What is a Digital Asset Management system - DAM vs CMS

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    Despite the potential gains, many companies still ask themselves if they need a tool to manage all of their digital assets. In this article, we will answer that question.

    What is a “digital asset”?

    Digital assets can be any files, videos, images, documents, and other media your company has the right to use. Digital assets grow exponentially, and the more a business grows, the more its digital asset library grows. This often causes issues because, without a tool to manage all these assets, things can quickly get out of hand.

    An image showing different kinds of assets, including image, video, design files, and documents

    Digital assets are any files, videos, images, documents, and other media your company has the right to use.

    Additionally, due to the emergence of cloud-based services and increased digitalization of services, companies store more assets each year. In fact, the DAM industry is expected to reach $8.5B in 2025 from the $3.4B it reached in 2019. As the digital ecosystem changes, digital asset management systems have had to adapt to new kinds of assets.

    Here’s where modern digital asset management systems come in, they give businesses a tool to maintain a single source of truth and transparency of operations.

    What is digital asset management system (DAM)?

    According to the Gartner Glossary, a Digital Asset Managements system is in charge of storing, managing and rendering rich media. This includes text, graphics, photos, audio, and video. Typically, DAM systems support all kinds of operations, from operational to administrative and both inside and outside organizations.

    However, modern digital assets are not always in the media category only. They also include computer-aided design files, IoT data, user data, and structured content.

    Digital asset management systems are tools that bring harmony to all of your digital files by gathering them in one place, making them searchable, and establishing permissions around their usage.

    How do DAM systems work?

    Most digital asset management systems work in a five-stage process:

    1. Asset creation and encoding
    2. Asset indexing and identification
    3. Asset becomes part of the business process
    4. Permissions for the asset are created
    5. Assets begin their lifecycles

    While there were seminal digital asset management systems (DAMS or DAM systems) in the 1980s, it wasn’t until 1992 with Cumulus, one of the first DAM systems, that DAM became an office-wide practice.

    Cumulus introduced many of the features DAMS still have today, but lacked strong search capabilities. In the 2000s, server-based DAMS made files more searchable, and then cloud-based technology offered a decentralized way of storing and retrieving files. In 2020, we saw the introduction of AI and machine learning processes into the DAM.

    A DAM system is software that manages the creation, sharing, and tracking of your digital assets. DAMs streamline file management and act as one of the company’s core parts as it connects every dot of your business processes.

    Modern DAMs are cloud-based and come integrated into content management systems and digital experience platforms, but there are also standalone solutions. However, DAM really reaches its true potential when used in conjunction with content management as it fuels content creation, creative production, and campaign management.

    Benefits of digital asset management systems

    The truth is that users want to organize the process of finding and consuming digital media files across different devices, which is what digital asset management systems were born to do. Take a look at the benefits of a DAM system:


    Searching for files is one of the most time-consuming tasks for many businesses. Or it used to be. Thanks to DAM everybody can locate files and folders quickly.

    Process efficiency

    You probably won’t find a DAM out there working on its own as standalone software. In most cases, DAM systems become part of other software tools, particularly CMSs and DXPs. They integrate with CMSs to make asset management a part of a bigger, digital content creation workflow.

    Less storage space

    Many DAM systems implement data space reduction technologies, which enables them to store more content in both physical and cloud storage spaces.

    Enhanced compliance

    DAM systems serve as a single source of truth for your company’s legal documentation, licenses, contracts, and every kind of regulatory compliance demands such as the GDPR.

    Improved permissions and roles

    DAM systems enable companies to apply rules and permissions to the content and assets, guarding your company assets against tampering and protecting user data from unauthorized access.

    Storyblok, more than a headless CMS

    Storyblok is a headless CMS that enables developers and marketers to deliver powerful content experiences on any digital platform, one block at a time.

    Do you need a DAM system?

    To help guide you on your journey, we devised five situations where a DAM may be warranted. See if any apply to you!

    You don’t have visibility over your assets

    If you don’t know where your assets are, you need an asset management solution. Lack of visibility over assets means that you’ll end up having issues with a project at one point or another. DAM systems give you visibility over every piece of information in your company, simplifying processes.

    Your content is siloed across multiple platforms

    DAM solutions provide users with a single repository to access and manage files. With a DAM system your data isn’t scattered across different platforms, rather, you gain the possibility of storing a single source of truth for all of your assets and organization tools, like metadata and taxonomies, to make everything easier to find.

    You need more than just a place to drop your assets

    One of the good things about modern DAM systems is that they support the entire content lifecycle, especially if they are used in conjunction with a CMS. DAMS support work-in-progress assets and give content editors a place to create and review assets. When integrated with a DXP following the best-of-breed approach, editors gain all the tools they need to support their content.

    You need to support different asset types

    DAM systems are optimized for rich media and assets. Most DAM systems also support structured content and give you more than just a media library. DAMS also allow you to support omnichannel content management and delivery and can be used by a larger number of users.

    You send files across multiple groups and platforms

    Digital asset management systems support your scaling business needs. They aren’t just a place to drop files. On the contrary, they support the creation and editing of assets across regions and groups, eliminating information silos. Also, DAM solutions, when integrated into a CMS, create a bridge across groups, connecting IT teams with marketers and sales teams.

    If three or more of these situations ring true to you, you need a DAM system. Without one, you might be failing to reap the benefits of having all your content and assets in one place.

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    How to choose a digital asset management system?

    The truth is that for data conscious companies, a DAM system is always a must. However, leveraging only a DAM might not do the trick. Modern companies who have set their minds to creating omnichannel digital experiences need an extra push if they want to go beyond asset management.

    An illustration showing how both Content Management and DAM can be packed into one system, making the life of the content editors easier.

    A CMS and a Digital Asset Management system can co-exist within a single system

    A modern CMS, like Storyblok, offers developers and marketers a robust DAM system packed into a top-of-the-line CMS that gives them all the tools to run a reliable digital content production environment.

    A CMS goes beyond asset management; it gives you all you need to build and deliver digital experiences. It integrates asset management and takes it to the next level by adding digital content authoring tools.

    Storyblok offers users a simplified asset search, metadata management, and a strong image resizing and editing tool. Storyblok transforms, optimizes, and caches every image in a CDN, enabling fast content delivery of websites and apps, adding to the site’s UX and UI.

    If you’re still not sure a CMS is the right tool for you, we wrote a whitepaper called Content Management for eCommerce where we help you understand CMSs better and identify when it’s the right time to upgrade your CMS.

    Content Management for eCommerce

    Read our comprehensive marketer's guide to content management, complete with a free evaluation guide!

    Resource Links
    Headless CMS Headless CMS explained in 5 minutes
    CMS for eCommerce The new era of eCommerce CMS
    Headless stack or monolithic package Best-of-breed vs. all-in-one
    A complete guide to eCommerce content management Content management for eCommerce