When it comes to choosing digital signage technology, how your organization wants to acquire, use and manage digital signage software can be as important as the hardware itself.

Depending on your company’s IT resources and priorities, and how your technology investments are funded, you may choose to buy the software and largely manage the supporting technology yourself. Or, you might opt for a cloud-hosted solution, which outsources your technology while you “rent” the management software capabilities on a subscription basis.

Most digital signage software options on the market are cloud-based, reflecting a broader shift in technology toward software as a service (SaaS). The opposing option is perpetual software licensing, with end users or their outsourced IT partners buying one-time licenses for the software and then installing it in their own network on their own servers.

A third option deemphasizes how software is bought and run, letting organizations instead focus on the product capabilities that fit their needs. Samsung’s MagicINFO content management system (CMS) for digital signage, for example, has a MagicINFO Cloud software solution offering many of the features and capabilities of a well-established perpectual license, without the upfront investment.

Let’s break down the difference between perpetual license and subscription, and why all kinds of organizations — from retailers and food services operators to banks and public utilities — may prefer one or the other:

What is a perpetual license?

Buying a perpetual license for digital signage software means acquiring all the necessary software components to fully manage a network of displays inside an organization, whether that entails one building or multiple sites, nearby or dispersed. These kinds of network setups are sometimes referred to as enterprise or on-premise.

Under a perpetual license arrangement, the in-house or outsourced IT or information systems (IS) teams take on the day-to-day responsibilities of maintaining the system, which can include management of physical servers, networking equipment and applications for functions such as database functionalities, media storage, control and monitoring.

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Typically, perpetual licenses and server hardware are upfront capital purchases. Post-purchase, the customer may enter into an annual maintenance agreement — usually at small percentage of the initial cost — that provides access to technical support from the software vendor, as well as access to software fixes, revisions and upgraded versions.

Perpetual, self-hosted arrangements are chosen for at least these two reasons:

  • Your organization may prefer to pay for major technology investments as one-time costs, rather than long-term operating expenses.
  • Government agencies and other entities that manage confidential information, like banks and hospitals, have especially tight security requirements and may prefer to manage all IT initiatives inside their firewalls.

What is cloud-hosted or subscription-based?

Most people use cloud-based platforms all day long — for shopping, collaboration and a range of business and consumer apps. The management software and hardware infrastructure maintaining that software is centrally hosted and shared across multiple subscribing customers, who are “renting” access to the technology, usually on a defined term agreement.

Cloud-hosted, or SaaS, digital signage platforms are usually as feature-rich as self-hosted versions — the key difference being that IT only has to ensure people using the platform can log in through a web browser. Everything else is managed remotely by the service provider, and cloud-hosted arrangements usually factor any fixes and upgrades into the monthly or annual fee.

Contracts vary, but most cloud-hosted digital signage software assigns a fee for each media playback device, which can be an external media player or, increasingly, a smart signage display that has the playback hardware built into the screen.

Cloud-hosted arrangements are increasingly popular for several reasons:

  • Organizations with limited IT resources can use digital signage technology without introducing new responsibilities to existing staff, who are already busy.
  • Upfront costs may be lowered — perhaps dramatically — by spreading predictable costs over lengthy terms, with licensing paid monthly, quarterly or annually.
  • Early-stage networks can gradually build out their screen networks without a major initial capital outlay.
  • Support arrangements are already built in, and end users can also opt into managed services such as 24/7 technical support, proactive monitoring and content scheduling.

Perpetual license vs. SaaS: What’s best for your organization?

Deciding on perpetual license vs SaaS often depends how the software suits your industry and communication style, or specific functionality. Another significant factor is how invested your organization wants to be, or can be, in day-to-day management.

On-premise systems require regular maintenance and steady monitoring, but a cloud or SaaS system allows companies to focus on the quantity, quality, relevance and timeliness of their messaging — while the service provider ensures uptime and reliability.

Best of both options

Samsung has been developing and expanding its MagicINFO content management software for digital signage for more than a decade. Now that the platform is used by everyone from small startups and local businesses to Fortune 500 companies, the long-running on-premise, perpetual license version of the platform has been complemented by a complete digital signage content management solution — MagicINFO Cloud.

The cloud-hosted service provides a reliable and affordable web-based toolkit for organizations of all sizes. From one platform, businesses can create, schedule and deliver content across a digital signage network and avoid the hassle of setting up and maintaining their own servers. The software, database, content and other tools are hosted on hyper-secure Samsung servers in top-tier backed-up data centers. The service includes Samsung’s Remote Management (RM) tool set for monitoring and maximizing uptimes, as well as a single point of contact between clients and Samsung.

Users can opt into premium MagicINFO Cloud services such as proactively monitoring the network for clients, 12/7 or 24/7 remote technical support, enhanced service level and priority response agreements.

Digital signage your way

Every business has unique attributes, needs and work styles, so it only makes sense to provide different options for using and managing digital signage technology. With both offered to them, end users may settle on MagicINFO as their preferred CMS and use it however best suits their business.

Learn more about configuring and tailoring real-time messaging with an integrated CMS in this free complete guide. And see what makes Samsung’s MagicINFO a leading-edge digital signage platform that elevates the power of displays to enhance your business.

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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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