Digital Asset Management Software Comparison
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Digital asset management (DAM) software is designed to organize and govern digital assets to support business initiatives across sales, marketing, design, project management, and other departments. Along with digital best practices and proper training, digital asset management software can save companies valuable time and resources and help them avoid the mistakes associated with decentralized file management.
The DAM software market can be disorienting for a first-time buyer. There are countless different solutions that vary according to features, pricing, deployment, and user intent. This guide will help digital decision-makers manage the buying process by exploring common features and benefits, tips for executive buy-in, and a comparison of leading digital asset management solutions.
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Digital asset management overview
- What is digital asset management software?
- Top digital asset management solutions
- Common features of DAM tools
- Benefits of digital asset management software
- Common use cases for DAM software
- Creating executive buy-in
- Choosing the best DAM solution
What is digital asset management software?
At its core, digital asset management is a highly sophisticated file repository. Users store their digital assets in the repository, organize them according to metadata and dependencies, retrieve them using search tools, and manipulate them according to standardized workflows.
Thanks to the rise of the internet, cloud computing, and mobile devices, the past two decades have brought a massive upsurge in digital files and file types. And now, customers can access these different files through channels they previously couldn’t, for example, reviewing full PDFs on their smartphones. But a digital asset isn’t simply a “file,” in the traditional sense; a digital asset is a piece of content that has definitive value to your company. Typically, this kind of content takes the form of rich media, such as photos, animations, videos, graphic design templates, and podcasts, but it can also include text content (documents, contracts, guides). As organizations increasingly rely on rich media files to feed their core business model, poor stewardship of digital assets — such as working with an old, outdated version — could result in costly mistakes.
Most modern enterprise software includes some kind of file management/storage option, whether it be attaching documents to customer accounts or access to a web-based content library, but integrated file management is much more primitive than what you’ll find in a dedicated system. And while cloud-based file storage services (Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive) help with collaboration and backup, they don’t provide the advanced query tools and version control available in most digital asset management systems.
Digital asset management helps unify fractured media storage systems, eliminate silos, and keep assets synced in real-time across the entire organization.
During your digital asset management software comparison, you’ll encounter three different deployment models. Some vendors only offer one, while others can configure the system based on your infrastructure and data security needs:
- On-premise: software is installed and hosted on your own servers; buyer typically pays for the whole license upfront
- Cloud: software is hosted on remote servers and accessed through a web application; buyer pays an on-demand subscription rate for the license, often referred to as “software as a service”
- Hybrid: some software elements (such as the main repository) may be installed on company servers, while others (such as backup and security or collaboration tools) are hosted through the cloud
Top digital asset management solutions
|Product||Version Control||Workflow Automation||Archival and Backup|
Each of the solutions listed in this chart offers metadata management, some form of e-commerce integration (either through APIs or native integrations), analytics, and advanced search options.
Common features of DAM tools
When choosing DAM software for your company, you’ll want to select a platform that includes the following features:
An asset’s metadata is any information embedded into the file that describes its content or context. Metadata can describe many different asset characteristics, including where it originated, ownership, access rights, technical specifications, and keywords. Some systems even allow users to create custom metadata fields. Most digital asset management solutions will process and record metadata as part of the “ingestion” process.
A digital asset management solution ensures that the right asset versions are being accessed by all users, across all digital properties. It does this by syncing modifications in real-time, tracking uploads, downloads, and edits, and letting users revert to older versions when necessary. Thanks to these extra layers of protection, users can recover assets if something gets deleted by accident or if they’re hit with an attack.
A cloud storage service can usually only retrieve files by folder hierarchy or by performing a title search. DAM software, on the other hand, gives you near-unlimited options for parsing through assets. As your repository ingests files, you can label the files with keywords, nest them by category, set up interdependencies, or use existing metadata to automatically create dynamic collections. Then, you can find files quickly by entering a custom query or applying filters to show results in a particular category.
Solutions targeted at creative or project management verticals may incorporate some basic workflow automation tools. Essentially, these allow administrators to define custom tasks and task sequences associated with a creative process or with building a type of media asset — for instance, editing a video clip or working with a graphic design template. The platform runs these processes automatically, freeing up your employees’ time.
