Self-Hosted or Cloud Based Digital Signage Software. Which is Best?
Digital signage software comes in two flavors, cloud-based and on-premise. Cloud-based digital signage, or SaaS, is software that is delivered as a service and billed monthly. With on-premise, or self-hosted digital signage, you purchase individual licenses and you run the solution on your own equipment. This includes the backend server, database server, and media player software.
When evaluating different digital signage software products, you should always consider solutions from developers who offer both types of software. The reason is simple. Digital signage companies who create and support both types tend to produce software that is more advanced, scalable, and reliable.
Having a cloud-based version is also an indication of the software’s resiliency. This is because hosted solutions are designed to support very large numbers of users.
Cloud-based digital signage software
- Cloud-based digital signage software solutions require very little upfront investment. There are no software licenses to buy. Businesses only pay a small monthly fee for each media player they deploy.
- There are no servers to purchase or maintain. No backups required. The backend technology is entirely managed by the cloud based digital signage software provider.
- Businesses can scale your media player footprint as their business grows, or scale back when necessary. They simply add or remove subscriptions as needed.
- The software is kept updated behind the scenes by the hosted solution provider. No need for local staff to get involved.
Who is it for?
Cloud, or SaaS digital signage software, fulfills the needs of many businesses.
- Small and medium sized operations who are just getting started and have simple needs.
- Businesses who wish to focus on content creation or advertising.
- Retail stores and restaurants who don’t have their own IT resources to rely on.
- Professional offices that need a simple solution that anyone can use.
- Those who lack the expertise or the ability to self-host a digital signage server on their premises.
- Businesses who don’t want to deal with the technical aspects of purchasing and maintaining their own server environment.
- AV hardware and software integrators who want to offer a turnkey solution to their clients at the best possible cost.
What about security?
In the early days of cloud-based digital signage, there were concerns about privacy, security, and data integrity. At the time, many business owners preferred self-hosted digital signage software. They believed having their own in-house server would be more secure and easier to maintain. Eventually, hosting services matured and businesses became more comfortable with using cloud-based solutions.
Cloud-based digital signage has become extremely secure following the launch of name-brand cloud computing services. Think of Microsoft Azure, Amazon AWS Cloud and other similar hosting services that have effectively become standards of the industry.
When comparing different cloud-based digital signage solutions, you should ask your vendor who hosts their infrastructure. Having a vendor that relies on a well-known cloud computing provider will ensure your project’s security and scalability.
Self-Hosted digital signage software
- On-premise digital signage software solutions aren’t billed monthly like SaaS offerings. The business simply purchases perpetual licenses based on the number of servers and players they require.
- Businesses retain control of their backend technology. They can use their own servers or one of the many hosting services who cater to corporate clients.
- They can integrate their self-hosted digital signage server with other systems by taking advantage of API’s and customization.
- They also have total administrative control and can optimize their digital signage software as needed.
Who is it for?
On-premise, or self-hosted digital signage software, is the preferred option for large corporations.
- Well-established businesses who have access to all the resources required to install, deploy, and maintain their own digital signage network.
- Healthcare providers and related businesses who deal with privacy concerns.
- Companies who can self-host the digital signage software on their own premises or via their hosted solution partner of choice.
- Businesses who have software developers on staff who can integrate and customize the software to meet specific needs.
- Banks, financial institutions, and government agencies who have strict privacy and security requirements.
- Digital signage companies and similar businesses who want to resell a hosted solution to their clients.
Most self-hosted software solutions require a single server for a given number of players or devices. Most commonly, server license prices will be based on the number of media player devices that connect to the server. This is called “quota-based pricing”. However, there are other pricing options, which is why you should ask about licensing terms and pricing before you fully commit.
What about annual fees?
On-premise digital signage license costs don’t usually include technical support and maintenance fees. These services are usually billed annually but they are essential to the proper functioning of your digital signage network. Especially when you run into technical issues or require assistance.
Training sessions shouldn’t be ignored. Every type of software has its quirks or hidden features that can’t easily be accessed without prior knowledge. Training is especially important for on-premise digital signage because your IT staff will need to configure and maintain the solution.
This includes system administrators who are in charge of user accounts and security. Training fees should always be factored-in whenever you’re comparing software solutions.
While you may be tempted to opt-out of these services, consider this:
The technologies that underpin digital signage software products are in constant evolution. This includes the server and media player hardware, their operating systems, and the content that you publish on your screens. It’s why your digital signage software needs to be updated periodically. You must do this to support new technologies and new content formats as they become more common.
- Renewable software maintenance plans provide for the ongoing update of your digital signage software. In an on-premise scenario, you must pay an annual fee for this service.
- Training sessions are usually billed on an hourly basis. While some products require extensive training, the more user friendly options may only require a few hours of training.
- No matter which software you choose, technical support is essential. It’s your lifeline whenever problems arise so you should always take into account any support fees when budgeting your project.
It’s important to note that many cloud-based digital signage software plans include maintenance and support at no extra cost. Not having to pay for additional fees is a distinct advantage for small businesses and startups who opt to go SaaS.
About Navori Labs
Navori Labs is a Swiss digital signage company focused on software solutions. The company offers their QL software in cloud and self-hosted versions to customers worldwide. QL features a robust and highly scalable backend server, a unique user-friendly interface, and a powerful media player software. The company’s QL cloud-based software can be deployed in minutes.
You can install QL Player software on:
- Windows PCs
- Navori’s own StiX 3700 media player
- Android devices
- BrightSign media players
- SmartTVs from popular brands (Samsung, LG, Philips, ELO Touch).
QL on-premise offers all of QL cloud features, and offers more administrative control. The software can be deployed on any Windows server, including Microsoft Azure and other popular hosting services.