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Digital signage is a kind of content distribution platform that’s used by multiple industries. Businesses use this platform as a way of advertising or displaying items -like menus and promotional deals -via technology such as LCD screens and graphic displays. It’s essentially an avenue used by companies to advertise their brand/products to customers.
If you’re new to digital signage, you may have thought of using software to learn the basics. Given that you can find this software for free, you may find these tools incredibly beneficial in managing your digital signage content and screens.
But before you sign up for these free programs, one question you need to ask yourself is, “Is this digital signage software truly free?” Read on to learn more about the cost of using a free digital signage software.
Why Free Digital Signage Software Isn’t Really Free
This may sound slightly counter-intuitive but the term “free software” differs significantly depending on the particular signage program you’re signing up for.
For some developers, it means providing consumers with an intensely crippled version of the software. Essentially, subscribers don’t get to enjoy the complete package of the software unless they subscribe for the higher and pricier package.
Other developers will provide digital signage software that’s totally free, with zero strings attached. However, they may fail to offer any documentation on how the software works, leaving it to the buyer to figure out. Such a “free” package may also lack support, requiring clients to pay to receive any assistance or technical support.
If you do your homework well, you may find digital signal software that is genuinely free. This means the developers provide all the essential features to help you build your digital signage. They’ll also provide after-sales support. The only costs you’ll incur are purchasing hardware needed to run your platform.
An example of such a software is DigitalSignage.com. This software is offered completely free of charge. The only thing that you have to pay for entails the hardware you’ll need to run the program- that is, if you don’t have them already.
The following is a breakdown of the costs you should account for even if you’re using free digital signage software:
If you’re considering getting a digital signage program, the first expense you should account for is that of purchasing hardware. Other than the software, this system is comprised of many other components, and these will require funds to acquire them. They include:
- Media players
- Mounting brackets
- Shipping costs
Buying all the hardware that’s required can set you back a pretty penny. Luckily, you can opt for low-cost alternatives. For instance, Android gadgets, chip display options and chromecast systems cost significantly lower compared to commercial signage providers.
That said, you should also keep in mind that some low-cost systems are also more susceptible to failure than their highly-priced counterparts. Cheaper systems also have short warranties that expire within a couple of years. This leaves you vulnerable to paying for any expenses that arise during the lifetime of that signage software.
To be safe, you should look for a signage provider that strikes a good balance between pricing and quality. In as much as they’ll be offering affordable systems, these systems should be able to operate for years without a glitch.
To completely understand the total cost of a digital signage software, you’ll also need to factor in the installation cost of the hardware that you plan to purchase. These installation expenses will vary depending on whether you prefer indoor or outdoor placement.
For instance, an outdoor screen will be pricier to install due to higher power costs. Plus, this calls for a reinforced chassis that can withstand external elements.
The position of a sign can increase the cost further- for instance, signs positioned near a busy street or on the side of a given building may require permits. They may also require routing electricity to their position. All these are challenges that could potentially cost you more money.
A major benefit of a dynamic display entails its ability to showcase different types of content. But just where is the content being created and what is the technique for keeping it current?
If you’re a business owner, you can choose to upgrade and maintain this content yourself, by delegating these tasks to your staff. However, some organizations prefer to enlist the services of a content agency.
Another alternative, and one that’s offered by a majority of commercial signage providers, involves providing updates as part of a subscription package. Such a package also includes the initial cost of the hardware elements that make up the system.
Whichever option you decide to go for, don’t forget to incorporate in the total cost of the digital signage software.
Like any other item, electronics also require regular maintenance. This is particularly the case if an individual or business opts for equipment that have a lower initial investment.
To determine exactly how much you’ll spend on maintenance, you’ll need to come up with a strategy. Will you hire expert service technicians to perform maintenance or do you prefer to send the hardware to a central facility where the necessary service and maintenance checks can be done?
Also, is the hardware equipped with a diagnostic feature that can alert the service provider to any problems that need to be fixed? This can reduce the number of trips an individual has to make to get their equipment serviced.
Things to Consider When Assessing Free Digital Signage Software
As we mentioned earlier, software providers may not provide everything you need in a free package. Some try to cut corners by offering only basic features, forcing you to pay more to access any other features. To avoid getting a free software that doesn’t meet your needs, keep these aspects in mind:
- Check whether the software can handle all media formats. An efficient program is one that can handle advanced media formats such as live streaming.
