content to several remote players, unless they are fairly close to your on-site server.

If you go with a cloud-based CMS, the company you choose stores and manages your content delivery.

If you go with a hosted CMS, a local server at your company stores and manages your content delivery.

True cloud-based digital signage solutions are designed to scale automatically, both vertically and horizontally as a result of how the solution is designed.

By scaling horizontally, the solution is able to support many customers and grow in terms of performance and capability as the number of customers grow.

By scaling vertically, the solution can automatically grow in performance and capability as a customer increases the number of displays they wish to utilize.
“Cloud” is much more than a virtual machine on Google Cloud Platform or Amazon Web Services.

“Cloud” is a completely different architectural approach for building software.

So now that you know the difference, let’s overturn some rocks and find the diamonds that make cloud-based CMS the right solution.

1. It’s Cost Effective

Digital Signage has been around for over 4 decades, with some of the oldest digital signage companies dating back to the 1980’s. The cloud didn’t exist then so these companies relied solely on local area networks.

The issue within this concept is that every time something would change, businesses had to invest in new hardware and software.

This sometimes resulted in unexpected costs.

With a cloud-based digital signage solution, the constant need to purchase hardware or software is obsolete. If there is an update in the software, that update is made directly in the cloud, no new hardware or software needed.

There is no need for a local server either, so lots of greenbacks are saved there.

The cost to use and deploy a cloud-based digital signage solution is often scaled so that buyers can invest in a monthly or yearly subscription.

If you were to go the old-school route (locally hosted), you’d have to pay for any hardware up front, and that could put an unexpected dent in your wallet.

Not to mention ongoing software updates on every device across your organization.

Having said that, it’s important to understand the ongoing trend within different software in the move from perpetual licensing to the subscription model. Subscription models fit well in the cloud, and the digital signage industry is finally catching up with it.

For companies new to the world of digital signage, monthly payments are easier to digest. When you launch a successful campaign, you’ll see an ROI worth floating to the clouds for.

Again, the cloud is free of servers and this is a bonus.

Why?

Because like any hardware, it can fail or break, thus requiring maintenance or replacement. I don’t have to tell you that this will cost you.

And even though some businesses use local servers and host on-site, servers could eventually become obsolete, and need to be replaced by the cloud anyway.

2. It’s Easy to Use

When I look back on the earlier digital signage companies, I imagine a small core group of IT guys getting frustrated as they work to overcome the learning curve of the software and hardware.

Tangled wires, damaged floppies, and bugs and glitches on the system would be the primary issues.

Technology was just beginning to bud at that time, and there were more uncertainties with clunky monitors and computers than developers anticipated.

The beautiful thing about cloud-based digital signage is that it really is easy to use. Depending on the company you go with, most interfaces are template-based, making it easy to drag and drop images, choose fonts, and create powerful content in no time.

There is no special training to learn how to use the software, nor do users drown in technical terms as they create.

And with the right team, questions can be answered and concerns addressed by experts who know what they’re doing.

Other interfaces allow you to continue using the platform you build in now. Those interfaces simply ingest what you’ve created and fire it off to your monitors and kiosks.

This means you can continue to use PowerPoint, Adobe Illustrator or any other program you’re comfortable with.

Pretty neat, huh? 

3. It’s Safe (Isn’t it?) 

There are skeptics out there that believe hosting content in the cloud is like playing with fire because at any given moment, there could be an explosion and your content could disappear if the Internet connection is lost.

Others worry that data stored in the cloud is not secure.

Not the case.

It’s called the cloud because the sky really is the limit. Backup playlists are put in place so that any disruption in a connection can be thwarted.

As for security, the cloud uses the same protocol as the World Wide Web; that very big space where millions of bank transactions are made securely and successfully every day. Of course this depends on which cloud you’re using, but as an example, Google’s cloud encrypts everything multiple times in transition and at rest.

The company you choose will handle all of these back-of-the-room functions, including software updates and security regulations.

4. It Collects Data

Digital displays can do more than just show content.

With the Internet of Things showing up loud and proud, digital sign campaigns can also collect much-needed data. This collected data can be the catalyst that helps improve the ROI, all of which is stored in the cloud.

Case in Point: When big box stores prepare to order product, they need to know how much to order and when peak selling times are. Sometimes these peak selling times are affected by the weather and the seasons.

If the weather breaks and it is suddenly colder than usual, coats and space heaters may fly off the shelves faster than normal.

This trend is tracked and stored in the cloud, enabling retailers to be prepared for the same possibility the following year.

On the other end of the spectrum, if sales are slow and retailers end up with too much inventory, managers can review trends and create promotions to help move inventory.

By changing advertising to automatically sync with current inventory levels, retailers can avoid losing money on unused stock while offering different options and specials to customers.

5. It Eliminates Servers (Maybe)

I mentioned this briefly above, but some in the IT world say it won’t be long before servers are completely obsolete.

Techno-geeks like myself have been wondering this for years, and slowly but surely, it seems to be coming true.

While data centers in certain parts of the world need to exist to support the cloud, cloud technology still has some of us questioning the ‘hows’ and the ‘why’s of it all. Will computers replace the people that manage computers? And will offices that manage the people eventually be no more?

The bottom line is this: The way things unfold in the IT world will always be unpredictable, even after we make predictions.

What we need to remember is how far we’ve come, and how cloud technology has brought forth the incredible world of The Internet of Things (IoT). Without the cloud, that term and all it can do may have never been born.

Conclusion

Cloud-based digital signage is becoming more commonplace as people begin to recognize the benefits.

For businesses or retailers looking to cover a larger footprint of remote players, a cloud-based digital signage CMS is capable of building the network you need, whether it covers one store, or thousands of stores across the globe.

This cost-effective option can save businesses, large and small, thousands of dollars because they don’t have to invest in hardware or software that may need to be upgraded or replaced more than once.

Cloud based digital signage is user-friendly and requires a very small learning curve.

Some software comes with easy to use templates or the option to upload content created on platforms that users are already comfortable with.

Finally, it’s a space big enough to support hundreds of remote players all over the world. Think of the Project Everyone campaign that launched in 2015 to raise global awareness around issues of poverty and sustainability.

Millions of people were reached, a feat that could have never happened without cloud-based software.

In what other ways does digital signage impress you? What is holding you back from taking the leap?