Role Based Administration

Posted by on Jul 5, 2011 in DOOH, Hardware, Industry, Software

Sadly, there are those still developing and managing digital signage software without a view of future necessary implementations. One future necessary piece for software providers: role-based administration.

What is Role-Based Administration?

Role-based administration can mean different things to different people. Let me define simply what role-based admin means for digital signage and specifically what it means for specifically what I will be discussing (can I be more specifically?). Role-based administration is the ability to carve up a single server, giving separate administrative access to separate users for similar and separate networks.

While the majority of this blog post will focus on the ability to carve up the server into separate networks entirely (i.e. “role-based administration), keep in mind, the following benefits of role-based administration increase as the capability of server administration increases.

Think about the business niches and models that could be created for a company able to assign different roles to players, playlists, and content–not just the overall network. The ability to manage a subset of the content or playlists within an already carved-up portion of the server, giving content or playlist specific roles is a big deal, especially as advertising content begins to play a larger role. I’ll not even delve into that in this post. It is certainly something worth mentioning, however.

Without dely: 6 Reasons for Role-Based Administration

Security Will Eventually Require It

I personally know of several companies who are hosting signage services on a shared server with no separation of network access. What does this mean for the entity who is paying a monthly fee for the hosting on that particular server? Well, it means that any of the other ten or so clients who are concurrently hosted there can not only view their content assets but they also have the same ability to make any changes they wish to the content and the schedule of said assets. It’s as if they are the administrator for others’ digital signage network. Not secure, not secure at all!

Another security issue that could very easily plague a network not utilizing role-based administration can also come from within the lower echelons of those having access to a private network. Let’s say, for instance, that you give server access (which in non-role-based setting gives them access to the entire system) to an assumed trusted individual. Just don’t do anything to go beyond that individual’s good graces, else what happened with porn on Wal-Mart TV may well happen to you. The chances of a administrator on the network going postal and running the screens amuck are probably quite low, but the possibility is there. And, when such a possibility exists with the mirage of legal issues that could arise from such a breach, role-based admin would be the best bet.

It’s Essential in Swooning Integrators and Other Resellers

I simply love software and hardware companies who have get-rich plans based on a massive garnering of a majority of the world’s resellers. In a fantasy world it would be possible to convert every possible reseller to your solution. In reality, it’s impossible. However, having a good solution with expanded capabilities allows for an easy partner swooning. Even if you do not run a server farm and charge for hosting, role-based admin is essential in resellers because they may wish to charge for hosting and carve up the network you provide them.

Even if your resellers are purchasing hardware and/or software for their central signage server, it may very well be necessary to supply them with the tool of role-based admin to ensure their success.

Increases Scalability, Efficiency and Cost Savings

How can role-based administration save on costs? Let me illustrate with a seemingly unrelated example. As an undergrad I took a very interesting course entitled “The Entrepreneurship Lecture Series.” It was a simple one credit hour class wherein a weekly visitor was flown in from around the country to give a lecture for an hour or two on their efforts, successes, and failures as an entrepreneur. Their industries ranged from fabric to franchise. I simply loved the class.

One of the lecturers, whose name slips my mind, was a garment manufacturer who provided pants and shirts to the likes of Dickies, Wal-Mart, and Target. He ran several manufacturing facilities, most of them based in Mexico. One of the aspects of his business which really hit home was his effort toward greater efficiency and less waste. For instance, he said that within six months of taking over the enterprise he was able to increase the usage of one square yard of fabric from 85% to 97%. This alone led to a simultaneous increase in revenues and a decrease in cost. Genius.

How does this relate to digital signage hosting and role-based administration? Simple: Role-Based Admin allows for increase use of an unused asset. Think for a moment about all the wasted server space out there. How many of you manage servers on a network wherein you are hugely undercapacitated? When using a role-based admin, a shared server can be used to a greater capacity. In addition, shared hosting also allows for SaaS (software-as-a-service) fees to generate a recurring revenue stream from clients.

This type of scenario allows for a server to be carved up into separate networks, giving network operators the unique ability to scale their network accordingly on an as-needed basis. No need for wasted rack space in your server room.

Role-Based Admin Can Increase Revenues

The previous logic can be extended here. Hosting fees for a “one-off” screen at a local bagel shop or gas station may not seem significant, but when scaled up, they become much more significant. Think for instance about a thousand “one-off” digital signage displays installed at various differing venues worldwide. This is we mean by digital signage hitting the mainstream. And, while the acceptance will happen slowly, it will be crucially necessary to have a network not only capable of managing different roles, but capable of managing different networks on the same server.

Having a thousand “one-off” installations requires a role-based server capable of being carved up into multiple accounts. With it, there is no end to the revenue gains that can be made in the mainstream with software hosting. Without it, digital signage software vendors will be left in the dust.

It Offers Greater Flexibility and Control

I recognize the need for standardization with nomenclature within this industry. I also recognize that there are those pushing for compliance guidelines there as well. With the litany of different names describing–and often conflicting–for description(s) for the same thing(s), it is often difficult to have a conversation with some software vendors regarding their system. We often speak different languages. It is confusing when words like playlist, program, channel, and schedule mean different things for different software companies.

Regardless of what it’s called, playlist, schedule and content management in a role-based environment will give signage operators a huge boost at control of their signage, especially for advertising purposes. Even greater still is the ability, which a number of would-be operators have requested, to have role-based usage for the various zones on the screen. I have yet to see an effective implementation of something of this kind. Even more rare, I have yet to see a real reason to have it, other than a would-be ad network wishing give access to specific zones for specific advertisers. We’re not quite there yet, but I’m sure we may one day get down to that level. You never know.

When it comes to role-based administration for screen zones, the industry’s innovators will respond in kind, giving the people what they want. Until then, if we focus on what works and proven biz tactics and methodologies, we’ll have more room for success.

People Will Be Impressed

I know if I walked up to a non-gearhead and said, “I just finished installing another node on a role-based digital signage network server. It’s hosted on a rack at our corporate NOC, but provides service to scaled administrators worldwide.” They would say, “you’re going to have to tone down your speech so I can understand.” Role-based admininstration: more impressive than it sounds.

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