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Introducing Digital Asset Management Systems

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1 Aug 2019CPOL
This article introduces Digital Asset Management systems.

Table Of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Definition
  3. SaaS
  4. Benefits
  5. MAM And DAM
  6. MAM vs. DAM
  7. MAM Or DAM?
  8. History


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Nowadays, the number of content management technologies and tools around content management grows everyday, and organizations have a lot of assets to ingest and a lot of assets to distribute and are looking for solutions.

A set of descriptive terms appeared. CMS for Content Management System, MAM for Media Asset Management, DAM for Digital Asset Management, ECM for Enterprise Content Management, and so on. The common denominator of all these terms is Content. Indeed, all these terms are focused on content. They all are different because they manage different kind of contents in different ways. Media Asset Management (MAM) systems manage content around the field of multimedia (videos, audio files and images), Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems are on top of the pyramid because they manage any type of content through generic ways. A CMS, an ECM or even a MAM system can be built with a DAM system.

DAM systems allow to manage assets, including photos, illustrations, videos, audio files, and rich media in many other formats. A DAM system can be seen as a black box of digital assets where assets go in and out.

This article will show up a brief introduction to DAM systems.


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A digital asset is anything that exists in a binary format. For example, digital documents, photos, videos, and other digital data in many other formats.

DAM systems represent a structure incorporating both software and other services in order to create, manage, index, store, ingest, organize, control and retrieve digital assets.

Below are the most important features that a DAM system provides.


To create a digital asset, a data object must be brought into the digital domain as a computer file. For example, digital assets are created by encoding or scanning.

DAM systems provide several services for creating digital assets. The creation of digital assets can be done from a GUI, or by ingesting content, or by encoding, or by scanning for example.

Generally, when digital assets are created, they are stored in a database. And their files and their different versions are stored on a file server.

Metadata Management

Metadata of digital assets can include titles, descriptions, creation dates, modification dates, access rights, locations, original creation, encoding, packaging, etc.

DAM systems provide metadata management. For example, if a new asset is created in a DAM system, some metadata fields are automatically fulfilled (creation date, access rights, encoding, etc.). Other metadata fields must be entered by the end user or fulfilled automatically by an external application.

DAM systems allow to import and to export metadata in multiple input/output formats. For example, a DAM system can export the metadata of an asset into XML or CSV, then the metadata can be sent by email or uploaded to a remote server or sent to an external application (YouTube SFTP dropbox for example).


Digital assets are stored on a variety of media, both online and offline. Because unstructured information, especially media files (animations, audio files, and videos) are so large, special-purpose storage devices and systems are often required.

Today, the use of digital audio and video for marketing and training purposes has made high-volume storage a general-purpose capability of interest to all segments of industry, which has led content-management suppliers to add similar storage services to their platforms.

Technically, when a digital assets is created, it is stored in a database. And its files and their versions are stored on a file server. The file server can be on the same machine where the DAM system is installed or on different machines.


One of the major features of DAM systems is indexing. DAM systems make digital assets available to users by providing a searchable index that supports retrieval of digital assets.

For example, for textual digital assets DAM systems provide full text search in order to improve the search performance. In .NET for example, there are several high performance search engines (Lucen.Net, Sphinx, etc.). Such search engines and indexing tools are used in DAM systems in order to provide indexing feature.


Another major features of DAM systems is versioning. DAM systems allow to store different versions of the same digital asset.

For example, if a video is created. Multiple versions of the same video can be created too (high quality, medium quality and low quality).


DAM systems allow users to classify their digital assets in classifications.

This feature is very useful when searching for digital assets. It can be seen like a folder tree structure where the end-user can drag and drop his digital assets in classifications that he or another user has created.


DAM systems provide tagging to enrich content with searchable tags so users can easily find content. Additional metadata can be added to enrich and categorize content.

This feature is important because it helps the user find content and digital assets in a DAM system.

Access Control

DAM systems include security controls ensuring users to have access to digital assets. DAM systems provide user management and access control. For example, an administrator can allow a user to access or not some digital assets or some classifications or some pages and so on.

Access control is a very important feature in DAM systems. Indeed, it allows an organization having multiple services to work together on the same DAM system. Every service and every user will have a specific view and a specific access in the DAM system.

Workflow Management

DAM systems provide workflows allowing to manage digital assets (creation, approval, archiving, etc.). Generally, a DAM system often comes with its own or an external workflow management system allowing to manage digital assets in different ways.

For example, a workflow can allow an organization to create content, to approve content and to archive content and so on.

Connecting With Other Systems

This feature is very important. DAM systems allow the connection with other external systems in order to manage and deliver digital assets.

