Guest Post: Irfan Khan, Skykit
When a company goes down the path of planning, building and launching a digital signage solution, the people behind it are going to hit a big fork in the road, making them decide what kind of software platform to use: on-premise or cloud-based.
For some organizations, often very large ones, maintaining their own software and servers on-premise is important or even mandated. But many digital networks, large and snall, are finding that cloud-based digital signage networks are a better fit.
Here are six big reasons why:
Reputable cloud service providers handle auto-scaling and load balancing of bandwidth, so that as customers add more screens and content, they won’t experience crashes or data bottlenecks.
Cloud-based digital signage can support customers whether they want to have simple slideshows running on a single screen, or stream 4K video to 1,000 screens.
Budget allowing, there’s no reason a user can’t start with the first and eventually transition to the second. With the on-premise model, there’s a LOT of back-end work needed to support scaling rapidly, and it will cost much more than cloud-based signage.
Provider will allow users to pay for additional bandwidth and storage space as their needs grow. And unlike on-site options, expanding a network won’t mean sending the already-busy IT crew into a panic as they update and install more servers.
2. Cost Efficiency
Cloud-based digital signage really starts to distinguish itself over on-premise digital signage in the area of cost-efficiency.
If user want to host its own digital signage network, that company will need to purchase and set up its own server system, complete with meters upon meters of network cabling, along with the necessary heating and cooling equipment to keep it running.
They will need to allocate IT resources to run and maintain the servers, and in some case, hire people if resources are already stretched.
Any time a company wants to update servers or the software used to stream content, that will have to be manually, on the company’s expense. It’s a major up-front money and time commitment that many small companies, in particular, might not be prepared to take on.
With cloud-based digital signage, the upfront cost is relatively low. In fact, many providers will give users a free trial period so they can decide whether to commit to the service.
Service is the key word there. As mentioned, users are paying a single subscription fee to use the provider’s servers, have them stream content to players, rent hardware (if applicable) and license the requisite software.
Furthermore, a company’s IT department isn’t responsible for keeping the servers running; the service provider is.
If service fees are charged on a metered basis, customers are only charged for what they use.
3. Easy Implementation
Not only is cloud-based digital signage a good deal in terms of money, it’s also a good deal in terms of time.
Getting a system running might be as simple as installing a screen preloaded with the required software and hardware, connecting to the Internet, creating content, and letting streaming begin.
Even with larger systems, it won’t be as complicated a task as setting up on a company’s own servers.
This will free employees to spend time focusing on a company’s core competencies, rather than struggling with a system they have a difficult time understanding, increasing efficiency.
4. Good Support
If a company has a good service provider, they’ll be dedicated to helping the customer’s experience go smoothly.
They’ll provide free software updates whenever those become available, which should download automatically to a digital signage network.
Users can even set up their own account, so downloads of content and updates can be scheduled away from peak periods and not to overload bandwidth.
Cloud providers will typically be available for customers to call or email any time an issue or question arises, and will resolve issues quickly—because they’re providing users with a service, and it’s in their best interest to have happy customers.
They’ll also help ease some common fears. For example, what if the Internet connection goes down?
Many cloud players cache their content. This means that as content is downloaded, it’s stored on the device itself. If the connection goes down, the playlist should continue uninterrupted.
When the Internet connection is restored, new content can be downloaded without any noticeable disruption.
This is a somewhat debated point.
Some fear that by putting your data in the hands of a third party and streaming it over the Internet, you’re leaving it vulnerable to attack.
However, even here, cloud-based digital signage has advantages.
a) Your provider, in most cases, will be able to maintain higher levels of security than a company’s network can. They should stream using HTTPS, encrypting both the uplink and the downlink. Data will be encrypted and protected in transit and at rest.
b) Locating all of digital signage-related data in one “place,” rather than spread out across multiple machines and locations, may help an operator reduce opportunities for leaks. It also means less security testing across sites.
6. Accessible From Everywhere
Anyone who has been granted the right permissions can access the cloud from wherever on Earth they are—they don’t need to be sitting at a company computer to do so. But access doesn’t have to be one-size-fits-all.
A network operator can grant highly granular permissions to different employees, only allowing them to make changes to the content for a certain number of locations, or in certain kinds of ways. This helps maintain central control of content at a company-wide level, allowing a high degree of brand consistency.
For example, a branch manager might be able to add content of his or her own, but not alter certain files that every location uses. Or, one team member at the local level can be in charge of scheduling and downloading content.
Despite sounding like a wispy concept, cloud-based digital signage is a solid choice for many reasons. It even offers advantages over on-premise networks.
It’s a low-cost solution, especially at its basic tiers, compared to the difficulty and cost of purchasing, installing, and maintaining your own servers.
It’s easy to get started with and, thanks to good cloud service providers, easy to maintain, leaving a company’s employees free to focus on other tasks.
It’s scalable—it can grow with a client.
It’s secure. The provider encrypts data, both while it’s stored and while it’s streaming; and users have total control over who can access the files and what kind of changes they can make.
In other words, rather than dampening performance, pairing the cloud with digital signage is sure to brighten your day.
Do you have any cloud-centric puns that I missed? How about sharing your experiences in using the cloud to host and stream your digital signage content? Please share in the comments!
Irfan Khan is the CEO of Skykit, a digital signage platform built on Google Chrome. Visit their blog to learn more about digital signage and retail trends.