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Cloud-Based vs. On-Site Digital Signage (Comparison)

Digital signage is undoubtedly the new trend for retail stores, restaurants, doctor’s offices, grocery stores, and the list could go on. There is good reason for this trend. Digital signage brings something new, exciting, and engaging to customer experience, and gives businesses a high-tech appearance. Not only that but digital signage has been shown to increase sales for some businesses by up to 25%. But what is digital signage?

Digital signage simply refers to the use of television screens, tablets, E-paper, LED screens, and other digital displays to communicate menus, promotions, products, and any other information to shoppers. The best retail digital signage draws shoppers in through colorful exciting graphics. Effective digital signage solves customer needs, answers questions, and—of course—encourages them to buy your products, try new things, and become repeat customers.

When we talk about a digital signage solution, we are talking about the device that actually streams the content onto the screens that you have set up around your store or business, and the question of this article is about whether you should go with a cloud-based digital signage solution or an on-site digital signage solution.

Digital signage has the potential to have a serious positive impact on your business, so you will want to make sure that you are making the right choice. This investment could mean serious profit for your business, so you must choose wisely! As you will see below, both cloud-based digital signage and on-site digital signage have some similarities, as well as some advantages and drawbacks that come out in comparison.

The General Difference Between Cloud-Based and On-Site Digital Signage

On-site digital signage means that the content management server and software will be on a hard drive on a machine that you own and keep in your business. Cloud-based digital signage, on the other hand, means that the content management server and software will be on someone else's server, and the content will be accessed through the internet.

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, 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. 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.

Why It Is Important to Choose the Right Digital Signage Solution for Your Business

A common misconception is that all commercial displays are of similar quality. This couldn't be further from the truth. Choosing products strictly on the basis of price is invariably the wrong approach that will lead to a much higher total cost of ownership over the lifecycle of a digital signage program.

Cloud-Based Digital Signage vs. On-Site Digital Signage: The Set-Up

One reason that people may be hesitant about integrating digital signage into their business is that they are worried about the difficulty of getting things set up. Now, most people know the normal steps for getting the hardware, such as the TVs and other digital display screens installed in their business, but what does it take to actually get content to show up on these screens. If you are wondering whether cloud-based digital signage solutions or on-site digital signage solutions are easier to set up, we must say that the setup process is generally of the same difficulty. Luckily, that difficulty level is easy.

Cloud-Based Digital Signage vs. On-Site Digital Signage: Cost

Cost is one of the biggest talking points when people discuss whether to go with a cloud-based digital signage solution or an on-site digital signage solution. If you’re going to try to boost your sales and customer engagement with digital signage, you not only want to make sure your investment is worth it, but that you’re also not paying too much in the first place.

The discussion goes like this: you will have to pay a lot of money upfront for on-site digital signage but then the content and capabilities of the on-site digital signage solution are yours and you don’t have any further costs. On the other hand, people claim that cloud-based digital signage solutions cost very little upfront, but entail ongoing costs to get access to new content. Different cloud storage providers can charge you higher prices for storage as your needs expand, too.

These assessments are generally true. There are many on-site digital signage solutions that cost a lot of money upfront, and it is certainly true that the costs add up over time when you go with a cloud-based digital signage solution. But when you base your decisions on generalizations, you can often go amiss.

For example, not all on-site digitalization solutions have a large upfront cost. In fact, loop offers an on-site digital signage solution for absolutely no money at all. Yes, it is completely free. And on top of that, instead of incurring repeating costs with a cloud-based digital signage solution, you can actually make money with loop’s product since you get cashback for the advertisements that play in between the content.

Cloud-Based Digital Signage vs. On-Site Digital Signage: Server

One benefit of a cloud-based digital signage solution is that your data is typically stored on an external server. This means that you do not need an IT team to either create a server, implement a server, or maintain a server. Typically, all of this will be taken care of by the company whose cloud-based services you have purchased.

On-site digital signage solutions will require you to have a server set up, which may occasionally require maintenance. This does not necessarily mean that you will need to employ a permanent IT team, but if you decide to go with an on-site digital signage solution, then you may want to make sure you have access to some dependable IT experts or learn how to manage a server yourself.

