Digital Signage Content Management Software (CMS) then and now? What on earth are the options? FIVE pointers to get you started…


There needs to be a clear distinction between content management software these days. We’ll tell you why…

Well we’re in the technology space and if something hasn’t / doesn’t evolve over the years then it will get left behind. The same applies to Content Management Software (CMS). Some of these CMS companies have evolved into CMP – Content Management Platforms – we’ll cover this in a bit more detail below, but it’s most definitely worth knowing the distinction.

SL_evolutionIf you’ve ever been involved, read up on digital signage solutions then you will have had to do the research on what CMS. And, there’s plenty of options out there, in fact, every month there is probably a new company that’s launched. Also every year there’s a big acquisition/consolidation.

So what on earth do you look for as a user? Well here’s our take on it and it’s an exercise we’ve done ourselves and continue to do periodically as it’s important to select solutions which will always remain up to date if not cutting edge. After all, this is part of our service to our customers, and we owe it to them to do the research. If you want to do your own and spend countless hours if not days, months testing then here’s the Five pointers to look out for.

One: The old question of Cloud vs On-premise


Historically, on premise was ‘the’ way to do things, however, cloud technology has evolved considerably (yep, there’s that word again ‘evolved’) and continues to do so. In fact, many organisations use cloud without even realising it, Salesforce, Dropbox to name but a few. Our tip: Ensure cloud really is the cloud, so ask who the service is underpinned by. Stay away from FTP servers, AWS, Azure etc are the companies who spend their lives facilitating this kind of service for global businesses out there of all shapes and sizes. They have their own disaster recovery, and security procedures so you don’t have to worry about it. Our second tip: cloud means you don’t have servers being installed anywhere or have to hire an engineer to look after the infrastructure, so there’s one less headache to worry about.

Two: Will you still be around when I need you?

supportIt may sound like a silly question or one that perhaps many take for granted. But ask yourself one question – Who do I go to if there’s something wrong? For us, it’s a massive relief to know that Signagelive has FREE support in the form of Live Chat, emails and phone calls.  All of your technical support issues, software or hardware are sure to be taken care of. This leads on to the next point of…

Three: How flexible/scalable is the system?

flexible_scalablev2Content management software/platforms should be there to provide the glue to binding the whole solution together. Firstly, they need to get the right content to the right screen at the right time. Thereafter, they need to provide you with the management of your devices, i.e. what are my devices doing at any given time? Can I turn them on and off at scheduled times? Does it warn me if something goes wrong? What if you have a whole host of different hardware, a mix between PC, System on Chip devices, and god knows what else? What software/platform caters for all of them? For us, it is vitally important that we provide our customers with a ‘choice’ to be able to use the relevant hardware for their digital signage project. Whether that is making the most of existing infrastructure – i.e. I have some screens already being updated with USB, can’t I repurpose them and then add to the new installations with different technology? The simple answer should be and if you’ve chosen the right software/platform will be yes. You’ll have heard of this being referred to as a hardware-agnostic approach. More and more companies are adopting this approach so it won’t be easy to spot the right ones. Depending on the solution required to be delivered with the right systems’ integrator to highlight the path you will soon know.


Four: Have they got my best intentions at heart?

hidden_costsIt’s no secret (or maybe it is) that hardware companies want to sell hardware, even if they have some free software they throw in to sweeten the deal. Although in many cases this may indeed sweeten the initial deal, the question to ask is, how often is that software/platform maintained? Who supports it (if supported at all)? How often does it get updated? Do I get new features periodically without paying for them? We could carry on with more questions here. Ultimately, the important factor will always remain, digital signage is easy to deploy if you have partnered with the right systems integrator, who not only understands the hardware but also the software/platform and is there for you not for a quick win but in 6 months, or even 6 years down the line. Continuous improvement of a platform is a must because, guess what, we’re in a technology environment and yes things evolve (gosh there’s that word again).

Five: What does evolving actually mean to me?

SL_evolutionWe’ve spoken a lot about the technology industry and evolution of tools etc. CMS / CMP is no different. In fact, as we mentioned earlier, Content Management Software companies have evolved into Content Management Platforms. How can you tell the difference and really what does it even mean to you?

Well for starters they’ll be offering more than just a licenced subscription. Some of the better ones will offer content services in the form of their Marketplace. A place where you can go to for FREE content if you don’t have the in-house capabilities to do so yourself. Secondly, they will be leading the way with new features – we don’t just mean drag and drop user interface, but incorporating things like actual solutions – an example of which would be Emergency Messaging for Educational establishments, or perhaps proof of play for retailers so that they can actually gauge the impact a particular advert may have had (when coupled with other data) or even from a compliance perspective i.e. “yes Mr. Client your advert did play on 24th December and here’s the data to prove it”. All of the features will have a specific benefit to whoever is using the platform. For example, cloud is a technical feature, the benefit to our customers is that if done right (review our first point above on this) you are saving on deployment costs as well as peace of mind of not having to have a physical server on a location being maintained.


Undoubtedly the above gives plenty of food for thought, and there’s more that could be added to ensure you pick the right solution not just for here and now but also a solution which will scale with your requirements over time.