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Digital signs look professional and use digital and streaming content to target, attract, and educate customers. Hotels, retail stores, restaurants, and other businesses use digital signage to tell consumers about their company and show them what they have to offer. Yet, without the internet, how can you use digital signage?

By choosing on-site software solutions, you can upload videos, streaming content, and images stored and accessed off-line for digital signage. While most software solutions need the internet to update content stored on your computer, some allow users to do so through a server, flash drive, or portable hard drive. 

You may be wondering how digital signage works and if it is still useful without the internet. Keep reading to learn more about digital signage and whether running this technology in-house is a good alternative for you.

Do You Need Internet to Use Digital Signage?

Digital signage refers to a screen display of content such as videos, streaming media, and digital images. It acts as a digital billboard where you can cast content on an LCD or LED monitor, flatscreen TV, or a projector screen. Digital signage can be displayed on multiple screens and in various locations at the same time. 

Content can be easily updated and modified to fit a targeted group. Digital signage typically uses a cloud-based software application or a server to upload and manage content. However, some digital signage software solutions offer a desktop solution, which doesn’t require an internet connection to run. 

Which Digital Signage Components Rely on the Internet?

Traditionally, digital signage relies on an internet connection to get content, such as videos, images, and streaming media. It also uses the internet to upload and run the message to one or more screens. Other components that rely on the internet include:

  • Designer – Digital signs are intended to display content in a way that grabs attention. Content can range from digital images, videos, and streaming media. To present content in a meaningful fashion, you’ll need a software program or design tools to create the layout and message. Online design tools are typically available through a subscription-based provider.
  • Management System – Known as a Content Management System (CMS), this software organizes and manages which content will be sent to the media player. A CMS may also act as a scheduling device, allowing the designer to choose when content is delivered and for how long. When using a cloud-based CMS system, you can integrate social media or news throughout your content when you have an internet connection.
  • Display – A display is one or more screens that receive and shows content from the media player. A display may be an LCD monitor, a flatscreen TV, or a projector screen. Displays that receive content from a cloud-based solution need an internet connection. Whether you have screens at one location or across the globe, online software solutions allow you to update your displays from wherever you are. 

Internet vs. Non-Internet Digital Signage Software

Some software providers focus solely on the design and content management system. They are often subscription-based and typically reside in the cloud. They usually charge a monthly fee, which may be based on the number of screens or media players used. 

Digital signage without internet
Image via evoke creative.

Choosing an online solution may be best if your content requires constant updates. If real-time information about the weather, stocks, or social media feeds is part of your digital signage plan, having an internet connection is critical to keep your content current.

Other providers cover all aspects of the digital program, from content design to integration of the signage displays. They may offer access to design services, content feeds, and strategy training. Most software solutions make it easy to design digital signage. Many provide templates to easily drop in your message and organize your content, like how a playlist works, without requiring a network connection. 

How Can I Use Digital Signage without the Internet?

While most digital signage software solutions are cloud-based and require an internet connection, some offer a site-based solution; this allows a company to run its digital signage using a computer or network, thus eliminating the need for an internet connection. 

To update the content without an internet connection, you can load digital images and videos to a portable hard drive or flash drive; this can be imported to your content management system and used to create your digital sign messaging. 

Why Use Digital Signage without the Internet?

Digital signage without internet

While a cloud-based option may seem like the best choice, there are situations where digital signage may need to happen without an internet connection. This may be the case when:

  • The screen is in an area where there is little, if any, access to the internet. Or the internet connection can be intermittent or slows down considerably during business hours when there is higher usage. When digital signage lags or cuts in and out, it can detract from your message. 
  • Providing internet access may pose a security risk to a company. For example, banks and other financial institutions may limit access to the internet. Using a third-party cloud-based solution to manage content may not be possible in this setting. 
  • The company wants to maintain complete control over the quality of its digital signage materials and message.
  • The content doesn’t require constant updates. If your digital images and videos can be used for a long period, you may find that your signage works better with an on-site solution; this may be the case if your audience frequently turns and you don’t want to run the risk of them seeing your content twice.  

While a cloud-based software solution may not have a desktop version, many are designed to function if the internet connection is interrupted. Most offer a form of off-line play whereby the content that was available before the interruption will continue. Even if you plan on using a cloud-based solution, your digital signage may still function when the internet goes out. 

Pros and Cons of Using Digital Signage Without Internet

Companies may choose to use an on-premise software solution to manage their digital signage for security or quality purposes. This software lets the company maintain control over the content and limit outside access if an online subscription service hosts it.  


  • A company can maintain more control over its content by hosting their digital signage system internally.
  • The total cost of ownership goes down relative to the cloud-based subscription service.  After three years, subscription-based service typically exceeds the cost of purchasing hardware and software for on-premise use.
  • If your company needs to integrate data from other media sources, it may be easier to do so with on-premise software than with a cloud-based solution. 
  • With on-premise software, you don’t need an internet connection to run the digital signage system. 


  • Choosing to maintain digital signage on-premise often requires a heavier cash outlay upfront as the company needs to purchase and maintain hardware, such as computers, screens, and a server, as well as the software. Subscription-based services have a lower monthly cost to start. 
  • The company is responsible for troubleshooting hardware and ensuring that both the hardware and software have the latest updates installed.

(Source: Sixteen-Nine)

Some companies may take a hybrid approach in which they choose to internally host their digital signage systems to avoid using the internet. Yet, they may use internet-based solutions to procure digital data for their signage.


Digital signage presents an excellent opportunity to get out your message using an effective yet compelling format. Many software solutions help you easily build and create a digital message using preset templates. While many solutions charge a monthly fee and are cloud-based, software programs offer on-premise applications if you don't want to connect or can’t connect to the internet.