This is part two of our look at the why and how of a content management system (CMS) for digital signage. Read part one to learn all the ways a CMS can benefit your business’s display strategy.

There are hundreds, and by some estimates thousands, of digital signage CMS options on the market. They range from raw startups to software representing more than 25 years of development and refinement. Some are general platforms that service a wide variety of use cases, while others are specialized for uses like food services, higher education or retail banking.

Some CMS software is sold on an enterprise basis — meant to be installed and managed by a larger business’s IT team, behind a firewall. However, the majority of CMS products currently marketed are cloud-based platforms, with multiple end users accessing a shared set of servers and databases and subscribing to a service.

In most cases, end users or their outsourced solutions providers manage and maintain digital signage networks from a simple browser, and some platforms have controls that are accessible via smartphone.

Choosing the right platform involves many factors, but here are five main considerations to help you get started:

1. Budget

There are free, open-source options available, as well as “freemium” services that provide core functionality at no charge, but apply fees for broader or full functionality. Most cloud-based systems charge by the device, per month, similar to wireless phone plans. On-premise systems usually have front-loaded one-time costs, which can work better for some companies if the system is funded as a capital cost, as opposed to an ongoing operating expense.

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2. Operating style

With cloud-based systems, the associated IT support is left to the software as a service (SaaS) provider. Meanwhile, enterprise (or on-premise) systems are hosted and managed internally by the end user’s IT teams. Most end users are now opting for SaaS — outsourcing the system and even some operating tasks, like scheduling and monitoring. Samsung is somewhat unique in that it offers versions of its own digital signage CMS MagicINFO at little to no cost, whether you use it through the cloud or through on-premise servers.

3. Content

Ultimately, the biggest factor in your choice of CMS is what will be on the screen. End users should develop a clear vision for the network’s purpose and objectives, and then the type, tone, volume and breadth of displayed content. A platform designed for a healthcare setting, for instance, may not suit a retail setting. A video-centric platform may not work well for a data-driven network that will change messaging using HTML5. Even if a particular platform is incredibly user-friendly, it may be a time-consuming burden if doesn’t offer efficient scheduling at scale. Or an end user might invest in a robust, powerful, all-in-one CMS, only to learn with experience that just a fraction of the system’s capabilities are necessary for the task.

4. Openness

If your end users could benefit from a network that uses real-time data or integrates with other business systems, they’ll need an application programming interface (API). This is simply a “handshake” between different digital systems. For example, key performance indicators (KPIs) from your manufacturing system could be linked to your signage network so that these metrics are automatically displayed — and updated — on digital signs throughout your production area.

5. Security

Security is a top priority in the digital age, as businesses in every industry are seeing a spike in cyberattacks. In the federal government, healthcare and enterprise industries, teams are constantly managing confidential information, so their displays and CMS need to be as secure as possible.

In creating MagicINFO, Samsung specifically pursued ISO certification — today’s most widely recognized security standard. MagicINFO is now both ISO27001 and ISO27701 certified, providing the highest level of enterprise security in the digital signage industry.

How to start

Choosing the right CMS is a big decision, and it can be daunting. The best first steps involve planning, collaboration and assigning responsibility. Ask basic questions, such as:

  • Why are we considering a digital signage network?
  • What are our objectives, and how will we measure our success?
  • What does the content look like, how much of it will be needed, and how will it be produced?
  • How many sites are there? Where are they?
  • Cloud-based or on-premise?
  • Which department will be responsible? Do they have the necessary resources? Is this budgeted?
  • Who needs to know, both upfront and in the long term?

That last question is particularly important. The most effective and successful digital signage networks start with all stakeholders involved and in sync, with regular updates to keep everyone on the same page and as engaged as they need to be. Orphaned networks — with little buy-in or support from other departments — usually struggle.

When everyone on your team knows what they’ll be doing with the screens and why, it’ll become obvious what you need from your signage CMS, the seemingly countless choices narrowing down to a few that make the most sense for your business.

Learn more about how to begin the digital signage process and what kind of CMS best fits your needs in this free guide. Or explore Samsung’s range of interactive displays, designed to help your team collaborate more efficiently.

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Dave Haynes

Dave Haynes is a well-known veteran in the digital signage industry. He consults to some of the world’s largest brands on their digital signage strategy and technical needs, but also spends time mentoring start-ups. A former daily newspaper journalist, Haynes has for the past decade written a highly-respected blog about digital signage, Sixteen:Nine. Follow Dave on twitter @sixteennine

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