The number of digital contents, especially pictures, is growing rapidly. At the same time, they are becoming increasingly important in corporate communications, social media and e-commerce.
In companies with several employees, they should be available both internally and externally. It is no longer sufficient to assign one employee to store images on his hard drive and have them searched for when needed. In addition to the risks of storage and access (responsible employee on vacation or sick), the fact that hardly anyone has an overview of the entire digital media content is aggravating. This means that valuable resources cannot be used in an optimal way. Providing access for many people brings new challenges. You don't want all users to be able to see everything or do everything with the objects. A rights management system that determines who is allowed to upload or download, release or change is indispensable if different departments or external service providers are involved in the work process. There are different methods to solve this problem. It plays a subordinate role whether an existing system is to be transformed or one is to be introduced at all.
Data is stored on a network drive (which can also be a workstation with a shared folder) according to a predefined scheme. Access rights are controlled by the file system. A lot depends on how well the folder structure is chosen and maintained. Search options are limited to file names and labels - if the operating system (OS) supports it. A more detailed search is not possible. Thus, the user is dependent on finding all information relevant for a search via the file name. For a picture with a plate of Spaghetti Bolognese this might still be possible (Teller Spaghetti rot weiß Nudelsauce Fleischsauce Bolognese Nudeln.jpg), but for photos of an event with several dozen or hundreds of participants the possibilities are limited.
If it is primarily about images, one can also consider the introduction of a photo workflow software (Lightroom, Aperture, Darktable etc.). These solutions offer a very good support for all steps of the processing and a version management. Furthermore, you can easily assign keywords or keywords to images (and movies), assign them to individual projects and transfer them directly to an image editing system. Also, individual metadata from the images and movies can be read out and displayed. However, they are difficult to control via program interfaces and are not multi-user capable.
Databases offer many possibilities to store and retrieve data. It should be noted, however, that they are usually delivered unconfigured. It is the responsibility of the responsible employee to describe and implement the required tables and dependencies. The implementation of a database requires a lot of knowledge about databases and the assets (images, documents, movies) you want to manage with them. This starts with metadata and ends with a rights concept. You also have to think about an interface during the introduction. Many functions, such as an automated import, must be specially programmed by software developers. This drives up the cost of implementation if the specifications were not complete when the order was placed.
The introduction of a DAM system eliminates the disadvantages of the previous solutions. First of all, it offers multi-user capability in combination with a very fine-grained rights system. This means that roles can be adapted precisely to the needs of individual departments. The actual DAM system runs on a server in the server room or computer centre, where it is centrally maintained and guarantees high availability.
Via extensions, it is possible for a DAM solution to speak directly to content management systems (CMS) or product information systems (PIM). This allows the DAM system to be controlled by the exchange of automatically generated messages. For example, the delivery of images to a web shop can be realized without the need to keep them available again.
The use of web technologies enables the system to be used independently of the OS. This is especially advantageous for the cooperation with external service providers, as a manual export and import process by the own employee is no longer necessary. The service provider can deliver directly to the DAM. Due to the automatic generation of keywords when importing assets, a lot of meta information, such as resolution, creator or similar, is already available and the employees in charge of maintenance only need to enter supplementary information (photo workflow software can do this as well, but is usually limited to images and films).
Often a simple solution is sufficient at the beginning for media management. With an increasing number of employees using an ever-growing amount of media data, an organization will eventually reach its limits.
As soon as topics such as rights management, high availability, automated processes and a complex rights system become topical, there is no way around a DAM solution. Learn more about the advantages of structured data storage here.