Digital signage is becoming a necessity for retailers, restaurants, educational institutions and a range of other industries looking to convey messages in a visually compelling manner. However, not all organizations have the internal tech resources or expertise to set up networks in a stable and optimized fashion. In the small business arena especially, brands need a way to deploy high-quality signage without developing an expansive and expensive infrastructure from the ground up. Until recently, this left many promising brands out of the loop with regard to signage. 

Now, hosted services based on cloud computing technology are available to bring enterprise-grade signage solutions to small and midsize competitors in a simple and cost-effective fashion. To help business leaders understand the technological and financial dynamics of these systems, here's a closer look at why hosted signage services are such an invaluable asset.

It's time for digital signage users to clarify their perception of the cloud and tap into its true value.It's time for digital signage users to clarify their perceptions of cloud computing and tap into its true value.

1. Fast and precise deployments: In the early days of digital signage, brands were responsible for manually rigging their networks, displays and software from scratch. With this on-premise approach, it would take weeks or months before the first piece of content flashes across the screen, leaving a significant gap between the initial investment and a return on value. Even if a system is initially deployed without a hitch, a brand could spend even more time customizing schedules, addressing network bugs and smoothing out issues with the on-premise software. 

In the modern business world, this prolonged deployment period is simply not acceptable. By leveraging a hosted service, a brand can eliminate a huge chunk of the setup and installation processes that delay the implementation, since the infrastructure is created and managed by a third-party provider. With a full set of customizable features, the company can maintain complete control over its deployment while enjoying the lightweight simplicity of a cloud-powered system. 

2. Minimal C-level involvement: The modern executive board is deeply engrained in IT decision-making processes, and digital signage strategy is no exception to this rule. By switching from an on-premise signage deployment to a hosted service, C-level leaders can breathe a sigh of relief as they place technical responsibilities onto the shoulders of an external partner. This allows executives to focus more heavily on the actual content of their signage campaigns, assuming the leadership roles they are meant to fulfill. 

"More brands are enjoying the lightweight simplicity of a cloud-powered system."

"When you factor in the savings from reduced hardware cost, reduced downtime, minimal maintenance cost, and then weigh in the added benefits of a cloud service such as anywhere accessibility, free upgrades… the cloud systems win (almost) every time in the ROO (return on objectives) arena," explained Digital Signage Today contributor David Little.

3. Gateway to the future of signage: As a recent article from Fierce CIO pointed out, cloud technology is giving way to a range of monumental trends in the enterprise IT landscape, including the Internet of Things and its many subcategories. The source pointed to IDC research predicting cloud infrastructure spending to increase by 26 percent this year alone, topping $33 billion by 2016. It's clear that familiarity with the technology in the context of digital signage can lead to more informed, confident investments in future tech, furthering a brand's competitive advantage in the long run. 

As signage deployments become saturated with more interactive features and capabilities, the cloud can also serve as a reliable conduit through which third-party providers can refine and upgrade their software. Only hosted service users will have access to these innovative offerings when they first launch, offering another layer of value for cloud-savvy organizations.