The Layman’s Guide - Screenly OSE vs. Screenly (Paid Version)

tl;dr: If you want a turn-key solution, go with Screenly (Paid Version), which was previously referred to as “Screenly Pro”. If you only have one screen and want manage, patch and run everything yourself, Screenly OSE might be for you.

After browsing our site, you have surely read our information regarding Screenly OSE and Screenly. However, you may have been left a little confused regarding the differences between these two versions, and you may need some additional guidance determining which version is best for your digital signage needs. This page aims to clarify the differences between these two Screenly versions in simple, non technical terms.

Screenly OSE vs Pro

Screenly OSE

Screenly OSE vs Pro

Screenly OSE
Raspberry Pi Compatible
Full 1080p HD
Images, web and video
Web-based Management
Easy Screen Install No. Install by hand.
Manage Multiple Screens No. Administrate each node separately.
Remote Management Possible but difficult and insecure.
Cloud Storage No. Includes screen captures and screen health status.
Automatic Video Encoding No. Encode each asset manually. Receive alerts when nodes disconnect for too long.
Status Dashboard No. Monitor each node separately. Nodes cache content locally to run even if disconnected.
Status Alerts No. Automatic security and software updates.
Local Caching Limited.
Automatic Updates No. Install updates manually on the command line.
System Hardening and Tuning No.
Support Community-based support Commercial support

Screenly OSE

To start, Screenly OSE stands for Screenly Open Source Edition. This was the first product launched by Screenly, and it started as a simple project for the Raspberry Pi for Screenly’s founders. This simple project is now the most popular digital signage software on Github (think of Github like a collaborative social network for techies).

“Open Source” is a term used to describe software that has open source code. That is, the code that runs and makes up a software application is entirely public. Anyone can review, study, copy, change, or fix this code at their will. They do not have to pay or have any special license or clearance from the software’s original developers. The open source community is quite a vibrant group of developers who ardently practice a culture of sharing and openness when it comes to software. Screenly OSE adheres to this culture of sharing and openness, and, accordingly, the Screenly OSE code is available under the GNU General Public License v2.0. You can find the license for Screenly OSE here.

While it is basic digital signage software, Screenly OSE has all you need to run a successful digital signage display. Put simply, Screenly OSE offers web based management for your digital signage displays for image, video, and web content. This content can all be displayed in 1080p HD.

As with most open source products, the set up and installation may require some technical acumen and expertise. Installation of Screenly OSE must be done for each individual screen. This hands-on requirement also extends to content management with Screenly OSE, as the product does not support cloud storage for content. With Screenly OSE, each node must be administered separately. While it is possible to manage nodes remotely (using VPN and/or SSH), it isn’t a built-in feature.

Additional feature limitations of Screenly OSE include the inability to easily manage the status of each node and screen. Nodes do not provide alerts when they are not working or they are facing difficulties with content. There is no central management dashboard to manage multiple Screenly OSE nodes.

Moreover, while we have taken reasonable precautions in securing the default installation of Screenly OSE, it is ultimately the user’s responsibility to secure, update and manage each device.

Finally, support with Screenly OSE is provided by the community, and no commercial support option with response-time guarantees is available.

Screenly (Paid Version)

Screenly, previously referred to as “Screenly Pro,” is the paid version of Screenly. Of course, as it is a paid option, Screenly is supported by a team of full time developers and has a variety of useful features that are not found with Screenly OSE. Additionally, Screenly source code is not publicly available.

The Screenly OSE limitations described above are very much a mirror opposite of the advantages of Screenly’s paid version. First and foremost, Screenly makes digital signage deployment and management super easy. This is especially true if your business has more than one screen to manage. Screenly allows you to remotely upload, deploy, and manage content to multiple digital signage screens. This is very useful for companies with multiple screens, as it greatly reduces the labor hours required for digital signage management.

As with any software or hardware solution, there are bound to be issues that come up. Screenly helps users quickly identify and fix these issues to ensure a seamless digital signage experience for their digital signage viewers. First, Screenly sends alerts if any issues come up that affect the content display on your digital signage. Secondly, Screenly will display these alerts in a dashboard so that you can easily manage any issues with multiple digital signage screens. Screenly also comes with support plans with response-time guarantees from the Screenly team so that you can rest assured that any thorny issues will be fixed quickly and efficiently.

Other useful features of Screenly include cloud storage of content so that your digital assets can be saved and easily reused at a later date. For video assets, the video is automatically re-encoded, which means you won’t have to worry about video playback issues when displaying your videos. Also, (cacheable) content is locally cached on your Screenly Raspberry Pi device. This means you won’t have to unnecessarily use internet bandwidth to continually streaming the same content. This also means that if your internet connection is interrupted, your digital signage content will not experience an interruption in being displayed. Another important component of Screenly is the enhanced security in comparison to Screenly OSE. Screenly is based on Ubuntu Core, and Screenly’s development team uses IoT security best practices to ensure that your devices and software is up-to-date and the system is patched against the latest vulnerabilities.

Which Screenly version is right for me?

We hope that this piece has been helpful in understanding the differences between Screenly OSE and Screenly. In just a few words, Screenly OSE is a free version of Screenly with limited features and requires IT expertise to run; Screenly is a paid version of Screenly that is rich with useful features and requires zero IT expertise to easily install and use.

If you are someone with a technical background who likes to tinker with Linux systems and wants to simply deploy digital signage on a single screen, we would recommend Screenly OSE. You will find that this solution may require some extra tweaking, but Screenly OSE will provide all the core functionality you need. Additionally, you will have the ability to modify Screenly OSE features and functionality.

If you are someone without a technical background or someone who wants a digital signage solution that simply works out-of-the-box, Screenly’s paid version is certainly the way to go. Screenly’s installation, setup, and management could not be easier, and it truly makes digital signage a breeze. Additionally, if you have multiple screens, we would certainly recommend Screenly’s paid version regardless of whether or not you have a background in digital signage. Screenly saves teams many labor hours that would otherwise need to be invested managing their multiple digital signage displays. When the cost of these labor hours is factored into a company’s digital signage costs, Screenly’s subscription costs make economic sense. With all costs considered, paying a monthly subscription cost for Screenly is cheaper than paying for the many added labor hours that would be required to manage multiple digital signs with Screenly OSE.

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