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Everything Integrators Need to Know About Video Wall TCO But Are Afraid To Ask

System integrators who understand how to communicate total cost of ownership (TCO) as it relates to video walls will have a leg up on those who don’t.

CI Staff

Many customers have been burned by the naive assumption that the high upfront cost for their video wall was all they needed to think about when making a purchase. Some video wall vendors even encourage this way of thinking and use it justify for their high upfront costs.

In reality, video wall solutions require maintenance, upgrades, refreshed content, re-calibration, etc., and with powerful new features and resolution expectations being created every day and it is important for AV professionals to understand the TCO advantages of various different solutions on the market and be ready to discuss them with their customers.

A Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) approach helps identify and analyze the cradle to grave costs of various solutions, enabling companies to make better and more informed purchase decisions. Helping customers understand the money they are spending and the flexibility and savings this will bring them down the road is a vital part of a consultative sales process.

This article will help video wall systems integrators know and understand different TCO factors as they relate to video wall decisions so they can better position their solutions when engaging with customers. Understanding TCO and how to talk about it with your customers will give you a leg up on your competition.

TCO Factors

TCO includes expenses incurred in purchasing, deploying, maintaining and upgrading the solution infrastructure both directly and indirectly. Helping customer see both the tangible and hidden costs in the various options under consideration will help position the product accordingly. 

Purchase Price of the Solution

There is no question that customers are easily influenced by lower upfront costs. Often the least expensive video wall solutions are integrated into the display or into a small “black box” that attaches to the display. We call these hardware solutions as they typically offer a limited feature set, are typically unintuitive to use and are often limited in resolution and/or number of displays.

Typically with hardware solutions customers need a separate PC playing the content which incurs a significant time and maintenance cost (most enterprises have an understanding of their per-PC TCO cost, but this one will likely be a different image than the others or may be in an awkward physical location to get to hence the cost of this PC may end up being vastly larger TCO than is typical). 

The biggest hidden TCO cost of these hardware-based solutions is the risk that they may not be sufficiently flexible to accommodate future nice-to-have or must-have requirements creating expensive workarounds or potentially even complete replacement, creating a very large potential increase in TCO.

Related: 7 Industries Being Taken Over by Digital Signage

Software based video wall solutions typically offer major advantages in terms of ease of setup, a more advanced feature set, as well as a constant stream of new features and functionality, ensuring customers can keep pace without having to replace.

A further level of advantage can be achieved through software “appliance” based solutions (such as the Userful Network Video Wall) where customers don’t need to maintain an operating system, but still gain the efficiencies, scalability and cost advantages of using industry standard PC hardware.

Eliminating the proprietary hardware lowers upfront cost but also facilitates support costs as well as eventual upgrade costs as all you need is a standard intel PC/server. 

Installation and Configuration

While installation is usually considered an upfront cost, it is not uncommon to have to move or alter a video wall and taking a TCO approach can also point out important advantages of one product vs another even on the initial install.

Video wall solutions can easily consume hours on alignment, adjustment, routing the cabling, and configuring individual displays. Sometimes expensive extra-long HDMI cables and specialized enclosures and cable routing systems can be an un-forecasted cost (one that is eliminated with network based video wall solutions).