September 28, 2018
Digital Signage Strategy

Free Digital Signage Software is More Expensive Than You Think

The Best Digital Signage Freeware is No Digital Signage Freeware

Google provides us with over 5,030,000 results for the term “free digital signage software.” That’s a lot of information to sift through while looking for a free digital solution! We decided to compare a few free digital signage solutions to bring light to how expensive they really are and make prospecting a little easier.

Full disclosure- this article gives a general overview of the free digital signage platforms, but it’s nothing you can’t find after a quick web search. Below, we cover the things that matter- media storage, feature options, support and training, hardware, and security.

5 Reasons Why Free Digital Signage Software is Secretly Expensive

1.  Insufficient Media Storage

It’s virtually impossible to have an efficient audience engagement plan using the same amount of media storage you had on your first flip phone. So be sure to ask your IT manager if you’re able to use the company’s server to house your content. Or… use the free digital signage company’s storage for an additional monthly or yearly fee.

2. Limited Content Options

The secret to successful broadcast mediums is socially relevant content. Think about it- are you going to pay attention to a static image? You need to train your audience to look to your screens with evergreen curiosity. 

That means your digital signage channels must to push fresh, continuously new content on a never-ending cycle. How are you willing to pay for this? Cloud access to a content stream? Or uploading new data around the clock manually?

We’d be lying if we said that free digital signage software providers didn’t offer digital content for your screens. The problem? It’s not the aesthetic, dynamic content you need to attract your audience to your screens. You’re stuck with basic, outdated content that lacks automation and integrated data sources. 

Sure, there may be one or two features that are okay, but certainly not what users expect. Digital signage users need more options than what free software systems initially offer. Of course, you can always pay a monthly fee or buy features separately for more options.

3. Useless Free Support and Training

No matter the software provider, you’re bound to run into some roadblocks during your signage lifetime. Minuscule issues and code reds both require customer support. We have to warn you-- if you didn’t pay for the software, good training and support are going to be less than desirable.

Users need access to live training and one-on-one support to manage their digital signage, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a free digital signage software provider with a phone number listed on their site. A few of these companies have live chat representatives, but they’re only available during work hours.

To make up for their lack of real-time support, many providers offer a FAQ to troubleshoot your problems. Because you know-- vague tutorials aren’t frustrating at all. When an email is an option be ready to wait 48 hours for a response. 

This is especially helpful when it’s Tuesday, and you know your signage will be giving you problems on Thursday. Some providers have an option for “priority” or “extended” support access for users, just be sure to prepare your finance department for the hefty invoice they’ll receive.

4. Incompatible Hardware

To push content to your screens, the right hardware has to be able to support the software. A ton of devices with a wide variety of capabilities are on the market today, which gives users the option to choose the hardware best matched for their content needs.

Free digital signage software solutions typically work with very specific hardware, which may or may not be compatible with your existing infrastructure. You may be limited to an outdated operating system or you may be forced to pay a premium fee to upgrade to the compatible hardware needed.

5. Breachable Data Security

Imagine your screens getting hacked and displaying inappropriate content when the board of directors are visiting. Or worse, imagine hackers accessing your customers’ credit card information through your signage network connection.

Want your data to be protected? If you’re using free digital signage software, this is one question our resources can’t confirm. What we do know is that your provider should have strict guidelines in place when it comes to passing your organization’s information through the cloud.

Data security breaches happen on a regular basis so preventative measures shouldn’t be an afterthought. The best software providers have multiple audits and compliances they adhere to that ensure data security. We’ll bet these stipulations are overlooked by free digital signage companies, if at all.

Long Story Short: You Get What You Pay For

It’s true- Many digital signage solution providers that offer free services, but it’s essentially nothing short of a free trial. Additional costs will build up and before you know it, you’re stuck with a costly, subpar platform that severely lacks new features, software updates, and data security.

Whoever you choose to power your digital signage, it’s important to question your vendor’s data security infrastructure. These days, it’s possible to partially or completely bypass the cloud with an on-prem or hybrid-cloud model, but it’ll cost you. Free digital signage software is a waste of time, hardware, and energy. Software platforms cost a subscription fee for a reason- they work!

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