Analytics and reporting
The analytics and reporting features of your DAM should be able to show you where and how your assets are being used online, track how people are engaging with your assets (e.g. views and downloads), and view analytics at both the site and content level. You can create custom dashboards, providing you with the most important information for your company and export the data on single or groups of assets.
Archival and backup
Your assets should be regularly backed up to ensure the documents are safe in the event of a ransomware attack. Look for DAM software that backs your assets up offline, also sometimes called “cold storage.” This ensures you can restore your files if you have a breach or someone accidentally deletes them. Your DAM tool can also archive your files into cold storage to keep them accessible but out of the way after they’re no longer in use. These archives are often where older versions of assets will go, so you can access them later if necessary.
Digital asset management platforms that integrate with e-commerce sites can be very helpful for online retailers, especially when paired with workflow automation. With DAM software, you can group together all of your marketing assets, including videos, photos, and product descriptions, and push them out onto your website, social media, and email marketing platform. Using existing marketing data and audience segments, your DAM system can automatically populate relevant products and descriptions into dynamic ads and email blasts, improving your engagement and ROI.
Other common features include:
- Notifications and alerts for specific assets
- Collaboration tools (shared editing, comments)
- Photo and video editing
- File Transcoding (converting between different encoding formats)
- Integration with cloud storage services
Benefits of digital asset management software
Digital asset management keeps businesses more organized and offers other benefits, like heightened security, easier remote work, and consistent branding.
Enables remote work
Cloud-based digital asset management software gives remote workers access to the files they need no matter where they are. It also enables employee collaboration on files when they aren’t in the office together by providing a single source of truth where they can edit and comment on files. Through the DAM platform, team members get instant access to the files they need, and version histories tell them who edited them last. Plus, permissioned access ensures that employees can only get to the files they absolutely need.
Better file organization
When files are spread across dozens of different systems and folders, it can be difficult for employees to find the assets they need to do their job. Lost or hard-to-find files can cost businesses tons of lost hours spent tracking them down or recreating them. DAM software keeps files better organized with custom metadata and provides a searchable database. Some tools, like Widen, also include predictive search, allowing users to find what they need faster.
Improved brand consistency and integrity
Without a central repository of files, you might end up with team members using vastly different media files for marketing or branding purposes. This makes a brand look unorganized and unprofessional. By using a DAM solution, the marketing team can ensure that all of the branded files are correct, up to date, and of high quality. Some tools, like Bynder, also offer studios within the tool to give all users the same editing capabilities.
By bringing all of your rich media assets under one roof, a digital asset management system can eliminate unnecessary FTP (file transfer protocol) servers and shadow IT, which greatly improves file security. In addition, most systems use enterprise-grade encryption protocols, often stronger than what an average business can provide in-house. DAM administrators can also define custom permission levels to prevent unwanted access or editing of files.
Common use cases for DAM software
Part of the reason you’re reading this guide — it’s safe to assume — is to find out if you really need a DAM solution, or if you could settle for a simpler, more cost-effective solution.
In truth, not all businesses need a full enterprise digital asset management solution. If you’re looking for basic document management for a smaller pool of assets (i.e. a platform for backing up your work and sharing files between team members) a full-scale digital asset management system would be far too advanced — and costly. However, if your business has 100,000 rich media files stored on a network server with open permissions, digital asset management software would likely be a profitable investment.
Here are some specific business environments where digital asset management might play an important role:
Many marketing and sales teams use digital asset management tools to maintain consistent, accurate brand portrayal through rich media assets, like product images, logos, fonts, demo videos, and stock photos. By keeping all of these files in a centralized location, it’s easy to keep them updated and access them to create new marketing campaigns.
Brandfolder enables marketing teams to build brand-approved templates that other members of their organization can easily pull from the DAM and personalize for their specific needs. This saves the creative team time and energy by removing the need for them to perform minor edits to assets. Additionally, the platform includes a creative workflow to eliminate delays and bottlenecks by providing a single source of truth for creative assets.
Real-time management of digital assets across web properties allows visitors to curate product displays by giving their design preferences (color, size, pattern, etc.). This is crucial for e-commerce retailers that offer products in different colors or designs, so customers can view all of their options before making a purchase.
