Ask the Board – October 10, 2016 | JEFF PORTER


What are the characteristics of a quality Content Management System (CMS)?

Most Digital Signage Content Management Systems these days have all the basic features that most people need. Upload content from the web, add it to a playlist or campaign, schedule it accordingly, send it out to the players get a heartbeat back, review the logs. Lather, rinse and repeat.

But sometimes there’s a few things hiding in the “small print” that might make a big difference to you. Here’s my short list of things to consider that you might not be considering:

  1.  How well does it work through firewalls and NATs?  Do you have to poke holes in the firewall with custom ports, or can it work over standard HTTP (port80)?  You’ll have to ask to know for sure.  The answer to this definitely hides in the small print for some systems.
  1. Is it really a web interface, or do you have to install some thick client on your PC to manage the network? And if it is a web client, does it depend on Java (I hate how many updates I have to keep loading) or Flash or Silverlight which are being phased out in favor of HTML5.
  1. Can you tell me what is playing on the player RIGHT NOW?  How about yesterday at 5 p.m.?  How about tomorrow at 2 p.m.?  Complex dynamic scheduling may make this a bit more challenging than you’d think.
  1. Anyone can do a network of a few players.  What happens to the web GUI when you hit 1,000 players? Will is come to a screeching halt? Server wise … does the GUI become un-manageable? Can you sort out the errors you want to see easily? 
  1. Can the system deal with networks that “come and go?”  Some systems are very unhappy if they can’t talk to “mama” all the time. “Players should play” and even if you have a slight network glitch, the players should still play.
  1. Does the CMS support a variety of playback devices?  I regularly tell folks to consider their content strategy FIRST and THEN pick the CMS that will execute that plan the easiest. Don’t start with technology.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with a square peg in a round hole. If you have a large diversity of playlists for your network, do you have the ability to make dynamic playlists so that you don’t have to brute force 1,000 different playlists for 1,000 different players. 

I hope this short list helps you pick the right CMS for your application.

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Founder & CEO
Porter Digital Signage

Industry Consultants Council

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