Cloud vs On-Premise Digital Signage Software: A Closer Look at Options

  • By Danielle Dixon
  • Apr 9, 2020
  • Retail Tools
cloud based vs on premise digital signage

Whether you’re using cloud or on-premise digital signage solutions, let’s explore this new way customers engage with your business.

In today’s digital world, it’s easy to get lost in all of the new marketing techniques. Gone are the days of printing promotional flyers and featuring products on large vinyl canvases.

The solution: Digital signage. In fact, digital signage’s use in business is growing rapidly. projects the digital signage industry will grow 7.7% over the next decade. And digital signage will play a significant role in:

  • Retail (Accounts for 20% of global revenue)
  • Hospitality and Entertainment
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Banking
  • Government agencies

So how can businesses start with digital signage?

Well, there are two options you have when considering digital signage:

  • Cloud-based: All content that you or the host creates is managed on a server that is owned by the host and is accessible anywhere.
  • On-premise (or onsite): The content you create is hosted by you on a machine you own, and it is only accessible on that machine.

Both options are great for managing your digital signage, but how do you know which would be best for your company? Well, the answer is: “It depends.”

There are many factors that you should consider when determining which option to choose:

  • How many digital signs are you going to have in your store?
  • How many stores do you have?
  • Do you have an in-house marketing team that can create and manage the content?
  • How much are you willing to fork out as an original investment?

Overwhelmed? Don’t worry. We will dive deeper into the difference between cloud-based and onsite digital signage in this guide.

Understanding Cloud-Based Software

Cloud-based software enables companies to access, manage, edit, and store data via a cloud-based platform.

A few of the best examples of cloud-based software include: Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack or Canva.

What Is Cloud-Based Digital Signage Software?

A cloud digital signage solution means that you upload your signage content to the web. Additionally, you manage your software through a web platform, and your digital displays then access this content via the web.

There are three main things to know about cloud-based digital signage software:

  1. Location dependent – You can manage content for 1 or many displays from a single location
  2. Cloud-based platform – It is stored over the internet on a cloud-based platform
  3. Third-party vendor – A third-party vendor does the hosting

Key Features and Benefits of Cloud Digital Signage

cloud digital signage benefits

Here are a few of the best features and benefits of a cloud digital signage solution:

1. Accessibility and Remote Management

With a cloud-based system, your software will always be up to date. This allows users easy and uninterrupted accessibility. Also, it gives flexibility for multiple users to access the system at the same time.

Cloud-based digital signage systems don’t require good bandwidth or high-speed internet in your store to access and manage the data.

2. Scalability and Flexibility

When your content is stored on an external server, it can easily be managed via the internet. This makes it much easier to control your content for multiple sites and screens for one central location. This could be your company headquarters, your living room, or a beach chair in the Bahamas, anywhere!

3. Cost-Effectiveness

When choosing a cloud-based system, the upfront costs are often much lower than those of an onsite system. With a cloud-based solution, you won’t need to worry about server updates and maintenance, which translates to lower costs for local IT support.

Moreover, there is no need to worry about hosting your data or having onsite servers. This, again, helps in lowering costs as you need not invest in keeping your software updated and virus scanners.

4. Real-Time Updates

You can manage your content in real time. There is no need to worry about hosting your data or having onsite servers that you need to keep updated and virus-free. With a cloud-based solution, you won’t need to worry about server updates and maintenance.

5. Reduced Internet Dependency

If you have a hiccup in your internet connection, you don’t have to worry about your screen going blank. Most companies that offer cloud hosting back up your content in a playlist cache.

The screen will continue to rotate through your content in offline mode without interruption. Once the internet is restored, the program will automatically update any changes that were made while offline.

6. Strong Security

Cloud-based digital signage software is considered to be highly secure. Even though the software is hosted at another location outside your firewall, you will have access to the company’s security infrastructure that could be even more secure than your home-based solutions.

7. Subscription Costs

Most cloud-based systems are purchased through a monthly or yearly subscription and can be very reasonable. The only upfront cost to you will be to buy the displays (typically LCD TVs) and potentially a digital media player.

Key Takeaways

  • Easy to install and maintain
  • Low upfront costs to your company, but you will have an ongoing monthly expense
  • No purchasing of an onsite server; all data is hosted in the cloud
  • The host manages all software updates and features
  • No need for local IT support or firewall protection
  • Media players will need internet access
  • No limit (for most companies) to the number of displays
  • Great for large or small businesses

Understanding On-Premise Software

On-premise software is installed directly on your computer. You might download it from the web or (in the past) purchase a disk version, and then install the software on your computer.

Therefore, all the data will be saved to your computer’s hard drive. In cloud-based software, the data can be used from anywhere; and no software download is required.

Some of the best examples of on-premise software include: Microsoft Office, Adobe (legacy products), e.g. you purchase a version or download of the software and install it directly to your computer’s hard drive.

Note: Many on-premise or legacy software solutions (like Office and Photoshop) are moving to the cloud.

What Is On-Premise Digital Signage Software?

