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DAM vs. cloud storage: what’s best for in-house designers?

If you’re tired of rummaging through files and subfolders looking for digital content and responding to requests for media files from other departments, you’re not alone.

Brands are creating more content than ever, which means creative teams are producing vast numbers of digital media files every day.

The sheer volume of assets required poses a conundrum for design and marketing teams alike. Wouldn’t it be great if colleagues across all departments could find exactly what they need when they need it and save everyone a lot of time and hassle?

Until now, cloud storage solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive have been the only way to store, share, and collaborate on media assets. While these services work well for individuals and small teams, they can be a nightmare when used across multiple teams and departments.

But now, a new generation of cloud storage is stepping up to save time, money, and headaches for businesses of all sizes. Enter digital asset management software — aka, DAM.

This article will provide an overview of both traditional cloud-based storage and DAM solutions so you can decide which is best for your in-house design team.

What are cloud storage services?

A cloud-based storage service is an online platform that allows businesses to store digital files on remote servers. These servers are maintained by companies that provide cloud storage software as a service (SaaS).

The advantage of cloud storage is that it moves your digital storage system off-site and takes responsibility for the maintenance and security of your digital assets. Before the introduction of cloud storage, businesses had to invest in infrastructure and entire IT teams dedicated to running and maintaining both the physical servers and the software. Cloud storage systems save companies money by taking care of both.

You’re probably familiar with at least one of the most popular cloud storage platforms, which include:

  • Dropbox
  • Google Drive
  • iCloud
  • Microsoft OneDrive
  • Box

Cloud storage services put the user at the center, which means that their purpose is to make file storage and retrieval easy for the individual user. It allows you to create folders and subfolders following your own personal logic, similar to the kind of system found on a PC.

However, the disadvantages of cloud storage become apparent when an entire team pulls assets and data from the same storage system. Which you’ll know first-hand if you’ve ever tried to search through folders created by a colleague and ended up emailing them instead.

Cloud storage systems simply aren’t optimized for team collaboration, and team members often hit a wall trying to find and work with digital assets — especially when working remotely.

For digital storage to actually be useful, it needs to be organized in a way that makes it easy to access any file when we need it — and that’s where digital asset management comes in.

What are digital asset management platforms?

“Digital assets” refers to any branded digital content your company creates that’s subject to copyright. This includes videos, PDFs, audio files, reports, documents, logos, and any other digital file your business produces.

Almost every department in every industry requires digital assets. Marketing teams put in requests for digital assets for emails, social media content, videos, and ads. Services and operations teams may produce documents, reports, and workflow diagrams. If you work with vendors or providers, you may need to create additional digital assets for their use.

With all the digital media being produced, you need a system that facilitates access for all your team members. While a cloud storage system addresses the need for external, off-site storage, it doesn’t lend itself well to incorporating digital assets into workflows, especially across remote teams. In fact, 54% of knowledge workers say they spend more time searching for digital files than responding to emails or instant messages.

DAM storage was created to address the problem of digital assets getting lost in the cloud. According to DAM expert Jake Athey, the first-ever DAM system was Cumulus by Canto, which launched in 1992. DAM systems have come a long way since then, becoming a “single source of truth” for content creation and management, and taking over from cloud-based storage as the go-to digital storage solution for many businesses.

What really sets DAM apart is that it’s built around assets rather than individual users. This means it works well as team-wide repositories of assets and can streamline collaboration and distribution.

Like cloud-based storage platforms, most DAM software offers unlimited storage. However, they also have integrations with your current content management system to centralize the creation, editing, collaboration, storage, and distribution of content all in one software platform.

The next section will outline some of the main DAM features and benefits that make it stand out from traditional cloud-based storage.

Why you need a digital asset management solution for your cloud storage problem

Digital asset management adoption took a leap forward during the COVID-19 pandemic — and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, a 2022 report estimates the global DAM market will grow from $4.2 billion in 2022 to $8 billion by 2027.

Let’s take a look at nine reasons businesses are turning to DAM in droves to solve their digital asset management woes.

1. It boosts brand consistency

Brand consistency matters. It helps boost your image as a high-quality and trustworthy brand, and one study found that it can boost sales by up to 33%.

What does this have to do with DAM? Well, DAM software can help improve brand consistency and customer experience by harmonizing your branded digital content.

Carefully curating your media assets can improve your customer experience, making DAM an essential tool for brand management and consistency.

2. You can customize the interface

Traditional cloud storage platforms offer a standard interface with limited room for customization. DAM services provide a range of customization options, including custom websites and personalized layouts.

3. It offers advanced search features

Ever gotten stuck looking for a file because you couldn’t remember the exact file name? Yeah, so have we. Cloud storage platforms mostly allow searches by name only, which makes it almost impossible to find something unless you created it yourself.

DAMs have advanced search functionality, allowing you to add metadata to your files and search for them using keywords. If you’re more of a visual person, you can search for images by describing the objects in the frame.

4. It features next-generation editing tools

Most cloud storage tools have limited editing capabilities, and users are mostly restricted to viewing and downloading files. For example, if a social media manager needs an image in a different size or format, they usually have to put in a request to the design team.

DAMs are flexible enough to provide real-time editing of files, including image resizing, cropping, and retouching capabilities. This means team members can access and edit files themselves, taking a load off for design teams.

5. It has integrations with all your favorite apps

Some cloud storage services have integrations with task management and customer relationship management systems (CRMs). These integrations are useful but relatively limited.

DAMs offer a wider range of integration options, including project management software, instant messaging apps, photo editors, and other tools. This allows you to create, share, organize, display, and swap feedback on all kinds of ideas, all in one place.

6. It facilitates collaboration

Cloud storage allows you to share assets with others, and collaborators on a project can view, comment, or edit a file.

DAM takes things a step further, enabling users to change tracking data and timestamps, as well as view, comment, and edit.

This allows multiple professionals to share files and work asynchronously on a project with maximum efficiency.

7. It supports multiple formats

File extensions can be a designer’s nightmare. Using a third-party tool to convert a pdf into a jpeg can mean time lost that could have been spent on design work.

A DAM offers in-built file conversions, so you can create and save new file types with the click of a button, saving time and effort.  

This also saves precious storage space since the designer no longer needs to save the same asset under multiple extensions.

8. You control rights management and permissions

DAM’s rights and permissions abilities go way beyond the “view only,” “comment,” or “edit” rights offered by traditional cloud-based storage.

It also enables one-click approvals and automation of project workflows, as well as keeping track of licensing expiration dates.

9. It lets you monitor performance

Many DAM platforms have built-in tracking and analytics tools that allow you to monitor the performance of your brand assets throughout their lifecycle.

For example, you can split test a social media post by publishing it with two different images and tracking the number of likes, comments, and shares to see which one is most effective.

Playbook: the DAM system by designers for designers

Gone are the days of getting sucked into a black hole of folders and subfolders before finally giving up and emailing your exasperated design team.

DAM is the future of digital storage, especially for fully or partially remote teams.  That project you wrapped last year, last month, or even yesterday has a way of getting lost in the cloud, stifled in a zip file, or stuffed into a USB.

So we created Playbook, the DAM solution where Dropbox meets Pinterest. It provides a scannable, searchable, super-organized space that’s actually worthy of your work.

But don’t just take it from us — sign up and receive 4TB of lifetime storage.