Literally EVERY week I am asked my opinion of some digital signage software vendor or network supplier somewhere in EMEA.
As much as possible I always try to speak with facts, as well as opinion. I still firmly believe that there are not that many good software producs out there – there are a few good ones and there are some excellent networks – but a lot of the time the products and networks are mediocre.
Two things I always do:-
A. As the UK is often seen as the bellwether to the marketplace I point them at my DOOHAN publication. Are the software vendors in the league tables? Who else uses them?
B. Send them the attached Sample Tender Questionnaire (shown below for ease of reference) and suggest that they use that as a basis for an RFP with the vendors
The questions you must ask your software vendors are: –
Hardware and Software
1. Describe the architecture of any central system that is used to distribute the content to the remote locations (i.e. operating system, hardware build etc).
2. Describe the architecture of the system used to store the content at the remote site (i.e. operating system, hardware build etc). This will hereafter be referred to as the remote system.
3. Detail whether remote systems are deployed according to the number of zones proposed for a give location.
4. Describe any measures taken to ensure high availability of the remote system.
5. Describe whether the system provides a capability to load content locally (i.e. via DVD or CD).
6. Detail whether there are any known hardware or software issues that impact the day-to-day operation of the system.
7. Detail the type of encoding used to store/replay audio and video footage (i.e. MP3, MPEG2, MPEG4 etc.).
8. Explain the rationale for using the chosen encoding scheme detailed previously.
9. Provide a high level overview of the software tools used to develop content.
10. Detail the typical frequency and nature of software and or firmware upgrades.
11. Describe how software and/or firmware upgrades are achieved (i.e. remotely or via engineer visit).
12. Give an indication of the storage space (in Gigabytes) available on the remote device. Translate this into minutes of audio AND video content.
13. Specify any mechanisms available to manage/purge content on the remote system should storage capacity be exceeded.
14. Specify whether the remote system is rack mountable. If not rack mountable then please give full dimensions (in centimetres) of the device
15. Specify the amount of rack space required to house the system.
16. Define whether the remote system has any open interfaces (API’s) to support interaction with other IT or venue based systems.
17. Describe any database technologies that are used within the system architecture.
18. Define whether the databases described previously can be easily queried by other systems.
19. Describe the communications protocol(s) used to transfer content from a central location to a remote system.
20. Specify the network infrastructure to support the transfer of data to the remote system (i.e. ADSL, Frame Relay, ISDN etc).
21. Specify the likely time to download 60 minutes of audio and 60 minutes of video content to the remote system using the network previously described.
22. Confirm that upwards of 200 sites could receive typical content updates of both audio and video within a 24-hour period.
23. Detail the numbers of zones that can be supported by the remote system.
24. Detail the number of screens that can be supported by the remote system if applicable.
25. Specify whether it is possible for your system to deliver multiple channels to a single display device.
26. Describe the tools that are available to manage the remote systems from a central location.
27. Describe the tools that are available to manage the remote systems on-site.
28. Define whether local non-technical users are typically requested to perform any system maintenance on the remote systems.
29. Define how you cater for backing up a remote system.
30. Define the procedure that you have in place and staff available to manage the delivery of content to remote sites.
Unique Selling Points
31. Given any knowledge that you may have of your competitors, describe any features that you may consider as unique or that differentiates your system.
Maintenance and Support
32. Detail the existing infrastructure in place to provide maintenance and support services to your customers.
33. Define how many remote customer sites you are currently managing.
34. Define the number of remote sites of your largest customer.