What is the best digital asset management software?

There are loads of decent Digital Asset Management software systems on the market and each has a slightly different offering and price point- so which is the best for your business?


Why is digital asset management important?

Digital Asset Management (DAM) is important because it allows you to centralize and organize your important digital files. A DAM system allows you to search for and locate files from across your network quickly and easily. 

It also helps you manage versions, implement asset workflows and share files with the people who need them. 
 

What are digital assets?

Your digital assets are the files that your business uses to communicate with customers. They help you express who you are and what you do. Your digital assets enhance your brand, tell brand stories and build brand loyalty. These assets are the files you create your website, social media posts and online stores with; your images, design files and videos- your communication collateral.

Most DAM systems can handle a variety of digital asset file types including:

  • images (.jpg, .nef, .tif)
  • videos (MP4, MOV,  WMV)
  • design files (.indd, .ai, .pdf)
  • audio files (MP3, WMA, WAV)
  • presentation files (.ppt, .pptx)

And many DAM systems can handle more than fifty file types and extensions.
 

What does a DAM system do?

A DAM will help you handle the information explosion that happens as your business grows and expands. All those files, which are stored across drives, across networks, across offices, across countries are your digital assets, and they are important to your business. They are how you showcase what you do, and help you express your brand. 

Looking after your collections of images and files is a big responsibility. These files may have been created in-house or purchased from an external agent or artist. They are valuable. A DAM system will help you make sure that you keep your assets safe, secure and searchable.
 

DAM objectives

There are a number of DAM systems on the market, and each works differently. Common to each though is an objective to provide you with a system that allows you to manage, store and have ready access to your digital assets. This enables you to:

  • find, download and share assets
  • tag, edit and annotate records
  • reduce the number of variations of files stored across networks
  • eliminate the need to maintain more than one copy of an asset

If you’re not using a DAM, you’re likely to be acquiring data onto your servers and systems at an alarming rate. Pictures are sent from one staff member to the next; each makes a copy on their drive somewhere so they can edit the photo for their purpose- for posting to the website, for creating a sales voucher, for sending to social media, for showing as a still in a video.

A DAM system not only stores your digital assets but arranges, updates and deploys them as required. A DAM helps you to provide assets to the people who need them, in the format that works for them so that they can complete the task at hand.

Who needs digital asset management?

All businesses that handle a lot of data and information from multiple sources. Particularly; organisations that require data mining, processing and integration will need DAM.

At Stimulus, our client portfolio includes many medium and large enterprises.

Small to mid-sized businesses and might not consider it necessary to invest in a DAM, instead relying on an established convention for handling files, updates and version control. But the bigger the organisation and the more digital assets in your collection, the harder it becomes to keep the assets under control. 

DAM systems are not only suitable for retail business that use their assets to market products and store files related to promotions and campaigns. There are organisations who will find a good DAM invaluable, including:

  • Universities
  • Charities
  • Government departments
  • Libraries
  • WFH – Current Situation
  • Remote operations
  • Wholesalers
  • Manufacturers
  • Businesses with multiple branches/locations across a country or many countries

There are particular benefits for organisations that have staff accessing networks from a variety of work locations. Some libraries use DAMs to provide access to their collections of historic images. Government departments that generate a lot of images and marketing documents can use their DAM systems to help them achieve compliance with record-keeping requirements.
 

Who doesn’t need digital asset management?

While they do make the management of assets a lot easier, there might also be some businesses that simply don’t require a DAM. It might not be time for a DAM system if you

  • can manage files in an existing and agreed upon file structure system
  • don’t have multiple people editing and working with the same assets
  • find simple systems like Dropbox meet your needs
  • don’t need to consider file security and shared access
     

Risk Management through DAM 

When thinking about acquiring a DAM, it might be worth considering not only the benefits of the system but the risks you can avoid by having one in place. These risks might include:

  • Assets being unintentionally deleted, moved or lost
  • Problems with workflow and tasks progression
  • Reliance on individuals for locating and updating assets
  • Limitations when it comes to public access and file sharing
  • Inability to share large collections of assets, such as for use in a print catalogue, at a time
  • Multiple copies of images causing storage issues
  • Outdated or wrong file/image due to silo problems

 

Digital Asset Management in enterprise

Most DAM’s are highly customisable, meaning you can set up fields, searches, collections and categories to suit the needs of your organisation and best benefit your teams. Your DAM will also help you sort out and implement workflows- images can be passed around, updated, edited and used in marketing communications, while remaining secure.

