Skykit Digital Signage and Workplace Solutions

Cloud-Based Digital Signage vs. CMS On-Premise (Guide)


Moving into the world of digital signage brings with it many questions, one of the biggest being:

Should I use a premise-based software or a cloud-based software?

It’s a great question…

We decided to answer this question and more so that you understand the pros and cons of each approach, as well as what types of companies use each option.

Digital signage should not be taken lightly. If it’s a profit you’re looking to turn, how you launch your content and what it looks like is crucial for a successful campaign.

Having said that, you should understand what each software option does and how it can best serve you.

Let’s start with a few basic questions:

What is cloud-based digital signage software?
Cloud-based digital signage software is an “invisible” solution. There is no CD to open and download on your computer.

Cloud-based solutions are referred to as CMS, or Content Management System.

Basically, your commercial grade screen sits in your store and the information fed to it comes directly from the CMS. This means the cloud hosts the content and handles any software updates for you.

What is on-premise digital signage software?
If you have an on-premise digital signage campaign, you still have a commercial grade screen in your store, only the information delivered to it comes from a computer in a back room, or back at corporate HQ and it’s sent to each store location.

In this case, you host the software and handle your own software updates.

I see. So which do I need?
Great question.

For the most part, smaller businesses go for the easiest to use solutions. This means their top priority is usually digital signage software that doesn’t need a training manaul, has drag-and-drop capabilities, and has some templates they can choose from. This also means they usually want to lessen the IT load, which would make the cloud-based digital signage CMS the best option for them.

Larger businesses can go either way. Many of the larger businesses have the infrastructure in place and the IT personnel to enable on-prem solutions. However, cloud-based solutions are much easier and require less maintenance and updates.

Chain restaurants like Panera or McDonald’s are likely to use this solution to avoid hands-on maintenance so managers and leaders can focus on what they do best.

The healthcare and transportation industries also take advantage of cloud-based options.

Let’s dig into the pros and cons of each option to help you make a more informed decision for you and your business:

On-Premise Digital Signage Software

Choosing to go with an on-premise software means you’ve decided to host your content yourself. You maintain the hardware, the software, and everything in between. 

The Pros:
You Don’t Need an Internet Connection

On-premise software is operated locally. That means you don’t have to rely on an Internet connection to keep your content moving. If the signal is somehow disrupted, your content will still show up because you’re not using the Internet to begin with.

The Cons:
There is No Technical Support
If you’re not technologically savvy, this may be a point of contention. If your software needs updating or your hardware starts acting whacky, you could be at a loss. Unless you have an IT team, this could be a factor that makes or breaks your decision to host on-site.

More Up-Front Costs
Hosting your own digital signage content incurs more upfront costs. From the media player to the commercial grade screen, businesses have to buck up fully to start. If a business prefers to capitalize expenses, that may move this out of the Con’s category and into the Pro’s category.

Cloud-Based Digital Signage Software

The Pros:
The System Isn’t Dependent on One Computer
Because it is a cloud-based solution, the user doesn’t need to rely on a computer in the back room for their digital signage campaign to function. For larger companies that don’t have time to maintain in-house hardware or software, cloud-based is the ideal solution.

A Back-Up System Keeps You in Business
Most cloud-based software is designed to cache the playlist. This means if there is an interruption in the Internet connection, the cached playlist will load and play a back of the content seamlessly.

More Cost-Effective
While an on-premise system requires more cash up front, a cloud-based solution does not. Many CMS packages have payment plans, making it easy for the end user to finance. Because cloud-based is most often used by larger companies that launch digital signs in more than one location, this payment option is attractive. Less hardware is needed, which also saves the company money.

Many have the misconception that on-prem solutions are more secure. But, when your CMS is hosted on a solution like Google Cloud Platform, you’re leveraging the hundreds of security experts and the infrastructure that hosts Google, Youtube, and their entire network. It’s highly unlikely that your network is more secure than the cloud giants that host many of the digital signage CMSs.

The Cons:

Content Doesn’t Update During an Internet Crash
If there is a crash, the currently scheduled content will continue playing. But, any content that has been updated via the cloud won’t update on related kiosks or commercial grade screens until the Internet comes back up. As soon as it comes up, any new content will populate and appear. Regardless, the lag time of missing “new” content is an issue for some.


Deciding which software solution to use hinges on three primary things:
1) The size of your business.
2) The type of campaign you want to launch.
3) The message you’re trying to convey.

For businesses like real estate or banking, one digital sign in the lobby area might be all that is needed. In this case, an on-premise system might be appropriate.

If the content launched is used to educate employees, an on-premise solution might also fit well.

However, if it’s content for customers and it includes some sort of customer interaction, cloud-based might be the better fit.

Cost and Return on Investment are often key drivers when users make a final decision. If up front costs aren’t available, a cloud-based solution might be the best option.

In the end, ask enough questions of your software provider so that you have a full understanding of the product you invest in.

What didn’t we answer regarding on-premise vs. cloud-based digital software signage? Ask us in the comments below. 

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