Digital Asset Management Software: The Definitive Guide


It is not breaking news that collaboration around the world spiked when the COVID-19 pandemic locked everyone in their homes. We had to learn to work remotely, and 77% of all remote workers actually confirm that distance work made them more effective in 2021. 30% of companies remain absolutely remote, which means that the term ‘collaboration’ has to be redefined in every team and business unit.

Remote cooperation means that people now have Zoom and a shared document instead of a meeting and a whiteboard. Rather than bringing their ideas to the brainstorming session, they ping them to a virtual board. All these adjustments resulted in great chaos among shared files, documents, fine prints, causing the printer’s devil to appear much more often than expected otherwise. So no wonder that companies started to search for more effective ways to store and manage all their shared files. As a result, the market of digital asset management software is expected to grow 274% by 2023 if compared to the 2019 numbers. The trend is obvious here but it still might be a mystery what DAM software offers, how to choose one, and what perks it can guarantee. So let’s go over the topic in small steps.

What is digital asset management?

Digital asset management (DAM) is a set of processes and operations for creating, uploading, storing, organizing, sharing, controlling, and efficiently using digital assets. Most often, however, when talking about DAM, people refer to media asset management solutions. This concept involves some software or an application that allows multiple users to have access to the same files simultaneously. In this case, DAM creates a single ‘point of truth’ or ‘source’ where branded files are stored for everyone’s use.

Why consider media asset management software?

You might be wondering why one would need some special software to run their files while you can simply create an organizational system and store everything properly on a computer in folders.

Well, it is true that computer-based file organization is possible. But first and foremost, it takes a lot of space on each user’s computer. Artwork management solutions are cloud-based, which means that your files get a place without occupying anyone’s space, hence giving your employees the full potential of their machines.

Another reason is the security of your brand files. While storing any files locally on a machine, you put them at risk of theft or leak, whether intentionally or not. Digital asset management tools, in most cases, operate from the cloud, which means that every piece of information is securely ciphered to prevent hacking attacks and data theft. Moreover, when you use third-party tools for data storage and management, you take the weight of security off your team’s shoulders, leaving this headache to the service provider.

Finally, the main reason why digital media asset management solutions became a buzzword in the past couple of years is simultaneous access to all asset types from multiple places. In times of pandemic, many businesses realized the importance of live meetings when concepts change and get shaped into the finalized idea. Remote work made it more complicated for designers, painters, graphics experts to brainstorm ideas and develop something new and incredible. A DAM provides the opportunity to work together on the same file while showing everyone the updated new product/services offer. It gives freedom of creativeness to the employees as well as flexibility for a company. 

Different types of  digital asset management software

Digital media assets vary a lot: images and videos, low-quality files with light ‘weight’, and high-resolution images that require several GB of space. While there are particular DAMs for particular asset types, we’d like to focus more on the types of software that you can acquire. By learning your options, you can choose the right fit for your business. 

Cloud DAMAll files and management tools are stored externally in a cloud and secured by the vendor.– Simple UI which is easy to learn
– Straightforward team/user management without major IT interventions
– Easy deployment and connection to internal business systems
– No hardware involvement >> lower cost of tool integration
On-sight DAMStorage and operational processes run within your local network and on your local machines. – Everything is stored locally thereby lowering risks of intellectual property theft
– More local IT involvement in the protection and management of the DAM
– A customizable system adjusted to your business needs
Hybrid DAMAll data is stored in the cloud but can easily be managed offline as well. Some hybrids have an option of once-a-day data synching even though files are managed offline on-premise.– The vendor is responsible for data protection and security features
– The benefits of a cloud-based DAM at the cost that’s closer to the on-sight option
– Convenient for artwork management solutions as no downtime can prevent the art-creation process.
Dynamic DAMA unified space where you can manage asset value, optimize asset creation workflow and processes, manage task owners, and streamline data management in broader terms.– Usually cloud-based for greeted performance. 
– A multitude of project management tools (CMS, time tracking, task management, etc.)
– Possibility to create, monitor, and control various versions of an asset
– More than traditional DAM as it has features for creative, marketing, and development teams

In terms of DAM types, it is also worth mentioning that you can opt for:

  • open-source (free) media asset management solutions
  • paid (SaaS, customized, subscription-based, etc.)

Please note that we do not claim that one digital asset management software is better than another one. We merely offer an overview of available systems so you can make an informed decision.

Benefits of Digital Asset Management Software

Regardless of your DAM choice, this type of software stores a wide range of perks a business of every size can enjoy:

  • Clear assets navigation and reduced costs. With a DAM, you will be able to locate and use any file that has ever been created in your company. This strategy allows for data reuse, which results in cost-saving practices (you don’t create assets from scratch, you reuse the forgotten ones).
  • Production acceleration. Creative minds can have version control, workflow management, simpler approval processes, agility for assignees, and overall production automation. This removes mundane dull work while boosting creativity within teams. 
  • Distribution boost. In a DAM, every user gets access to the required information within seconds: who owns the file, who needs to sign it off, who made the last changes, when it was created and needs to be published, etc. Instant access to this information guarantees enhancement of the distribution processes. 
  • Consistency maintenance. Digital artwork management software guarantees that everyone has access to the same files (version, branding, quality, etc.) By using the same files, a brand can monitor their changes and keep them consistent throughout operational teams by using the same files.
  • Increased ROI. Most types of DAM software have integral analytical and conversion data and tools. These allow for tracking who uses particular assets, how often, why, and when exactly. This data can help with the system and process optimization to streamline content management and use.

