Cloud vs On-Premise Digital Signage

Guest Contributor, Jason Cremins

The choice of digital signage solutions can be mind-blowing, from; free unsupported software from hardware manufacturers through to very expensive legacy solutions.

Dave Gahan or Jason Cremins; You decide!

One of the first decisions that a prospective digital signage customer needs to make is ‘Do I choose a digital signage solution that is managed from my own on-premise network or do I choose a Cloud (Internet hosted) based solution?’.

Historically, customers did not have a choice, the only option was to purchase expensive servers, install software and employ the skills necessary to configure and manage an on-premise digital signage network.

Now however with the advent of the Internet and Cloud Computing, customers can now purchase a range of Internet enabled digital signage devices that are preloaded with the necessary software to play back full screen and multi-zone digital signage.

Alternatively, many Cloud based digital signage solutions, such as signagelive also offer a software only option, so that you can install the software on any PC with the operating system of your choice.

Internet connected digital signage players, do not require any local computers or servers to operate, nor do they require the technical expertise required when installing on-premise alternatives. All you need is a standard fixed-line or mobile Internet connection and your ready to go, in fact, you’ll be up and running in minutes.

The above scenario is possible due to the power of Cloud computing. The Cloud is a term used for the management of applications and technology from the Internet, instead of on-premise using your own servers and local networking.

Cloud based digital signage players use the Internet to connect to an online digital signage service and confirm they are operating correctly, make sure they have downloaded the latest content and upload log files detailing what they have played and when. Whilst not true of all Cloud based digital signage solutions, signagelive players do not require connection to the Internet to operate, they will quite happily carry on working and displaying the last content received until an Internet connection is re-established.

Adoption of Cloud computing has grown massively over the last decade with companies such as Salesforce.com coming from nowhere to becoming the leading provider of sales, marketing and customer service software in the world with a turnover of over $1BN.

In addition to Salesforce.com, many of us use the Cloud everyday, probably without realising, as Social Media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are hosted on the Cloud, as too are Google Apps including Gmail, which many commercial organisations have adopted within their businesses.

Another major advantage of Cloud based digital signage solutions over on-premise, is that Cloud based offerings are provided as a service. At signagelive, this means that from the moment you take a free trial, through to rolling out a network of a few (or maybe a few thousand) digital signage players, you have our support team on-hand, ready to help you every step of the way. All signagelive users can click on the ‘live help’ icon from within signagelive at anytime and chat with our support team or raise a support ticket at the click of a mouse and our support team will get back to you straight away. This support is for everyone who uses signagelive, from the person in a reception area managing the scrolling welcome ticker, through to other members of the end users team, the reseller that installed the signagelive solution and our distribution partner that sold it to them.

Adding to the free support, all signagelive users receive free software updates at no extra cost whilst they have a current licence and all signagelive licences are sold on a simple ‘all inclusive’ basis, with one price per player covering all features, so you do not have to choose from an impossibly difficult price list to get the true cost per player for your requirements.

Marc Benioff, Founder and CEO of Salesforce.com is famous for his evangelical keynote speeches regard the ‘move to the Cloud’ and talks passionately about software being considered in the same way we purchased utilities, such as electricity and water. He says that prior to the distributed electricity network, companies had their own generators powering their premises and that one day, all companies will access their computing needs via the Cloud and purchasing on-premise servers and installing and managing software, will be resigned to history.


8 Responses to “Cloud vs On-Premise Digital Signage”

  1. Ken Goldberg Says:

    Jason:

    In reference to the portions of your pitch that actually addressed the advantages of Internet-based solutions vs. on-premises solution: the points made are valid, and I endorse them. However, in the process, you have chosen to co-opt the hot buzzword of “Cloud” to replace the older, more accurate term for what you describe: Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This only serves to confuse people, which one hopes is not intentional. Cloud is not just a sexy way to say Internet-based.

    Cloud computing refers to a highly elastic, on demand computing infrastructure that is massively available and billed based upon usage. SaaS refers to a software applications provided as a service on a subscription basis. They are not the same thing: it is infrastructure vs, applications. Salesforce.com is perhaps the poster child for SaaS. It was around long before “cloud” became either popular or widely available. If Salesforce has actually moved their infrastructure to the Cloud, and I do not know whether they have, there is not a single person outside of the Salesforce.com IT team that should care, because it should have no impact on either the application or the customer.

    So it is with digital signage software. Whether your application (or mine, for that matter) is hosted on physical servers in a colocation facility or on virtual servers provided by someone like Terremark or Amazon, it is Internet-based and provided to the customer as a SaaS application. This is also true of Mr. Benioff’s product. Substituting the word “Cloud” for “Internet” is misleading, especially when used as a marketing term rather than a technical term.

