Guide To Digital Signage Replacement
In a world where we’re all constantly being told to waste less, it seems counterintuitive to replace something that’s still working. But when is the right time for digital signage replacement hardware? We’ll explore the issues that you need to consider and list some tell-tale signs to look for so that you get maximum value from your investment, but without running the risk of embarrassing, costly breakdowns.
The digital signage lifespan
The reality is that modern technology isn’t built to last indefinitely, and that includes digital signage. A good rule of thumb is that, once your technology is out of warranty, the probability of issues will dramatically increase over time.
Most digital signage screens will have a warranty of three years, so if your hardware has lasted four or five years and has been trouble-free, you should consider yourself lucky.
However, age isn’t the only factor to consider with digital signage. You also need to consider how frequently it’s in use. Hardware has a limited lifespan, so if you’re using it 24/7, it’s going to wear out faster than if it’s only in use 9-5.
If your hardware is out of warranty but working well, should you just wait until it breaks down and only replace it then? The answer depends on how critical it is to your business’s operational efficiency. If you’re using it to display product prices – e.g. menu boards – could you cope if your customers couldn’t see what you offered and how much it cost?
Consider what kind of problems it would cause you if your digital signage were to break down during peak time. If the answer is considerable, then it’s vital to ensure you upgrade your technology well before that’s likely to happen.
Is your digital signage behind the times?
Modern technology isn’t built to last, simply because manufacturers are constantly innovating and improving their products, and they expect people to want the latest features when they become available.
If you’ve had your screens for four or five years, there’s a good chance they’re starting to look old-fashioned. When your customers start to notice this, your brand equity is at risk.
Elements that may be significantly better in newer models include:
- Larger screen size — While larger screens have always been available, prices have been falling in recent years, making bigger screens easier to afford.
- Higher resolution — If your current digital signage is four years old or more, the chances are it’s using a 1080P resolution. The current standard is 4K resolution, which not only produces far better picture quality, but will also be compatible with any other new technology you want to integrate for several years to come. However, be aware that your content will need to be designed for a 4K screen rather than HD.
- New features — The latest hardware offers a range of new features that weren’t available just a few years ago. Integrated wireless screen mirroring, for example, is now common and offers users more versatility. While you won’t necessarily need all the features on offer, it’s important to be aware of what they are so that you can pick and choose those that would be valuable to your business.
- Energy saving — As we become ever more conscious of the need to conserve energy, most new technology is considerably more efficient than its predecessors. Replacing your hardware will undoubtedly reduce your energy bills and carbon footprint.
- Warranty — Any new digital signage technology you buy should come with a new warranty. Combined with the increasing risks of your old, out-of-warranty technology breaking down, this offers you peace of mind.
All this could improve not only the quality and functionality of your digital signage technology, but also (and crucially) your ROI.
Should you replace your digital signage all at once?
If some of your digital signage is showing signs of unreliability, while other items are still working well, there are two approaches to replacing it. Either you could replace everything straight away, or else you could only replace the more vulnerable parts and initiate a formal technology lifecycle and replacement schedule.
The advantages of the second option seem obvious. Under a lifecycle schedule, you’ll always have some parts of your digital signage that are relatively new and still under warranty, while others are approaching the end of their useful lives. These can be routinely replaced, meaning that you can set aside a largely predictable annual budget for replacement, instead of having to find a substantial amount of capital investment all at once.
However, there are also disadvantages to this approach. Digital screens of different ages and specifications are likely to produce different results. This may not matter if your screens are only ever seen separately, but if you use multiple screens close together, there could be a significant variation of colour-matching, resolution and quality between them, producing a patchy effect. You may even have problems running them with the same software.
If you’re buying single items of commercial hardware, as opposed to buying it in bulk, you’ll pay more per item. Furthermore, keeping track of warranties can become a headache when all of your hardware is bought piecemeal.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that older technology may be harder to get spare parts for. If a media player needs a new fan or memory board, it may not be possible to repair it, making an emergency replacement necessary.
Even the same make/model of screen can differ slightly if produced 12 months apart. As such, many businesses choose to buy extra hardware as ‘gold stock’ when installing a digital signage estate, so they have replacement screens/media players available with the same make/model/resolution when they need them.
However, this involves buying hardware that might not be used, or that is unlikely to be needed until it is outside of warranty. Some digital signage consultancies will offer to store gold stock free of charge (as Saturn does), but others will charge you for this, so it can be a false economy.
Digital signage replacement checklist
- Is your hardware out of warranty?
- Is your digital signage used constantly?
- Would your business suffer if your hardware wasn’t working properly – either in a practical or reputational sense?
- Would a noticeably better quality/resolution matter to your business?
- Are technical glitches with your hardware starting to become more frequent?
- Are there new features available with newer hardware that would deliver significant benefits for your business?
- Have the makes/models of your hardware been discontinued, or are they soon to be discontinued?
- Does energy efficiency matter to your business?
- Would it be difficult to get spare parts for your hardware?
- Would it be obvious if screens had different resolution or didn’t colour-match?
If you answered yes to question one and any of the other questions above, you should probably consider replacing your digital signage hardware.
You obviously don’t want to spend money unnecessarily. However, there’s no point using unreliable or antiquated hardware if it puts the operational efficiency of your business and/or your brand equity at risk.
Getting an expert opinion on whether to wait or do a digital signage replacement, can make decision making much easier. At Saturn, we can help you identify when your hardware needs replacing, what you should replace it with, and we can even help you spread the cost of replacements should you want to.
Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help you with digital signage estate management.
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