An on-premise digital signage system means that 1) the content is hosted on a computer in the store, and 2) the manager tools can only be accessed by a computer in the store. The displays, therefore, are wired or communicated wirelessly with your server to deliver content.

When using on-prem software, the company has complete ownership of its hardware and software. This gives the company full control, authority, and complete management of its system’s security.

Key Features and Benefits of On-Premise Digital Signage

on premise digital signage benefits

Here are a few of the best benefits of cloud-based digital signage solutions.

1. Data Security

Your content and software are only as secure as you choose to make them. All your data is behind your firewall, which can also help integrate your features unique to your business.

2. Content and Software Control

You are 100% in control if you choose an onsite digital signage solution. You create your content, manage your data, and maintain your server, displays, and all other aspects.

You don’t have limits on how many displays you can have (depending on how complex your server is), and you won’t have to communicate your needs to another company for interpretation.

3. Customization and Integration

The onsite digital signage software can easily integrate with other applications based on your requirements.

Some onsite system users also use web-based content management software. These are typically easy to navigate, you can customize based on your needs, and there might be a small monthly subscription fee involved in the process.

They can help manage your content and will allow more users access to make changes and deliver content to multiple locations and screens.

4. Offline Systems

On-premise software isn’t hosted locally. Instead, it is installed in the user’s system. This means there is no dependency on the internet.

Think of it like this: You can continue using Microsoft PowerPoint or Word without internet access; this is a key benefit of an on-premise solution.

5. Less Ongoing Costs (But More Upfront)

With an onsite system, you are choosing to host your content, which means a higher upfront cost and more obligations. However, the ongoing costs of choosing this solution are relatively low since there is no monthly subscription fee.

You own everything, from the hardware and software to the displays and media players.

6. Maintenance

Owning your hardware means you can perform maintenance checks based on your requirements.

Remember: You will be responsible for replacing and maintaining your old equipment (displays, TVs, servers).

While performing your maintenance check, keep these things in mind:

  • Keep your software up to date
  • Rely on your security personnel
  • Contact a local IT support if things aren’t going well
  • Ensure your system is virus-free

7. Scalability

When talking about scalability, there are a few questions that need to be considered:

  • Power Setup – It is always a smart move to store your setup in a compact cooling room. But if you want to expand in the future, do you have enough space to move things around?
  • Security Measures – Your current security measures will not suffice when you plan for scalability. Are your security partners capable of managing higher systems when you expand?
  • Cost Implication – If you are already investing a lot, you need to consider your scalability potential, and if your current data provider offers a quick and easy expansion plan.

Key Takeaways:

  • Easy to start-up
  • Much higher upfront costs but minimal ongoing costs
  • Your data is hosted on your server that you will need to purchase, add to your network, and maintain
  • You control if and when updates are installed
  • Local IT will be necessary to keep your server and screens working smoothly and adequately
  • No limit to the number of screens
  • You will need a secure network and internet connection

Factors for Consideration: Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise Digital Signage Software

How do you decide whether you need an on-premise or cloud digital signage solution?

Although both have pros and cons, it all comes down to your business. Here are some of the factors you should consider:

1. Budget

If the answer to the below questions is YES, choose on-premise digital signage:

  • Are you ready to invest in higher upfront costs?
  • Can you allocate a higher budget if required?
  • Do you want complete ownership of hardware and software?

If the answer to the below questions is YES, choose cloud digital signage:

  • Do you require internet dependency?
  • Is remote access important for you and your team?
  • Do you want zero-to-little IT dependency?

2. Scalability Requirements

Both systems can scale, but, ultimately, scalability requirements are much different. Think about these factors:

  • Budget allocations
  • Space availability
  • Additional resources, materials, and manpower

If you are open to investing in additional software, are comfortable with higher upfront costs, and expanding your server space, you can opt for on-premise software.

If you want to scale your business without worrying about the above points, opt for cloud-based digital signage software (as all your data is stored online).

3. Data Security and Compliance

The most fundamental difference between on-premise and cloud-based software is that:

  • You are responsible for the security of your data for on-prem software
  • In cloud-based software, the service provider is responsible for all the data storage and security.

4. Connectivity and Network Dependence

What are your connectivity requirements?

If your working structure requires less network dependency, you can choose on-prem software. This way, you can continue working without disruption, while cloud-based digital signage software requires an around-the-clock network.

5. User-Friendliness and Maintenance

Setting up on-premise software can be time-consuming, tedious, and requires on-going maintenance. Moreover, the maintenance responsibility is borne by the company itself.

While cloud-based digital signage software is readily available, it has less installation time, and the service provider performs maintenance.

So, if you want an immediate solution and less dependency on security and maintenance, always choose cloud-based software.

