Are you thinking about buying a digital signage system? How about upgrading your old system? If so, you have likely encountered some snark when it comes to software-as-a-service versus on-premises software. Which is best for you is totally determined by your needs and if it works for your budget. Object lesson: cheaper is not always cheaper in the long run.
Some digital signage companies, like ourselves, have developed both SaaS and on-premises software based on Android, Linux and Windows. We developed our original premise-based system in 2001, but since 2011, we’ve been developing our Breeze system on cloud infrastructure.
We sometimes hear thoughtful reasons for rejecting cloud signage. Here are some typical comments and questions (or objections) to cloud-based software vs. on-premises software.
DIGITAL SIGNAGE BUYER: I’m afraid my data won’t be secure in the Cloud.
KEYWEST TECH: Certainly, after a flood of high-profile hacks on the Internet that highlights the seriousness of this issue, security is likely the most important concern that can only be mitigated with the diligent application of security technology and built-in safeguards.
Of course, the use of a firewall is a given and has been for almost ever, but potential digital signage buyers in 2018 need to look for vendors that employ a network intrusion detection system (NIDS), which proactively monitors intrusions, sends alerts, and provides realtime intervention based on known traffic patterns, signatures, and many other variables. This is not a nice-to-have but a must-have in today’s cyber environment.
Digital signage software vendors should use best practice for user account management and log-in, such as roll-based access control (RBAC) with extensive user permissions, single sign-on (SSO), configurable login mapping and auditing, and secure password formulations. All of this will help verify each login, limit access, maximize admin control, and provide trackable accountability. Let’s not forget that hacks sometimes start as leaks within corporate walls.
Finally, make sure your digital signage SaaS provider uses HTTPS for all data transfers. This layers the HTTP protocol on top of the SSL/TLS protocol, thereby adding top-grade encryption for both the up/down transfers. Encrypted protocols have become the de facto security standard for the majority of World Wide Web uses everyday, from millions of financial transactions to data and media transfers of every kind. Any reputable cloud-signage company should provide storage secured with encryption and other techniques. For these reasons, industry experts often report that such best-practice schemes are more secure than some corporate networks, and often much more secure than any network a small-to-medium business would use.
Additionally, more advanced cloud signage companies like Keywest Technology use a technique called “cloud files” that actually keeps clients’ data, media, account and billing information in separate locations. This greatly reduces the likelihood of a successful hack, even if a breach did occur.
DIGITAL SIGNAGE BUYER: Digital signage in the cloud is a bandwidth hog!
KEYWEST TECH: This statement used to be somewhat true back in the “video streaming” days, but most modern SaaS systems today use pull technology, which caches the playlist on the media player and therefore uses bandwidth only for the original download and future updates. This is similar to the bandwidth of on-premises software that stores the playlists on local hard drives–except the cloud systems may have the advantage of using web-optimized media encoders that reduce the file size using more efficient H.264 technology among others.
DIGITAL SIGNAGE BUYER: If you lose the Internet connection to a cloud media player, the screen will go dark.
KEYWEST TECH: If the cloud player is designed to cache the playlist, the lost connection should not affect the pre-loaded playlist, which continues to play “as is” with no loss of picture or content. When the connection is restored, new content gets updated seamlessly and automatically.
DIGITAL SIGNAGE BUYER: Will I lose the ability to change my content on the fly with a cloud digital signage system?
KEYWEST TECH: No, you can change the content on the fly with SaaS digital signage just like with on-premises software. It may be true that the download takes a bit longer than an on-premises system, but we are measuring seconds and minutes at most here, not hours, assuming you have a typical broadband connection. Plus, with a cloud system, you can easily schedule downloads to occur at a time that is best for your network. This is not so easy with on-premises software unless you have a local server, which adds greatly to the cost of ownership and system complexity.
DIGITAL SIGNAGE BUYER: SaaS costs way too much. All we need is a simple system.
KEYWEST TECH: Cost savings is a huge factor that a well-designed SaaS system should provide. We help our customers calculate the ROI (return on investment) and COO (cost of ownership) of both platforms we offer–cloud vs. premise. When you factor in the savings from reduced hardware cost, reduced downtime, minimal maintenance cost, and then weigh in the added benefits of a cloud service like anywhere accessibility, free upgrades, free content, free widgets, comprehensive database and real-time cloud sourcing of third-party data and content, interactive integration, ease of use, etc., the cloud systems wins every time in the ROO (return on objectives) arena.
That said, we do continue to provide multiple platforms because there are some digital signage applications that are just simpler and cheaper to go with on-premises software. However, you don’t need to be a large enterprise to benefit from a cloud system. SMBs are benefiting from cloud digital signage everyday without the objections mentioned in this article.
DIGITAL SIGNAGE BUYER: Why should I pay for digital signage? After all, some offer it for FREE!
KEYWEST TECH: Some people think at first that “free digital signage software” is going to come rolling out of the box like an Apple and set itself up and proclaim it’s ready to go, but here’s the skinny: you will spend maximum time and effort to make it all work only to learn that what you really want will cost you anyway. From our experience with clients who got sick of paying too much for “free” software, we suggest you “cut bait” and go with companies who don’t use such gimmicky marketing tactics and instead go with providers who know how to deliver true value. Full-service digital signage solution providers—who deliver not just digital signage software—but support, system design, content design and marketing know-how, provide business value beyond a flashy sign. For further insight into this issue, please read our blog, Free Digital Signage Software Is Not a Solution.