As I mentioned in the introduction section, a DAM system can be seen as a black box of digital assets where assets go in and out. This feature allows a DAM system to communicate with the external world, it allows the users to create content and to deliver digital assets to external systems and applications.

Technically, this can be done through an API, automatic ingest, or plugins. Indeed, if the DAM system provides an API for creating and delivering digital assets, components allowing to connect other systems can be created. If the DAM system provides automatic ingest, external systems can deliver content to the DAM system for example by uploading digital assets files and metadata (XML, CSV, etc.) to a remote server connected to the DAM system. Plugins also allow external systems to be connected to DAM systems.


DAM systems provide features that make it easy for organizations to deliver content to the right channels and delivery tools. And then, measure how that content is being consumed. DAM systems help organizations understand how users and customers consume content through reporting, data visualization and embedded BI.

DAM systems provide features to easily connect to other solutions to manage, personalize and deliver digital assets. They provide features to enable organizations to integrate them into their ecosystem with connectors such as frameworks, APIs and plugins.

Content Insights

DAM systems provide analytics features and stats to know how content is being used and how it is performing.

This feature is also very important within an organization. Indeed, if the DAM system provides stats and analytics features showing how the content is being created and how it is performing, marketing services can rely on this information in order to improve the creation and the delivery of the content.

Asset Management

DAM systems allow organizations to easily manage their digital assets based on their specific business needs. DAM systems support all commonly used file types and also support emerging file types.

DAM systems enable users to create, tag, store, and preview digital assets within the system. For example, for video digital assets, DAM systems provide features such as transcoding. And for images for instance, DAM systems provide features such as image editing. For textual digital assets, DAM systems provide features such as creating text snippets and insert them into text articles. Users can easily find where snippets are used, if modifications have been made, and automatically update digital assets.

Content Collaboration

DAM systems make it easier to insert teams into automated workflows. They provide features such as task management, annotations, reviews, approvals and content calendars.

Task management enables users to review from a task management area. The task management area ensures that nothing gets missed and users have one place to view all their work items.

Annotations, reviews and approvals enable users to make clear comments and edit digital assets. Once they're done reviewing, reviewers can add comments and cast votes on digital assets to determine what happens next to the digital asset.

Content calendars allow to make planning, organizing and implementing global content strategies.


SaaS DAM systems allow any user anywhere in the world to easily create, manage, find and access documents, videos, images, product information, creative files, text, and other digital assets. Access can be configured to allow for views of only localized content variations, such as channels or languages.


DAM systems are essential to any business that has to manage a large volume of digital content. They include all the functionalities necessary for the collection, archiving, structuring and dissemination of digital content of an organization. And all that, in a totally collaborative and secure way.

For users too, the benefits are multiple. searching, viewing and using files is simpler and faster. And in the context of a project requiring the collaboration of several people located or not in the same place, DAM systems are valuable.

DAM systems excel in handling of images, audio files, videos and digital content in a totally secure and collaborative environment.

DAM systems also help organizations deliver customer experiences faster by enabling marketers to easily manage documents, images, videos, and other digital assets across different stages of content lifecycles.


The purpose of both Media Asset Management systems and Digital Asset Management systems is to manage content, make that content searchable and share that content with others. Both platforms allow control of both content and users.


Media Asset Management systems allow to manage media assets such images, videos and audio files in a collaborative and secured environment. Whereas, Digital Media Asset systems allow to manage digital assets such as photos, illustrations, videos, audio files, and rich media in many other formats with managing brand and marketing materials. DAM systems are more generic than MAM systems.


This depends on the needs of the organization. If the organization needs to manage media assets such as images, videos and audio files in a collaborative and secured environment without the need of managing brand and marketing materials, then a MAM system should be suitable. However, If the organization needs to manage other digital content such as text documents and emerging file types or media assets with the need of managing brand and marketing materials, then a DAM system should be suitable.


  • 1st August, 2019: Initial version


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Akram El Assas
Morocco Morocco
Akram El Assas graduated from the french engineering school ENSEIRB located in Bordeaux, a city in the south of France, and got his diploma in software engineering in 2010. He worked in France for Mediatvcom, a company specialized in audiovisual, digital television and new technologies. Mediatvcom offers services such as consulting, project management, audit and turnkey solutions adapted to the needs of customers. Akram worked mainly with Microsoft technologies such as C#, ASP.NET and SQL Server but also with JavaScript, jQuery, HTML5 and CSS3. Akram worked on different projects around digital medias such as Media Asset Management systems, Digital Asset Management systems and sometimes on HbbTV apps.

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