Cloud-Based vs. On-Site Digital Signage: Dependability

One of the most significant and obvious drawbacks to cloud-based digital signage is the fact that if your WiFi goes out, your signage goes out. Just because of a simple router issue, you might have to wait hours for your digital signage to be restored while you call your Internet provider, get a technician to come and figure out the problem, and wait for it to be fixed.

In all this time, how many sales have you lost? How many customers have walked away because they have no idea what your store is offering or how to buy things? This risk is significant. WiFi can be faster or slower depending on your area, your service provider, the weather, and a myriad of other factors.

On-site digital signage solutions have none of those issues. Your hard drive is yours. It requires no Internet connection. Yes, the power might go out, but that would be a problem for any store regardless of the type of signage they use! Also, once you set up the initial server, you likely won’t require much maintenance. Why pay exorbitant amounts for WiFi when you could have a simple and dependable solution that is right there in front of you?

Cloud-Based vs. On-Site Digital Signage: Control Over Updates and Features

Cloud-based digital signage solutions sometimes introduce new updates, features, and layouts automatically. This is done by the provider, and sometimes it happens without you requesting it, or even having a warning. Some of these updates might be simple or even unnoticeable, but some may be more drastic, and could even have an effect on your business’s daily operations. Meanwhile, on-site digital signage solutions allow you to update your server, add new features, layouts, and other elements as you desire. It is completely in your control.

The drawback to this is that you have to keep track of what kind of updates and features may be necessary for your business. This could add a little extra time to your busy schedule. But the extra time you spend with this solution is undoubtedly less than the time you’d spend trying to keep up with the automatic surprise updates from cloud-based digital signage solutions. Plus, you’re the one in control. If it’s your business, why not make it entirely your digital signage solution too?

Cloud-Based vs. On-Site Digital Signage: Content

When it comes to content, both solutions have comparable benefits. The type of content that you have access to will vary depending on the service provider. One thing of note is that with cloud-based digital signage solutions, you may have to pay more for different kinds of content, whereas with on-site digital signage solutions, you know exactly what content you are getting upfront.

You will have more control over the type of content that you show since there will not be an intermediary that needs to be contacted when you want to change content as would be the case with cloud-based services. With on-site digital signage solutions, the control is completely in your hands. You are given the material upfront and it is up to you to decide how to use it.

Cloud-Based vs. On-Site Digital Signage: Scalability

Scalability refers to a technology’s capability to be applied on a wider scale. For example, someone might start with digital signage on one television, but after a month, decide to invest in two more televisions and an LED board. If the digital signage solution they are using is scaleable, then they should have no problem using digital signage on all of the new screens they have purchased.

The fact is that both cloud-based digital signage solutions and on-site digital signage solutions are scaleable. The difference is that increasing the scale of cloud-based digital signage can be costly, as providers may make you pay more for taking up more of their external server space.

On the other hand, there may be an increase in cost for scaling up with an on-site digital signage solution, but the cost will not come from the provider, but rather will come from the increased amount of information that needs to be stored on your business’s personal server. It is hard to say which type of digital solution will cost less when you are scaling up your use of digital signage, but while the costs but it is safe to say that the costs are less predictable with cloud-based digital signage solutions.

Level Up Your Business With the Right Digital Signage Solution

For most businesses, the adoption of digital signage is likely to become essential to your future success. That's why it is so important for you to pick the right digital signage solution. As we have seen from our discussion, there are some benefits and drawbacks to the main options for digital signage solutions: cloud-based solutions and on-site solutions.

After a thorough comparison, we believe that it is safe to say that on-site digital signage solutions are the best choice for most businesses. You can avoid the recurring costs that come with cloud-based digital signage solutions while maintaining a level of control over your content that you simply do not have with cloud-based solutions.

These are extremely important benefits to on-site digital signage solutions, especially because the quality of content that you receive, the difficulty of setting these solutions up, and the ability to scale up or down are, in general, quite similar for each solution.

But of course, one of the biggest wins for on-site digital signage is its dependability. Having an on-site digital solution means that you don’t have to worry about network errors or problems with the provider. As long as you go with a high-quality on-site digital signage solution, your experience should be smooth sailing from there.