How to Identify the Best Digital Asset Management Platforms (DAM Software)

Digital assets play such an essential role in the functioning of businesses, organizations, and governments worldwide. Think about everything you manage during your day-to-day working life. How much of what you're working with is digital or physical?

Chances are, most "assets" you work with, whether emails, documents, spreadsheets, software, and other files, are digital. Hence the importance of Digital Asset Management (DAM).

Digital Asset Management (DAM)

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Since the emergence of cloud-based software and systems, digital asset management has become essential to storing, managing, and controlling access to vast amounts of digital files and assets.

In this article, we ask and answer the question, "What is a digital asset manager, and why does it matter?" We'll also cover what to look for in order to identify the best digital asset management systems.

What are Digital Assets?

Digital assets can be anything, and most people have hundreds or thousands of gigabytes worth of personal digital assets, such as pictures and videos. Businesses and organizations have vast numbers of digital assets.

Anyone in any organization produces digital assets, transfers them, works on them collaboratively, and all these files and assets need storing and managing.

In this hyper-connected digital age, managing, storing, moving, and safeguarding digital assets and files is just as important as safeguarding physical assets.

Safety and security are essential; one reason organizations use and trust digital asset management platforms and software. And that's something we will cover in more detail later.

What Are Different Types of Digital Assets?

Digital assets can be anything from word documents to enormous databases and datasets. Images, videos, medical images (such as X-Rays, CT scans, MRI files, etc.), and so many other files people work on, share, and store count as digital assets. Digital assets include, but aren't limited to, patient files, financial records, tax records, contracts, patents, and so much more.

Beyond that, digital assets include cryptocurrencies, crypto-tokens, and tokenized assets (such as Non-Fungible Tokens or NFTs). Assets such as NFTs are a blockchain-based way of proving ownership of a digital or physical asset, such as a rare artwork or shares in a digital startup company.

Buying and selling real estate using cryptocurrencies and blockchain-based tokens is even possible. Similar to how contracts are signed and deeds are transferred when buying real estate the traditional way.

As Investopedia says: "For a digital asset to be considered an asset, it must first have the potential to create value in that it can be used in a manner that generates value for the owner. The digital asset should then be able to transfer ownership through purchase, gifting, or other means of giving the rights to someone else, along with the value the item can bring. It must also be discoverable or stored somewhere that it can be found."

Not only do digital assets include files, spreadsheets, photos, documents, and numerous other types of files, now tokens and digital currencies fall into this category.

What is a Digital Asset Manager, and Why Does It Matter?

Now think about the way you store and move physical assets. At its most basic level, email, such as Gmail or Google Workspace (and Google Drive), is a digital asset management (DAM) system.

It's not the best way to securely store files and information, but many people use email and cloud-based folders this way, such as Dropbox or Box, and hundreds of others. The cloud-based storage and file sharing space is big business. It is currently worth $78.6 billion and is growing at a rate of 18.5%, projected to exceed $183.7 billion in the next 5 years.

Some of the biggest players in this market include Amazon (AWS), Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe, and numerous other small and mid-sized businesses. Most offer some kind of digital asset management solution or can integrate with software as a service (SaaS) providers who do.

A digital asset management system is a cloud-based DAM software solution that gives organizations greater control of their digital assets.

Digital asset management systems matter to organizations for several reasons, such as:

  • Making file and digital asset storage more secure, especially when dealing with sensitive information
  • Making it easier to search through thousands of files, different file formats, and the associated metadata
  • Making collaboration on files and digital assets simpler and quicker for large teams and multi-national or multi-site file and asset transfer
  • Access control: The last thing any organization needs, especially when handling customer data or sensitive information, is to have no idea who has access to which file or database. Not only is that a nightmare from a compliance perspective, but it also makes it much easier for cybercriminals and hackers to find and exploit weaknesses within your organization 

For these reasons, having the right DAM system, tool, or platform is essential for so many organizations.

How do you choose the right DAM system for your organization?

What Makes the Best Digital Asset Management System?

Digital asset management comes in many formats. From simple cloud-based tools to more complex multi-layered platforms with extensive functionality and features.

Most come with built-in cloud-storage, or you can use a DAM system to manage digital assets stored in other platforms, such as Amazon (AWS), Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe, and others.

What you need depends on several factors, such as:

  • Understanding the digital assets your organization possesses
  • Knowing where these digital assets are stored
  • Knowing the value of these digital assets
  • Understanding the challenges of digital asset management, including security and compliance regulations

Once you're clear on the above, IT leaders and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) can map the current state of digital assets in your organization and create a strategy for managing, storing, and securing them. Once you have a strategy, you can find the most suitable digital asset management system for your needs.

When undertaking this work, make sure to look for the following features:

  1. Cloud Storage

    Having access to files and digital assets 24/7 is mission-critical for every organization. Working remotely and working from home (WFH) is more normal than ever before, so you need to be sure your team can get the files they need at a moment's notice, wherever they are.

    Having a DAM system with built-in cloud-storage, or one that connects to and manages various cloud-storage providers, is essential for the smooth running of any organization.

  2. Metadata

    Being able to label files with as much metadata as possible makes it easier to find them. The best DAM software systems help you with this task, incorporating metadata in search functionality, categories, labels, file previews, and utilizing AI to make digital assets easier to find.

  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI)

    Because organizations are sitting on vast databases and datasets of files, Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology makes the job of categorizing, storing, and finding everything much easier. Depending on your needs, your organization might make AI technology integration into DAM systems mission-critical.

  4. Label Taxonomy

    Having the right labeling system makes it much easier and quicker to find what you're looking for. Ensure you're using a digital asset management system that enables you to tag files and add keywords. With the right planning, you will make everyone's job easier who uses this system.

  5. Category Systems 

    Categories are equally crucial. With the right category systems built into your digital asset management system, you can categorize files and create a logical multi-level hierarchy. This way, storing, labeling, and finding digital assets and files will make sense to everyone in an organization rather than just a single department or team.

  6. File Previews

    Finding files and digital assets is easier when you can see a preview of the document without having to open it. Previews save everyone time. Even with the best category, taxonomy, metadata, and labeling system in the world, if you have to open every single file when looking for one among thousands, it could take hours of work.

    Make sure you use a DAM system that generates easy-to-view thumbnails and previews of the files stored. That way, people searching for something can find it more easily.

  7. Access Control

    One of the reasons organizations use DAM systems is they need to control access to files and datasets. It makes sense, from an operational perspective, to have everything you need accessible through one system.

    However, without access control, people without authorization could get into files they shouldn't. For example, front-line staff don't need to see details of a company's cash flow and finances. Neither do third-party vendors or others from outside the organization.

    With access control, admins and IT leaders can coordinate with senior leadership to ensure the right people have access to what they need without causing the wrong information to spread throughout the company.

  8. Version Control

    How do you know if someone has access to the right, most up-to-date file? It's counterproductive if people are working from out-of-date documents when the right ones are in a folder elsewhere. Make sure your digital access management system has version control so that everyone stays on the right page and confusion is avoided.

  9. Security

    Security is essential for every organization. Businesses need to stay compliant with numerous data protection regulations, nationally and internationally, so the only way to achieve that is to ensure that security is hard-wired into any DAM system you use.

    It's even more important for healthcare organizations where HIPAA-level security is a must-have, for any system or software that handles patient data.