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Bad news. When things sound too good to be true, they usually are.
After reading the small print for you, we’re here to debunk the real cost of free digital signage.
Clients often come to us first having tried free digital signage. They tend to fall into two categories:
1. Those who got no further than set up, confused by clunky, foreign free digital signage software.
2. Those who managed quite happily for some time, before encountering limitations, or finding content management just too time-consuming.
We completely agree that you should always sample before you buy – that’s why we offer a free trial and video tutorials. But once you’ve realised the value of digital signage, why compromise when there’s a better fit already out there?
We decided to research the reality behind ‘free’ digital signage and after looking into some of the most popular ‘free’ providers, this is what we found…
The Cost of Cloud Hosting
Some providers let you download and run your own web server for free. But there’s a catch. If you’re a college, charity, or estate agent, you’ll most likely need CMS hosting. Cloud hosting is the easiest way to run digital signage. Is this offered by ‘free’ providers? Afraid not. Cloud hosting from one of the most popular ‘free’ providers is an additional fee of £1.20 per display per month – that’s before VAT. It might not sound like an awful lot, but for a 10 screen network that sets you back £144 a year. Without designated IT staff, setting up a server can also be tricky.
The Cost of Device Licensing
You’ll be confronted with another catch when it comes to hardware supportability. Digital signage is extremely popular on Android devices, proving to be cost-effective and reliable. ‘Free’ providers often charge a ‘licence fee’ for Android devices. Typically, these fees are about £15 per device before VAT. Again, a 10 screen network, dipping into your pockets for all the hardware too, could cost you around £1,670 all in with a ‘free’ provider.
The Cost of Software Support
Another hidden cost is technical support. Most ‘free’ providers offer the services of their tech support team. Anyone who has been left baffled trying to configure their content on a free platform will appreciate how important technical support is. Sure, most providers are happy to answer FAQs and give quick-fixes to the problems their clients might encounter. But should you run into real trouble, a problem that perhaps threatens your whole network, there’s a chance you’ll find yourself asked to pay for their time. Hourly rates can rack up but you’ll feel obliged to pay out or risk throwing away all the hours you’ve put into the screen network set up.
The Most Significant Cost – Your Time
What you can’t put a price on is your time. As the old saying goes: time is money. If you want to save money and go with ‘free’ digital signage, you need to be prepared to invest your time. A reasonable estimate would be a couple of hours per screen to set up, not including time spent training staff on network administration. And that’s once you’ve come to grips with the platform you’re using. Then there’s more inconvenient time spent later addressing hiccups or unexpected problems. If you’re happy to commit to this, free digital signage (accepting its additional monetary costs) might well be for you. But if you’re not an IT specialist, or have a lot on your plate at the moment, it’s probably worth paying that bit extra to take the hassle off your hands.