DAM systems also work by creating a master of each asset, so you will always be able to locate and revert to original assets. 
 

Digital asset control

For organisations with large collections of assets, a lot of time is often spent searching for the right file. With smart tagging and search functions, a DAM system will save time spent digging through digital collections.

Not only that, users can access whichever version of an asset they need, and in many cases let them select the format they want. No third-party conversion tools are required. And with preset sizes, you can distribute assets that are ready to be deployed to websites or social media, or you can opt for a system that integrates with social systems like Hootsuite. 
 

Outside user access

You can also provide access to assets to other people from outside of your organisation. Your DAM should help you to do this in a secure and traceable way. Many DAM systems allow you to create users of different types and with different access and permissions. This helps you keep selected access restricted or private.

You might wish to enable access for photographers, creative agencies, advertising agencies and media outlets to have access to certain content for marketing and communication purposes.

Importing, tagging and cataloguing large collections of images has typically been a time-consuming and tedious task. Changing individual files names and other metadata and tagging individual images to convey differences (girl in front of waterfall, smiling…. girl in front of waterfall, frowning) is not the best use of your time or resources. Most DAM systems have bulk upload, organizing and tagging capability, and many now even offer image subject recognition and facial recognition. 
 

Digital Asset Management solutions

Let’s face it. Some of those creative types in the team might not be so good at effective version control and file storage. They’ll drag things to their desktop to work on them, forget to delete a superseded file and fail to package a project before they go on leave. They forget where they saved the photos from the shoot, and when they find them, they can’t remember the name of the talent. A DAM system will help you get those files into order.

Digital Asset Management companies

Where to begin with DAM companies? There are more than 75 digital asset management solutions on the market at mid-2020. Starting with the big guys, Adobe make their own asset management system- AEM DAM. This is a pretty high performing system, with some unique features such how videos are handled and presented. In AEM Assets 6.5, there is an AI ‘Sensei’ tool that has the smarts to locate images similar to the one you have selected. 
 

Intelligence Bank Digital Asset Management

This is an Australian company, with over 400 users worldwide. They offer 24/7 support and have an impressive range of add on and associated products, including brand portal software and marketing resource management.  They can even help you with software specific for boards, and to assist with governance and knowledge management.

Recongised as one of the simplest and easiest to use DAMs on the market,

  • Daminion integrates well with your existing design software, and is one of the more affordable options, especially for smaller teams.
  • Cloudinary have some big names on their lists of users, in part thanks to its extra capability in terms of tracking access to assets, and overall system reporting. It’s particularly popular for businesses that need to share assets outside of their organisation, allowing the creation of roles, which creates a more collaborative feel.
     

Open source digital asset management 

There are a number of open source DAM systems on the market. Acquiring an open source asset management system lets you asses the product and see if it meets your needs, instead of committing to a large financial investment with monthly or annual costs.

 And just because it’s free, doesn’t mean it substandard. Many open source software systems have big communities of users and experts who help you should you need it. Plus, several also offer add on services or paid expansions should you find a system you want to stick with. 
 

ResourceSpace

Created in England, ResourceSpace has an open source license and offers extensive web-based asset services in a free software download. This means you can sign up and get a 1000GB storage allowance, with no timeframes for use. There are costs associated with the support and hosting of the service. ResourceSpace has a number of museums, universities and cultural institutions on their customer list; helping these organisations curate their catalogues of assets with visitors, customers and students. 
 

