What is “Free” Workplace Digital Signage Really Worth?

Are you looking for digital signage (DS) and being tempted by free or extremely cheap offerings? Well, I’d start the decision process by asking yourself these three questions about the potential vendor:

1. Can they really make good software and give it away?
2. How are they making money? Because you know they’re not really doing it for free. 
3. Do you want to do business with a company that’s misleading you from day one (i.e., the software isn’t really free)?

The type of digital signage we make is for use in the workplace, to help managers communicate their important messages to their employees.  There are no ads in it, because our customers want it that way and are willing to pay for a product that they find value in. We have teams of developers and customer support folks often working 24/7 to build and maintain DS that is enterprise strength and used around the globe.  We hire quality people and put out a quality product and charge our customers a fair price. So it’s hard for me to see how a bona fide vendor, serving customers like ours, could provide a free product.

Now, there are some very rudimentary products out there that could work for limited applications like a welcome display in a doctor’s office. Whether you’re looking for DS like that or something more robust, you should still check the product details to make sure it will fill your needs. Here are some product questions to ask: Can the DS accept all Microsoft Office file types? And can it handle all types of URLs, RSS & video feeds and photo extensions? Will it work with your company databases and custom reports? Can the vendor link hundreds of units together and show the same and/or different content on them? Do they supply hardware to run their software, or are you on your own? Can a typical piece of content be uploaded in less than 2 minutes? Is there vendor-supplied content available that’s specific to your company’s issues? Are there templates and other creation tools that are simple to use? How often does the company update its software, and do they charge for that? Does the DS show ads, and if so, will you have any control over them? Does the company have knowledgeable and available customer support for when you have a question or something goes wrong?

I hope these questions help you to be an educated buyer. Because just like the photo above, very often things are priced cheaply because that’s exactly what they’re worth. 

Frank Kenna III
November 18, 2015

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