  2. Jason Cremins Says:

    Ken, thanks for taking the time to comment.

    Our first Internet hosted solution was developed in the late-90’s when the term ASP (Application Service Provider) was all the rage, before being gazumped by SaaS.

    I agree that the term Cloud has become generic for all Internet based solutions regardless of whether it refers to Private servers or Public virtual servers, or indeed regardless of the commercial model used to sell the resulting services.

    Whilst the term Cloud is in general used as a marketing buzz word, it has done a great job in providing a focal point for all the technology world to communicate to the non-tech world, the differences of a web-based solution over those that are installed and managed on a local network. Look no further than iCloud for an example of this.

    Having transitioned signagelive from a private hosted Internet platform to a distributed public Cloud platform located on vertical servers in 9 data centers across the world utilizing Akamai to make content available through 100,000 servers worldwide, we understand better than most the power (and difference) between a website on a single server sat in a data center and a true multi-tenanted Cloud based solution, that provides all of the benefits such as elastic, resilience, self-healing that you make reference to in your comment.

  3. Bill Yackey Says:

    Here’s an article I wrote around this time last year that outlines some benefits of moving to a cloud model for digital signage.

    http://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/blog/5206/Digital-signage-in-the-cloud

    And Ken is right, even in the cloud-based services industry the as-a-service tag is still interchanged with “cloud.” It’s quite common to this.

  4. Daniel Parisien Says:

    BroadSign, similarly to Salesforce, has just evolved to use the term “cloud” instead of software-as-a-service hosting infrastructure.

    It saves a lot of time, and I personally prefer the imagery of a cartoony electronic cloud serving content and data as opposed to a bunch of buildings filled with buzzing servers in a datacenter somewhere.

  5. Ken Goldberg Says:

    Jason,

    The benefits of the cloud you refer to in your comment inure to the software company choosing to run on a cloud-based infrastructure. None of those benefits are visible to the customer, unless of course, you were experiencing high downtimes in your legacy environment. I applaud the move of your infrastructure to the cloud as a business decision. I simply object to characterizing it as the source of any of the advantages you listed in the guest article. Because you know better.

    Call it semantics if you wish, or justify it as using a word that is dumbed down and easily (mis)understood. The truth is that there are still buildings with thousands of buzzing servers at your cloud provider’s facilities…. you just don’t own or manage any of them. And your application should behave the same and provide the same customer benefits regardless of your IT infrastructure choice.

  6. Joe Cotugno Says:

    From a purely technical perspective, I tend to agree with Ken, that using the term “Cloud” interchangeably with “SaaS” only serves to confuse the general public.

    For example, Ayuda’s software has always been offered on a subscription basis – even when we were installing it on-premise at client sites when we first started almost 9 years ago. Back in 2003, Ayuda software was not Cloud-based but was definitely SaaS. Fast forward a few years, and we migrated our platform to a “private Cloud” (ie: a bunch of servers that we hosted in a colocation facility). At that point, Ayuda software was both SaaS and Cloud-based. In the last year, we migrated our server infrastructure to use Microsoft’s Azure Platform bringing us closer to the “utility computing” vision of the Cloud.

    My point? Throughout all of that history, our solution offered all of the SaaS advantages that Jason outlines above: subscription-based pricing, online support, automatic software updates, and all-inclusive licensing. That is to say, the Cloud was not and is not a prerequisite for SaaS.

    However, in Jason’s defense, everybody seems to be using “Cloud” these days to mean everything from Platform-as-a-Service, to utility computing, to hosting infrastructure, and yes, even to SaaS (and ASP).

    So, channeling my inner Rodney King, I’ll end with: Can’t we all just get along? :)

  7. Jason Cremins Says:

    Good shout Joe, we all need to pull in the same direction and not get too hung up on what does and what does not constitute Cloud Computing.

    Well, at least those of us who are selling a web-based solution against legacy on-premises digital signage offerings.

    Now, to start the next debate. Digital Signage media player devices will become free or have minimal value, so anyone who values their them and any margins they make at present are going to be in for a very tough time.

    The real revenues from digital signage will come from providing the management of these devices and extracting as much value from content services that you can provide to them.

  8. Francine Haliva Says:

    Hi Jason,

    Couldn’t agree with you more as I too wrote in an article “Putting Digital Signage in the Cloud” (http://www.dgscreen.com/Galleries/ContentFiles/InTheNews/DGScreenPuttingDigitalSignageInTheCloud.pdf ).

    Digital Signage SaaS offerings coupled with software media players will finally allow small/medium businesses to take advantage of digital signage enabling this industry finally cross the chasm.

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