Best digital asset management software in 2021

You might question our selection of tools below, and you would be absolutely right. Without the criteria applied, any list of media asset management software existing today would be the ultimate best. The truth is, we just recently finished our own development of a DAM for The Look Team. We received our own list of corrections to make the new tool more usable, straightforward, and simple. In the process, we also focused on the clean UI and robust integrational features, which are the foundation of good artwork management software. 

So after learning about the customer’s needs, requirements, and preferences ‘on practice,’ we reviewed what the market has to offer, and this is our selection of the top five DAMs today:

  • Widen Collective: supreme flexibility and searchability of this DAM make it ideal for large teams. Supported with great analytical tools, the software has multiple ways of integration to guarantee a smooth user journey for every business.
  • Brandfolder: this team attracts followers through robust data security features and available user-permission settings. AI controls access to media files and also improves asset discoverability. The ML and AI work together to monitor the top assets and provide statistical data on them.
  • MediaValet: simple search allows one to find an asset of every size and type on any device. The provider also implements AI features to enhance asset searching and guarantee better matching. 
  • this DAM wins its audience through simplistic yet robust UI features. It has a lot of managerial tools to simplify everyday processes for the assets’ development and creation.
  • Bynder: a cloud-based software focuses on brand consistency through streamlined collaboration. The tool can be integrated with a wide range of devices and browsers to offer excellent flexibility in terms of file types.

Top features to consider

Let’s make a side note here again. The ‘top’ features for digital media asset management solutions will differ for every business. We tried to make a list of the ten most essential and generalized features to give you the general idea of a tool that can satisfy the most extensive number of needs. Yet, treat this list as guidance rather than the must-follow instructions. 

  1. File management & search. You should be able to store, categorize, locate, edit, and share any type of digital asset (image, video, text, pdf, etc.)
  2. File access and sharing. Encryption-protected file sharing within the software or system should be guaranteed. 
  3. User access & authentication. Your DAM should have different layers of access and permissions. Just like in Google Docs, someone should be able to edit files, while others just leave comments and notes. 
  4. Remote proofing & approval. This part is frequently done by the end-customers, clients, or independent third-party experts. Ensure that your artwork management software facilitates all these tasks based on the user’s access level. 
  5. Version control. This step is crucial for effective data management. Marketing and designers should be able to retrieve a past version of the document to use an approved draft. Otherwise, it would duplicate work requiring additional re-dos from the creative team.
  6. Straightforward asset organization. A sound system is a bit different from the Windows-based organization of folders. A functional DAM allows for the categorization of files based on users’ permissions, asset categories, collections they belong to, metadata, etc. 
  7. Metadata editing. Correctly assigned metadata guarantees faster search for a file and hence more efficient DAM workflows. Ensure that your new system can edit or override even legacy files data. Otherwise, it will require much manual labor. 
  8. Collaboration. Real-time whiteboards and creative tools are of great use in the times of pandemic. Search for a system that offers these tools to ensure that your business is prepared for the long virus siege.
  9. Media asset management. This management means not only development and version control for a file but also its analytics, previews (WYSIWYG), and all formats support.
  10. Marketing operations. Here, we mean content planning, market analysis, or analytical content evaluation. A reliable DAM can help marketing teams maintain consistency throughout the brand for simpler strategy development.

Final Thoughts

DAM media management is a great way to embrace the benefits of these systems and empower your business teams through a centralized repository of the company’s digital assets. But we don’t want to claim here that a DAM can save your business or turn it upside-down. The truth is, smartly implemented digital asset management software can be the winning card if your business truly needs this kind of help. However, not all companies do require the DAM on their side. So to help you wisely spend your resources on software development, we offer a couple of questions for you to understand whether you need a DAM for your business:

  • Does your team use different (old/new) assets daily?
  • Do they need a lot of time to find an old file?
  • Do many people need to work simultaneously on the same project?
  • Has it ever happened that the previous asset version was better?
  • Are your assets stored in one or multiple locations at this point?
  • Do you have an easy-to-navigate asset structure? How long does it take for new blood to find those files?
  • Do you have any naming conventions for your business assets?
  • Is it hard to share a large-sized file within the company?
  • Can you preview assets of every format?
  • Do you repurpose content? Do you want to?

These questions should give you a hint towards the selection of the best media asset management software. But if you still have any concerns, do not hesitate to contact our team for a consultation and get the system you really need!

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