This is part one of our look at the why and how of using a content management system (CMS) with a digital signage network. Read part two for insights into how to choose the best CMS for your business’ display strategy.

Although it’s often possible to run a digital display from a USB drive, a network with any sophistication, complexity or scale needs proper planning and a management system that enables businesses full control of their content. An effective content management system (CMS) allows end users and solution providers to develop, organize, target, schedule and distribute content more quickly and easily, and then monitor and manage the displays that share this content.

If you only have one or two screens in a single location, running a small set of files over and over with rare changes, then looping playback from a standard USB drive might be sufficient. But most end users need to do far more with their screens — and that requires software that’s tailored to the task.

Content

Digital signage CMS platforms, like Samsung’s MagicINFO, provide a range of tools and capabilities. At a minimum, they provide file upload capabilities and the option to store and review images and videos. Many of the well-established or more sophisticated platforms on the market will have content authoring tools, which allow users to build media from scratch or use predesigned, preloaded templates to fast-track their designs. These tools are sometimes included in the CMS, or they may be sold as add-ons.

Digital signage content management made easy

icon of a document
White Paper

Get your complete guide to configuring and tailoring real-time messaging using an integrated CMS. Download Now

Some platforms feature content stores that include templates based on predesigned functionality, such as a building directory or digital menu system. These stores may also be tied into third-party tools such as subscription content feeds from providers. Users subscribe to auto-delivered feeds that are regularly updated with materials such as news, weather and sports scores.

Many CMS platforms now use HTML5, the latest web presentation technology, to automatically update content, often based on specified data triggers. Practically speaking, this means that on-screen information — numbers, charts and images — can also automatically update in real time, without operator intervention, because they’re tied to a data repository.

HTML5 supports motion graphics and video, and it can be a huge cost-cutter and timesaver because on-screen changes are dynamic and not contingent on someone having the skills or the time to make changes manually.

Management

The complexity of a digital signage network is tied to volume and scale, generally determined by how many pieces of content are in use, how often they’re updated, how many different locations and time zones the content is applied in and the uniqueness of programming per site.

There are other factors, but these four have a major impact on a signage network’s operating demands. A network of 1,000 media players and their screens can be relatively simple to manage if the same set of files plays at every location and they change infrequently.

But what if the use case is 1,000 bank branches in three time zones? What if the content varies based on the services each branch offers, the demographics of the surrounding area and the dominant languages used? A bank in a rural area may only need one language, but branches in more diverse environments may need messaging in multiple languages.

Organizing all of that manually would be a full-time job for one or several people, and subject to human error. But with the right CMS solution that uses data tags describing attributes and conditions, that scheduling is fast, accurate and largely automated.

Along with organizing, scheduling, targeting and distributing content, your display CMS should validate supplied material, like third-party videos that will play properly on screens, as well as archive old files and weed out expired ones that take up storage space.

Your management platform should also provide dashboard-style summary views of your displays’ performance, scheduling plans and anything else that helps operators maximize uptime.

System

The system is the overall platform and the provided tools that keep it running, including these key aspects:

Remote management: The best CMS platforms have robust device monitoring tools that run computing routines to “watch” the media players and screens deployed across your network, and notify you when problems develop. These platforms come with online tools that automatically (or through easy operator intervention) remedy budding problems, and provide quick fixes that don’t require costly, time-consuming on-site service calls.

Network integrity: Is the platform secure against hacking and other cyberattacks? Screens and entire signage networks have been hacked before, causing service delays and data compromise. It’s crucial that your CMS solution meet the ISO standards for information security, which certify the highest level of security in the digital signage industry worldwide.

Redundancy: Most cloud-based digital signage platforms use third-party network services to host and run their systems. This grants high availability to end users and offers them peace of mind that there are backups for databases and stored files, as well as power and bandwidth. End users should check that potential CMS providers have layers of redundancy in place for when things go wrong. In most cases, the disruption will happen without anyone noticing. But if your CMS provider has cut corners, when it goes down, so will sales.

Scalability: Any CMS provider can demonstrate how, in a click or two, an update can be sent to a media player and screen across the city, across the country or on the other side of the world. Easy stuff! But what about a network with 1,000 players that all need to be updated at once? A system designed to handle spikes in demand and distribution will handle that efficiently, whereas others may only be designed to update a few players at a time, meaning it might take hours for a crucial update to reach every player.

The benefits of an effective display CMS are clear. So how should your business go about selecting the right one for your specific needs? Read part two to find out.

See what makes Samsung’s MagicINFO the leading-edge digital signage platform that elevates the power of displays to enhance your business. When you’re ready to get started with your CMS, be sure to download this free guide to hit the ground running.

Posts By

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

View more posts by Dave Haynes