Bynder provides a digital home for e-commerce branding guides along with an editing studio for both photo and video assets. The studio includes a grid system for more consistency between promotional materials. Plus, the creative workflow feature allows teams to work together in one space and includes deadlines and alerts to keep everyone on track.
Project management, construction, manufacturing
Digital assets are essential project components that impact cost, resources, and timeline. Examples include 3D models, blueprints, animations, and CAD files. These files need to be in a central repository, so they’re easily accessible for architects, project managers, and other key stakeholders.
Kontainer is perfect for storing blueprints, product plans, and 3D files while making them searchable and easy to access. The backups ensure the security of these high-value assets, and version control gives everyone the most up-to-date information. It also comes with an Adobe plugin, so users can easily alter plans and photos if needed.
Organizations use and edit many assets during a digital production process (e.g. video game production, film production, animation, photography). Workflow automation can be useful when processing large batches of similar files, and a central storage container makes it easy to find separate files when it’s time to put them together.
Widen provides unlimited custom metadata fields, allowing production teams to tag assets in the way that will be most helpful to them. They can also easily convert assets to different file types. Plus, the product team can use share links and embed codes to quickly post content to their website or share it with key stakeholders.
Any line of business may have a need for more advanced file sharing, editing, collaboration, and storage. Some collaborative document storage platforms are loosely associated with digital asset management, but they may not support all of the file types businesses need. DAM software makes it easier to share process documents and employee handbooks across multiple departments, keeping everyone on the same page.
FileHold is great for administrative needs because it provides viewer licenses, so users don’t need to install the software onto their devices in order to view assets. This is perfect for sending information to applicants and clients while keeping it secure. Additionally, the platform integrates with Microsoft Office and is mobile-friendly.
Creating executive buy-in
If you’re leading the initiative on software procurement, you’ll need to build a compelling business case that “sells” digital asset management software to its future stakeholders in the company. Here are some talking points for specific executives to get you started:
Since they’re well-versed in the tech specs of enterprise software, as well as the unique requirements of your company infrastructure, your chief information officer should be one of the first people you consult. They can point you toward a solution that offers the most value and reliability, will integrate with existing systems, and cost less to maintain. That said, you’ll need to demonstrate how digital asset management aligns with larger business goals, like productivity, brand stewardship, and digital accounting, and will outperform any existing tools the business has. Cloud-based products, in particular, can reduce the burden on IT and improve security by outsourcing infrastructure, support, and updates.
A digital asset management system can be a fairly big expense, especially for a growing company. To get your chief financial officer on your side, you’ll need to first demonstrate the unnecessary cost burden of managing a rich media repository manually on your own network drive with a primitive folder system. The CFO will also want to know the details of the new software investment, including upfront costs of licensing, implementation, and data migration as well as ongoing operational expenses, like subscription fees, IT support, and upgrades. If your business is truly ready for a digital asset management system, the numbers will weigh in its favor. It’s worth mentioning that the new software can give sales reps instant access to updated versions of any content or files requested by their clients, like a product comparison sheet or video walkthrough.
Digital marketing happens around the clock on multiple different channels, from social media to blogging, organic traffic, email, and mobile. As such, it’s crucial for marketers to keep brand assets consistent across every digital property. You’ll need to show your chief marketing officer how a digital asset management solution helps designers, writers, freelancers, and agencies collaborate in a protected environment and makes sure none of your brand’s moving pieces fall through the cracks. DAM also provides tools for optimizing file types and sizes across different channels and devices, so you can be sure prospects get the same experience whether they’re on a desktop social media feed or a mobile web browser.
Choosing the best DAM solution
Digital asset management software can be a big investment, but it’s worth it to keep your files secure, organized, and easily accessible. Look for solutions that include advanced search capabilities, version control, and metadata management to make your files easy to find. Workflow automation, analytics, and e-commerce integration can also be helpful features depending on your industry. To find the right DAM tool for your business, take a look at the files you currently have and how they’re being managed. Then, decide what you need to make them more accessible.
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If you’re curious about any of the digital asset management solutions listed in this guide, we’d love to talk to you. Call one of our experts for a free consultation, or use the Product Selection Tool at the top of this page to get a personalized recommendation based on your industry and desired features.