In the past few years, video walls have seemingly become the rock stars of the digital signage world. Whether they increase foot traffic at a retail store or wow visitors to a corporate headquarters, video walls are proven tools that engage viewers and create excitement.
But along with their unique ability to captivate viewers, they can and will surprise value-added resellers (VARs) and clients with hidden operating costs down the road. These hidden operating costs factor into the total cost of ownership (TCO), can significantly build up over time, and can add thousands of dollars on top of the initial hardware investments.
The key to figuring out TCO is to go beyond the visible up-front costs of video walls (displays, video controllers, and mounts) and focus on hidden variables that factor into the true cradle-to-grave costs.
1. Network operation
Sales of video walls are expected to reach nearly $18 million by 2020 as enterprises seek more powerful, cost-effective video wall solutions. One way to keep costs down is to deploy video walls using PC and LAN infrastructure. The idea is that these solutions require fewer hardware components, shorter cable runs, and less staff for setup.
While this strategy may be cost-effective on the front end, it will still require additional financial resources on the back end. That's because no matter how efficient a network-run video wall is, it will still require troubleshooting support from IT support personnel at some point down the road.
Multiple video wall installations set up at remote locations and those run by cloud-based servers will also incur additional operating costs by virtue of having to employ staff capable of troubleshooting network problems 24/7.
2. Installation and configuration
While usually considered an up-front cost, it's possible that a video wall has to be moved or altered after the initial installation.
And it's not unusual for video wall installations to consume hours of alignment, adjustment, cable routing, and configuring of individual displays. Throw in expensive extra-long HDMI cables, adapters, and specialized cable-routing systems and the costs quickly add up.
The more complex the video wall solution, the more extensive labor costs will be if specialized pro AV personnel have to be hired.
3. Service and support costs
Once big-ticket items like video displays are purchased, it's assumed they will function as promised. But this is not always the case, especially if clients decide to cut costs by buying lesser known or proprietary brands. VARs should be aware that many proprietary brands have shorter warranty periods or lack the resources of legacy brands to provide prompt service and support. All of this can translate into higher costs for replacement parts and service.
A worst-case scenario would be if a few years later, these brands go out of business, and replacement parts are scarce or nearly impossible to find.
Another thing to remember is that video wall components should also be easily accessible because the greater the accessibility, the lower the downtime and service costs.
4. Facility operating costs
Facility operating costs include things like power consumption, the cost of cooling systems, periodic cleaning of devices, facilities required to house and deploy the system, and any other less obvious but contributing factors.
VARs may not be able to do anything about costs such as power or facility rent fees, but steering clients toward video wall displays that are Energy Star–qualified may help lower TCO. And video wall installations that can be configured to turn off and on during set times of the day and night can cut power costs significantly and extend display life.
5. Content creation and management
You can't have an effective video wall solution without great content, because right now content is king.
Displaying fairly simple content like text and images from a media player is a relatively straightforward way of keeping costs down, especially by taking advantage of already available templates and using inexpensive software.
But as soon as content becomes a dense mix of images, video clips, news feeds, visual effects, and other information incorporating graphics, the costs can skyrocket, especially for custom-designed packages that require frequent changes or updates.
VARs that take a TCO approach help clients analyze the cradle-to-grave costs of various solutions, which enables clients to make better and more informed purchase decisions. And helping clients understand how much money they are spending down the road can only contribute to a mutually beneficial client–VAR relationship.
Are any of your clients asking about video wall TCO?