Comparative Analysis: Cloud-based vs. On-Premise digital signage

Aspect Cloud-Based Digital Signage On-Premise digital signage
Implementation Hosted on remote servers with accessibility through internet Installed and operated on local servers or hardware
Costing Initial costs are lower; can be purchased on subscriptions; there is NO infrastructure cost (aside from displays and players) Higher upfront costs; require hardware and infrastructure investment
Scalability A cloud server digital signage system has infinite scalability; just add more displays and features Scope of scalability may be limited as you will have to incur additional funds to expand and buy new hardware
Accessibility As it runs on the internet, you access remotely from anywhere in the world You need to be available on the premises to access the data
Security Measures As all the data is stored on the cloud; this may raise security concerns The data is stored onsite, thus reducing the chance of theft or security concerns
Internet Dependency Being a cloud server, it is highly dependent on the internet connectivity There is less internet dependency, and you can work without the internet too
Integration Quick and easy integration with other software, such as POS systems, thus increasing efficiency There may be a requirement for custom integration as it may not support all software
Maintenance and Update Entirely managed by the service provider. Thus, they regularly keep updating the software Dependency on the in-house IT staff for regular maintenance and updates

Cloud vs. On-Premise Digital Signage

Digital Signage Implementation and Best Practices

Now that we’ve gone over the specifics of cloud-based and onsite digital signage solutions, you should have a better idea of what solution will work best for your company.

A cloud-based system may work if you don’t have access to the overhead needed to purchase and maintain your equipment. A cloud-based solution is easy to use and budget-friendly.

An onsite system is great if you don’t mind the initial investment and have an in-house IT and marketing team to maintain and design your content.

Either way, here are some factors to consider when choosing the best digital signage software for your needs:

1. Implementation

Once you have understood your business requirements, you can choose between on-premise software and cloud-based digital signage software. Consider these points:

  • Check your annual budget allocation
  • Whether your office settings would be on-premise or remote
  • Will you be scaling soon
  • Check reviews and testimonials before finalizing your service provider
  • Discuss your requirements with a sales executive to get a better picture

2. Training and Onboarding

Adequate training and onboarding can reduce errors and improve the efficiency of your digital signage operations. Consider these points:

  • Regularly educate your staff regarding content creation, scheduling, and management
  • Organize software training by the solution provider or internal resources
  • Create user manuals, tutorials, and support materials to help users and staff understand the application

3. Ongoing Management and Optimization

Digital signage requires continuous optimization and updates to stay in line with the current trends. It is NOT a one-time setup. While implementing digital signage content, consider these points:

  • Regularly monitor the performance of your displays; analyzing, tracking, and checking audience engagement.
  • Periodically update and send refreshing content to keep your messaging relevant.
  • Optimization may also include experimenting and A/B testing of different content variations; make sure you try that.
  • Make data-driven decisions to improve your signage’s performance.

Making the Right Choice with FTx POS

FTx Digital Signage syncs with the FTx POS system to update pricing on your digital menus and signs automatically when using the Products Feature. The UpLift customer-facing display educates customers on promotions, enticing them to make impulse purchases at the register.

Use FTx digital signs and menus to promote slow-moving products and create awareness for new ones, while simultaneously building store loyalty. Take advantage of sales trends by deploying ads fast, eliminating costly printing time.

Broadcast digital ad content across multiple locations from anywhere using the FTx Control Center. Schedule your ads days, weeks, months, or years in advance so you never miss a promotion!

You have complete control over your digital ad and promo scheduling:

  • Schedule your ads to run automatically using a visual timeline
  • Daypart scheduler to schedule menus or ads for different intervals throughout the day
  • Timeline scheduler allows you to build out months of ads, promos, and menus on autopilot
  • Easily manage mass updates to make changes to all of your digital signs in one click

With FTx Digital Signage, there are no contracts. Simply choose a package that suits the needs of your business and pay month to month without any obligation.

Schedule a demo to learn how FTx Digital Signage can become your profit-generating powerhouse.


Cloud-based digital signage software works entirely on a remote server and can be accessed only with the internet. On the other hand, on-premise digital signage software requires hardware, is located onsite, and internet is not required to run and manage it.

It entirely depends on the company’s requirements. But cloud-based software has more potential due to:

  • Fewer upfront costs, subscription-based plans
  • Requires no investment cost for purchasing new hardware (like servers), but does require displays and players
  • Instantly can expand operations rather than wait for network expansion / server installation

Start by understanding your business requirements and expectations from the software. Before investing in either of them, consider these points:

  • Software investment
  • Scalability opportunities
  • Maintenance and upgrades
  • Global accessibility or only on-premise
  • Security measures, etc.

What are the costs associated with cloud-based digital signage?

If you are a POS subscriber, an FTx Digital Signage add-on ranges from $10/POS to $50/POS, depending on your plan.

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Business Experts & Contributors

A New Solution Coming To FasTrax

Danielle is a content writer at FTx POS. She specializes in writing about all-in-one, cutting-edge POS and business solutions that can help companies stand out. In addition to her passions for reading and writing, she also enjoys crafts and watching documentaries.

Danielle Dixon

Content Writer
A New Solution Coming To FasTrax

Matthew Davis is a content marketing specialist for FTx POS. With experience in marketing, brick-and-mortar retail, and ecommerce, Matthew enjoys writing about strategies and technology retailers can use to grow. Previously, he managed retail operations for a sports/entertainment facility and worked in marketing consulting.

Matthew Davis

SEO Specialist/Content Writer

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