Digital signage - streaming vs. downloading content

Linn Kristin Melberg
Linn Kristin Melberg | 3 minutes to read

Have you ever wondered which is better - to download or to stream your content to your digital displays? In this article, we will discuss the differences between the two, and help answer the question of which solution is best suited for your digital signage displays.

The benefits of streaming

Streaming means that you are continually downloading small segments of a media file for instant viewing. The media is not stored on your device, and if you want to watch it again you will need to re-download the pieces each time you view the file. Streaming requires a steady and reliable internet connection. If your internet connection is spotty it can result in pauses / buffering when trying to stream a video or audio.

Streaming is great if you want to show a live video of an event such as a rocket launch or a press conference. It can also save space on your device as the downloaded segments are not stored permanently. However, when streaming continuously, this will end up in a high level of internet data usage.


The benefits of downloading

Another way of showing content is to download it to your device. When downloading, you must wait until the file has finished downloading before you can use the media file. This means that you cannot show a live feed. It is also different from streaming in that the file is stored on your device, meaning that you do not need to re-download it if you want to show the file again.

Downloading is a better option if you want to show the same video or images multiple times or in a loop. It also has its perks when it comes to data usage, as it only uses your internet connection to download the file once, and once it is downloaded you can show the file without requiring an internet connection at a later point.


What to choose

There are two important factors to take into consideration when choosing whether to go for streaming or downloading of content. How much storage space your devices have, and how reliable your internet connection is. If you were to stream files, it would require less storage space, but a steady and reliable internet connection is essential. The latter is often the biggest problem as the location of the display may not have sufficient bandwidth.

Another common issue is that the router may not be placed closed enough to the display with objects or walls blocking the WiFi from working properly. Furthermore, when streaming continuously for a long time, you should consider your data plan as some data plans are capped in regards to how many gigabytes you are able to download.

On the flip side, permanently downloading your content will require less data usage. Furthermore, once the content has been downloaded, internet issues such as the WiFi not working or the router rebooting will not result in pauses or black screens. You do, however, need a decent amount of storage space on your device. How much storage space you need depends on the size of your content.

If you want to show something live, say you want to display a news channel live, or want to show a live feed from a conference, streaming will allow you to view the event as it happens. If you want to show the same video or image multiple times, downloading is your best option. This is great for when you want to have a set of commercials running in your store. It also works as a safeguard if your internet connection happens to be unreliable.

You do still need the internet to download or update the content, but this is the only time the network connection is needed, and the downloaded files will continue to show on-screen regardless of internet connection throughout the day.

You can also go for a hybrid of the two, showing some streamed content and some downloaded. If you are showing the same file multiple times, you are best served with downloading the content. And if you want to show something live or instant, streaming is your best option. 



Both streaming and downloading content has pros and cons. The way the direction technology is going, where data centers are getting increased capacity from power via renewable energy and hardware costs are getting lowered due to innovation, more companies and industries will opt for a more defined streaming approach, but having the option of allowing to download content as a secondary.New call-to-action