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Choosing a Cloud-based or On-site Digital Signage Solutions

The participation age. That’s how former Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy describes the age of living in and benefiting from “the cloud.”

“We believe we’re moving out of the Ice Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Age, [and] the Information Age, to the participation age,” said McNealy. “You get on the Net and you do stuff. You IM (instant message), you blog, you take pictures, you publish, you podcast, you transact, you distance learn, you telemedicine. You are participating on the Internet, not just viewing stuff.”

Thanks to the rise of cloud-based digital signage solutions, you now can add “you can deploy digital signs and information” to McNealy’s list of what you can do via the cloud.

But should you? Should you rely on the cloud to store and deploy messaging? Should you let someone off-site store and host your information? Should you rely on information that is accessible via any standard web browser?

Yes.

And maybe no.

Let’s get a few things straight before we dive into the benefits of deploying a cloud-based digital signage solution and the benefits of deploying an on-site (often referred to as on-prem, on-premise, or on-premises) digital signage solution.

When you deploy a cloud-based digital signage solution, you rely on web-based digital signage software to carry messages and information to your screens. This software is usually hosted on an external server (which means you don’t need a server on site), and the server easily can be managed via the Internet. A third-party company usually is responsible for maintaining and monitoring this external server, which makes having an on-site IT team redundant.

A cloud-based solution also may make sense for your property if you want to control content at multiple properties around a city or state from one central location. While you can control content like this from a server-based on-site digital signage solution, you’ll find it much easier to do when you’re using a cloud-based solution.

An on-premise digital signage solution is hosted on an on-site server (which means you need a server on site). This server sends messages and information to your screens. You are responsible for maintaining this server. This type of solution means you should have an IT team on-site or available to you to support your server.

But there is one more key difference between these two types of digital signage solutions that you must keep in mind: cost.

When you deploy an on-site digital signage solution, you pay for the solution upfront and tend to have minimal to no ongoing expenses. With a cloud-based digital signage solution, your initial upfront costs are lower, but you have ongoing expenses. So your decision may be made before you even dive deeper into the differences between the two types of solutions. Do you want to incur a one-time capital expense or do you want to commit to paying for ongoing expenses?

Once you’ve decided on the solution that makes the most financial sense for your property, then we recommend determining which solution provides the features you want. To help you make your decision, we’ve compiled the below list of the similarities and differences between the two installation solutions.

Cloud-based Signage Solution

  • Easy to deploy and maintain
  • Lower upfront costs, but ongoing expenses
  • Data hosted in the cloud (which means you don’t need to buy or manage a server on-site)
  • Software updates and features are often included and rolled out without you requesting these changes
  • Limited local IT support needed
  • Content players need to access the Internet
  • Can support an unlimited number of screens and displays
  • Scalable

On-premise Digital Signage Solution

  • Easy-to-deploy and maintain
  • Higher upfront costs, but little to no ongoing expenses
  • Data hosted on server (which means you need to buy or build a server, add it to your network, and maintain a server on-site)
  • You control when (and if) you install update and features
  • Local IT support needed for server installation and ongoing maintenance
  • Can support an unlimited number of screens and displays
  • Scalable
  • Needs access to a secure network and Internet connection

Bottom line?

A cloud-based digital signage solution may work for you if you need an easy-to-use budget-friendly solution. An on-site digital signage solution may work for you if you prefer to pay for your solution upfront and have more control over it.

“A cloud-based digital signage solution and an on-site digital signage solution ultimately do the same things. There is no difference in functionality or features,” according to Steve Freeman, senior account manager at JANUS Displays. “You must review both options and make a decision that works for you.”

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