EDU Digital signage: Knowing your price points (part 2)

This is part two of a four part series on digital signage deployments. For part one, click here.

Last week we reviewed the basic price point and model of the ultra-affordable digital signage solution for schools. Today, we’ll discuss the moderate solution, or a solution that includes multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room displays, with the same content on all screens.

Moderate ($4500 to $7000) — $$
The biggest differences between the moderate and ultra-affordable systems are that with moderate systems, you can display more than one area (zone) of content within a presentation and the same content can be seen on multiple screens in multiple rooms at single site. What’s more, the players are often network enabled and support streaming of video (not just from a file loaded onto a storage device). Plus, you typically have the ability to stream live Web feeds as a standard feature.

A zone is an on-screen area (measured by pixels or as a percentage of entire screen) that shows content from its own playlist. Because moderate-priced systems support multizone presentations, you can play different media in different screen areas. Some zones can change while other areas remain fixed. The zones may or may not be resized or moved to a different location on the screen. In most cases, each zone can be managed individually so you can dynamically change the content as needed. One zone might show video, while another shows the local weather forecast. Still another area might show a changing menu or schedule. It’s all up to you.

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Updated: AV, Multimedia, and Digital Signage Design and Sourcing Guide

Considering a new digital signage or video distribution system? Be sure to download our updated AV, Multimedia, and Digital Signage Design and Sourcing Guide. You can also pick up a hardcopy of the guide at this year’s DSE Tuesday, February 26th – Thursday, February 28th. You’ll find us at booth #645.

This guide features educational resources to help you choose compatible parts for a high-performance digital signage or AV distribution system. Itmini-guide includes planning tips and comparisons of:

  • AV distribution methods (in-line, CATx-based, fiber-based, IP-based, and wireless).
  • Components that typically make up an integrated digital signage/AV distribution system.
  • Video formats, display methods, and display configurations.

It also includes resources for:

Get the guide.

EDU Digital signage: Knowing your price points

When it comes to deploying digital signage, schools have an almost unlimited amount of options. We’ve organized them into four major categories to help you select the most appropriate system to support your objectives, application, and budget:

  • Ultra-affordable: Single-screen/single-zone/single-room display
  • Moderate: Multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room display—same content on all screens
  • Moderate with TV capability: Multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room display with live TV—same content on all screensK–12
  • Advanced: Multiple-screen/multiple-zone/multiple-room display with extensive functionality, such as individual screen messaging (may or may not include live TV tuner capability)

Over the next few weeks we’ll cover each one of these price points. Today, we’ll focus on the ultra-affordable solution.

Ultra-affordable ($3500 to $5000) – $
This category represents the “down-and-dirty” solution—one screen, one media player, and one USB or flash drive. This type of solution is not networked; instead, staff members in a particular school building or Ultra-affordable Solutionclassroom transfer new content to screens by inserting USB or flash drives into media players on-site.

“This type of solution is ideal for a lobby, behind the desk in the main office, or outside a gym or auditorium. It’s a relatively low-cost method of creating and displaying messaging,” says Brian Kutchma, Black Box VP of Sales. “It’s a great way for smaller schools with a limited budget to capitalize on some of the benefits of digital signage. With a plug-and-play AC power outlet media player, an LCD or a plasma screen, and a little effort to learn some out-of-the-box software, you can easily implement digital signage.”

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The hidden costs of old networking hardware

You’ve heard of Moore’s law, which states that computing power doubles every 18 months. The actual number is probably more like 20 months, but the upshot is that computing evolves at a breathtaking rate, which basically implies that any device you have is obsolete in about three years.

That means to stay up to date and maintain your efficiency, your network devices should be replaced approximately every three years. This includes switches, routers, servers—virtually everything with a “brain.” Infrastructure such as cabling and racks has a somewhat longer lifespan—especially if you used fiber with an eye to the future, but even that must be replaced eventually to keep up with changing network demands.

But when budgets are tight, it’s tempting to delay upgrades. This can result in some short-term savings; however, down the road there are costs to not replacing out-of-date hardware. Those costs eventually often far outweigh short-term cash flow benefits and are likely to be higher than just upgrading your hardware in the first place.

Here are some reasons why you should retire those aging network devices:

Maintenance
Network hardware starts to deteriorate after about three years, so older equipment is far more prone to breakdowns, and failed equipment can cost far more in manpower—not to mention downtime—to fix the problem than it would cost to replace the equipment in the first place. Planned upgrades are likely to be less expensive than unplanned equipment failure.

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Three common network mistakes

Some network mistakes turn up over and over again—these mistakes cost organizations money, time, and even loyal customers. What these mistakes all have in common is that they mainly reflect a lack of planning. A network that runs smoothly and delivers top performance with minimal downtime takes thought, organization, an awareness of current technology, and a plan.

Here we present three common pitfalls. If you pay attention, you don’t have to fall into them, too.

1. Non-standard construction
Because data centers are larger and more complex than ever, “seat-of-the-pants” construction doesn’t really work well anymore for any network much larger than a home network. “Guesstimating” can eventually lead to all kinds of problems ranging from overheating to inadequate power to lost data.

To standardize best-practice network construction, in 2005 the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) published the TIA-942 standard that set requirements for network architecture, system redundancy, security, file backup, hosting, and power management, as well as a number of other procedures. TIA-942 covers not just the network itself but also supplemental services. Over half the standard covers matters such as electrical systems, HVAC, fire detection and suppression, and building construction. The standard defines four tiers of data centers, with Tier 1 being a simple server room and Tier 4 being a mission-critical data center with high security and redundancy.

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