- Choose a platform that automates tasks like content delivery
- As with any free program, you should establish your unique business needs. Next, assess whether the free digital signage software is able to meet all your needs. If it doesn’t, you might want to consider upgrading to a paid package that caters to all your requirements.
Here’s a detailed list of the essential things to look for when choosing digital signage software.
Features to Look For When Selecting Free Digital Signage Software
Remote Content Management
The most basic thing that a free digital signage software should be capable of doing is allowing you the freedom to manage content from anywhere. What this means is that you’ll be in a position to upload and modify digital content by simply using a web-browser on your laptop.
Thus, you’ll not be limited to only using the software that works on your business intranet or that needs to be connected via cables from your computer to the digital display screen.
While this is a standard feature provided with digital signage content management software, you should confirm whether the free version you plan to use also has this feature.
Excellent Display Resolution
Display resolution can make or break your digital signage deployment. If you’re going to go through the struggle of deploying a digital sign, looking for attention-grabbing content and showcasing this content to your clients, then you should ensure that it looks beautiful.
So when choosing among the free software available, look for one that supports 1080p full HD resolution content. This is the best resolution you can get at a reasonable pricing. If you’re willing to pay more, you may opt for software that supports 4K resolution, but this is usually too pricey and often unnecessary for digital signage deployments.
Compatible with Different Media Formats
As we mentioned earlier, another factor you should look for in your free package is the software’s ability to support a variety of media formats other than just images.
The best digital signage software allows you to not only upload photos and videos but also URL addresses for your live web pages. One way to make the most of your digital sign is to ensure that it’s eye-catching. To accomplish this, you’ll need to vary the content media formats in which you present your digital sign.
Advanced Content Scheduling
Ensure that the free software you’re selecting also gives you the freedom to schedule your digital signage content well in advance. This feature is particularly beneficial because it allows users to plan up to a month’s worth of content within a single setting.
Once you’ve developed your content, all you need to do is configure the system to display the content at specific times. This saves you a significant amount of time as you don’t have to set aside time every day where you need to take care of the content updates.
Screen Grouping Functionality
If you’re using multiple screens to advertise your brand, then managing digital signage content can be overwhelming. This is where the screen grouping feature comes in handy. It enables you to organize an array of screens into one unit.
For instance, if you run a retail store digital signage, you may want to make a series of screens for every region of stores. By grouping the screens into one, you’re able to update the content on every screen within that group simultaneously.
If you have a special offer that only applies to a store in specific regions, then this feature can be spread out to all relevant screens simultaneously instead of having to update the content one screen at a time.
Keep Track of Network Health and Playback
Although this shouldn’t happen frequently, things can sometimes go wrong on your digital signage network. For instance, the media player could stop working or the content may stop playing in the correct format or order.
If you’re using a quality digital signage software, then you’re receive detailed feedback regarding the health and playback status of all the screens on your network. This way, you can identify problems early on and fix them in time.
Compatible with Additional Tech APIs
Another indication that you’re getting an efficient digital signage software is if the program can incorporate technologies like analytics or facial recognition into the signage strategy. Not only does this make the software highly versatile but it also makes it easy to gather data and create more interactive experiences for the target audience.
The only way you’ll be able to accomplish these tasks is if you find a user-friendly and versatile signage platform that’s equipped with an extensible API. So, be sure to look for this extra feature when choosing among dozens of free digital signage programs.
As with any other digital technology, your digital signage network is susceptible to hacking and unauthorized access by ill-intentioned individuals. To avoid these issues, it’s wise to use a software that provides ample security for your digital signage network.
Your customers will be pleased by the fact that they can rely on you and you can rest easy knowing that your display screens are not susceptible to any type of harm.
If you’re looking to establish a well-functioning digital signage network, you’ll need a good software that meets your needs. While there are tons of software that are available for free, not all of them will tick the right boxes.
So before you rush to use a particular free digital signage software, evaluate it thoroughly and check what it offers. Does it require you to pay extra to access basic features? Would you incur more if you requested for technical assistance?
A genuine software provider should provide a software that’s completely free with all the necessary features and support included. The only costs you should incur are in purchasing hardware to run your signage network, and the costs involved in developing and updating content.
Also, a quality software should be able to perform several tasks such as securing your network, automating content delivery, supporting a variety of media formats just to mention a few.