Cloud based & On-Premises Digital Signage Platforms: What’s The difference?

December 20, 2022 by Dave Haynes


Anyone weighing digital signage CMS software options will quickly find themselves at a fork in the planning road: use a cloud-based SaaS platform, or install software on the premises and behind the end-user’s firewall.

It’s a big decision, and the first thing to sort out is the differences between them.

Cloud-based digital signage platforms are hosted on the internet and accessed through a web browser. They allow users to manage their digital signage content and display it on screens located anywhere in the world. Cloud-based platforms are often subscription-based, with users paying a monthly or annual fee to access the service.

On-premises digital signage platforms, on the other hand, are installed and run on the user’s own servers or computers. They require users to purchase and install the software and hardware needed to run the platform, and to maintain and update it themselves.

Cloud-based platforms

There are pros and cons to both types of digital signage platforms.

One of the main benefits of cloud-based platforms is their convenience. Since they are accessed through a web browser, users can manage their digital signage content from anywhere with an internet connection. This is especially useful for businesses with multiple locations, as they can easily update and manage their digital signage content from a central location.

Cloud-based platforms are also generally easier to set up and use, as users do not need to worry about installing and maintaining software or hardware. They are also typically more scalable, as users can easily add or remove screens from their digital signage network as needed. Another benefit of cloud-based platforms is that they are often more secure than on-premises platforms.

Since the service is hosted on the internet, it is constantly monitored and updated by the provider, making it less vulnerable to security threats such as hacking or viruses. This can be especially important for businesses handling sensitive information or data.

However, there are also drawbacks to cloud-based platforms. One of the main drawbacks is cost. Since they are subscription-based, users must pay a monthly or annual fee to access the service. That’s why cloud platforms are also called SaaS platforms, with SaaS being short for Software As A Service. This option can be expensive for businesses that have many screens or a long-term need for digital signage.

Another potential drawback of cloud-based platforms is their reliance on internet connectivity. If the internet goes down, users may not be able to access their digital signage content or make updates to it. This can be a problem for businesses that rely on their digital signage to communicate important information to their audience.

On-premises platforms

On-premises digital signage platforms have their own set of pros and cons. One of the main benefits of on-premises platforms is their cost. Since users purchase and own the software and hardware needed to run the platform, there are no ongoing subscription fees.

This can be a more cost-effective option for businesses with a long-term need for digital signage. On-premises platforms are also generally more customizable than cloud-based platforms. Since they are installed and run on the user’s own servers or computers, users have more control over the platform and can customize it to meet their specific needs.

However, there are also drawbacks to on-premises platforms.

One of the main drawbacks is the upfront cost of purchasing and installing the software and hardware needed to run the platform. On-premises platforms are also generally more difficult to set up and use than cloud-based platforms. Users must install and maintain the software and hardware themselves, which can be time-consuming and require technical expertise. They are also generally less scalable than cloud-based platforms.

Finding what’s right for you

These days, digital signage is more than images and videos on a loop. We believe for a software to be successful; it must be familiar and easy to use. This starts with good UI/UX/Security as well as features that can be updated in real time so that users can preview and see their intended changes in real time. The features must be simple but still in depth.

So how do you become successful with digital signage? Well; content is king. The best content is that which connects you directly to your target audience and causes an action or reaction. To do this, you need content that is updated and is active, so it doesn’t look like another stale poster. By combining a good message and brand awareness, on top of optimal positioning, you’ll be sure to make your digital signage screens a success.

Making the perfect software

Digital signage is a great way to improve communication and engagement with customers, employees or students. But the market is flooded with options. Which one should you use, if you’re using a third-party software at all? What should you consider if you’re making your own platform on-premises?

When creating a digital signage platform, here’s a few key features people look for:

Some recommend that users look for software that can handle touchscreens, RFID/NFC, beacons, speech, internet of things, Web triggers and other features. Others said specifically users should look for software, with the ability to create — without coding — sophisticated workflows and behaviors in response to interaction. It all depends on what your goal for the signage solution is.

Another key consideration is how much the software can handle. Some customers are using 150-200 screens at a time. They would be looking at opportunities to use a range of material to show dependent on the time and day, and whether a certain product will be featured in a specific region.

If you compare digital signage to other forms of marketing like social media and online advertising, they’ve all become pay-to-play, where the biggest budget wins. With digital signage, the setup cost and roll-out all depend on your number of screens, and not the number of companies you’re competing against.


Martin Hagen is a digital marketer with SocialScreen, a digital signage CMS software company based in Trondheim, Norway. The company’s platform allows customers to use video, weather, social media, news, Microsoft, Google or their own custom content in their own custom layout. Users can publish their content in any size or format from a single device, to any number of screens, to anywhere in the world.

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