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What is a Digital Asset Management system - DAM vs CMS

Kaya Ismail

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.

Section titled 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 – the more a business grows, the more it's likely to need an expansive asset library. 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.

Section titled 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, Internet of Things (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.

Section titled 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. Integration of asset into the business process
  4. Creation of permissions for the asset
  5. Beginning of asset lifecycle

While there were digital asset management systems in the 1980s, it wasn’t until 1992 with Cumulus (one of the first DAM systems) that DAM became a standard 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.

Most 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.

Section titled 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:

Section titled Productivity

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. In addition to cutting down on time-to-market, this simple access to universal resources can also contribute to improved brand consistency.

Section titled Process efficiency

You probably won’t find a DAM system out there working on its own as standalone software. In most cases, digital asset management 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.

Section titled 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.

Section titled Enhanced compliance

Digital asset management 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.

Section titled Improved permissions and roles

DAM systems enable companies to apply rules and permissions to the content and assets, so you can guard your company assets against tampering. It also protects user data from unauthorized access. Plus, the centralized asset sources mean its easier for team members to collaborate as they’ll be working with all the same information.

Native Digitial Asset Manager

Make content operations faster and more efficient by consolidating asset and content management workflows into one central platform.

Section titled What is an enterprise digital asset management system?

An enterprise digital management system includes all of the above features. However, its resources and design reflect the unique needs of large organizations. It also provides the flexibility for organizations of any size to scale up as they need to.

Digital management systems are also arguably more important to enterprise organizations than to their smaller counterparts. This is because all the benefits they offer – such as easy management, centralized information, and compliance/security – become more essential as the number of assets increases.

Thus, while businesses of any size can benefit from a DAM system, enterprise digital asset management is a crucial part of achieving an effective large-scale content strategy.

Section titled 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!

Section titled 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 the ability to see every piece of information in your company, simplifying processes.

Section titled 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 (such as metadata and taxonomies) to make everything easier to find.

Section titled 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. DAM systems support work-in-progress assets and give content editors a place to create and review them. When integrated with a DXP following the best-of-breed approach, editors gain all the tools they need to support their content.

Section titled You need to support different asset types

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

Section titled 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.

Boost customer experience with DAM

Learn 3 ways digital asset management improves customer experience

Section titled 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

Section titled 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. Our system 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.

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.

Screenshot of the digital asset manager provided by Storyblok

Storyblok provides users with a native DAM system

Storyblok offers users a simplified asset search as well as metadata management. This can help you keep track of copyright information to ensure compliance. Storyblok also 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.

Moreover, Storyblok V2 has taken it to the next level. Use our advanced in-engine image editor to have complete control over your assets: you can change filters, cropping, additional graphics, and more. The robust tagging system makes it easy to organize all of your assets, while the Activity tab instantly shows you every instance of its usage. And thanks to an intuitive dashboard, you can access all the important digital asset management system information from one centralized location.

Ready to see if Storyblok’s advanced digital asset management system is a fit for your organization? Contact us today for a demo!

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