Phrasanet 

This is another popular open source DAM, published by ALCHEMY and created in France. This software gives a high degree of usability and has all the basics you would expect from a DAM, allowing you to easily store, index and arrange your assets. It suits both small and large organisations and comes with plugins that can extend your experience. 

 

Pimcore

While DAM is just one part of the Pimcore product, this software manages digital assets in an effective way. It uses asset metadata in an intuitive way, has sophisticated workflow processes that will suit companies with extensive catalogues, and is completely customisable.

As Pimcore provides an overarching product information system, the DAM component integrates with the CX and shopping elements to create a cohesive that suits modern, larger-size enterprises. Not to mention; Pimcore is also open source and has no license fee, this is a huge benefit in the long run.

 

Razuna 

Their website may be a little underwhelming, but Razuna’s DAM system is consistent and reliable. It has some great features such as drag and drop and useful workflows. It’s highly customizable, because developers are able to access API and integrate this content into existing solutions. 
 

How to choose a DAM

It pays to do your research before investing in a DAM. Before you make a decision about which one is for you, consider the following requirements.

  • Integration- what existing systems do you already have, or are moving to, that will need to integrate with your DAM?
  • Access- who needs to access your assets, are they internal or external, customers or clients?
  • Security- what level of security to do you need for your assets, does the security level vary and do you need the ability to hold restricted assets?
  • Scalability- how many assets do you have now, and intend to have in the future?
  • Customization- can you make do with the product out of the box, or do you need to add your own fields, catalogues and workflows?
  • Brand- does the system need a specialized look and feel and how easy is it to make it part of your suite of digital services?
  • Cost- usually the deciding factor, but have you considered set up fees, migration charges, training requirements and additional services you might require in the future?

 

Difference between DAM and CMS

There are three key differences between DAM and CM (content management) systems.

  • Users
  • Files
  • Workflows

A CMS is used mainly by your web content creators, who publish information to a website, so the system may well be accessed by only a few people. DAMs have relevance right across an organisation, as the software can act as a repository for all kinds of files and filetypes, which are used in marketing and communications. Other internal teams, such as HR, Stores and Finance may also get good use from a DAM because the system can hold templates and brand collateral.

A CMS typically handles text-based documents and pages on a website. It may contain multiple file types, such as images, videos and graphics that are displayed on a site. But the primary intent is to create a webpage for viewing by your customers. A DAM system holds many thousands of different records and file types, for the purpose of being searched and added to your documents, files and pages. The DAM stores assets securely for use in the future.

Workflows in a CMS involve content being created and presented for validity and quality before it is published.

Plenty of enterprise businesses are operating separate DAM and CM systems to ensure their needs for access to assets as well as content publication are met. The two functions serve different but important roles. Rather than having complications caused with separate systems, products like Pimcore combine these elements in one integrated approach.
 

DAM implementation

If you’re looking and acquiring and rolling out a digital asset management system for your business, you will need to make sure you have a few resources up your sleeve. All DAMs will require some degree of set up. When implementing a DAM for your business, you’ll likely want a basic project plan and timeline for implementation. You’ll also need to think about who will be responsible for the implementation, and take on the role of system admin.

Your admin, or system champion or super user will be in charge of establishing conventions and a structure that will meet the needs of your whole organisation.

Other steps will include:

  • setting up usage/ style guides to outline your file handling processes and connections
  • migrating data from other systems and locations
  • applying metadata to your assets
  • training users

There are some real risks associated with data migration. All those assets might exist in multiple locations and there are often multiple copies of the same asset. Consider the risk of assets becoming lost during the process and make backups accordingly. Ensure your process allows whatever metadata your assets have to be migrated with the assets.
 

DAM benefits

With a good selection of options in the market, including several viable open source solutions, investing in a DAM system can help you to take control of your digital assets. An integrated system such as Pimcore will help you achieve multiple efficiencies, manage assets effectively and help take your organisation’s data practices to the next level.