How much will this DAM thing cost?

Every company or organization is run on a budget. Cost is a factor in the decision-making process when it comes to purchasing new technology or tools. Digital asset management (DAM) is no different.

In the crowded marketing technology landscape, it can be a challenge to figure out how much a DAM system “should” cost. Some companies are offering solutions for as little as $9.99 a month, while others attach a $400,000 price tag to their products.

I have to apologize upfront, because this article won’t tell you how much a system should cost. It’s too variable to give a flat rate or even a range. What I will share are key elements to cost, including the following topics:

  • The importance of knowing your organization’s needs
  • How your needs will influence the cost of a system
  • Different types of DAM systems and the financial considerations of each

DAM system costs and pricing

Assessing your needs

Hands down, the most important step in determining how much you will pay for a system is knowing who will use a DAM system and how they will use it. It’s become a sort of chant for this website. If you haven’t visited Before you DAM, do that now. The first section covers assessing your needs and includes related blog posts and resources.

Understanding your digital asset management needs is vital because your needs determine which system is the best fit.  A few key considerations are:

  • The amount and type of digital assets you manage
  • The workflows surrounding your rich media use
  • Who will be administering the system, and who will use it

A great resources for you is the Request for Demo (RFD) guide. This resource will help you understand how to construct use-cases specific to your organization’s needs. As I mentioned in the beginning, your needs are key to determining the system you select, and how much you will pay for it.

Potential cost factors

The kind of functionality you need in a system will influence the kind of system you purchase or subscribe to. Here are some elements to keep in mind:

  • The number of users who will need to access the system, and whether they are internal or external users
  • How much storage space you will need
  • The level of support you are seeking for training on and troubleshooting your system
  • Your expectations for implementation assistance, like establishing metadata schemas and governance
  • The capability to integrate other programs like sales and project management software
  • The possibilities for branding your DAM system
  • The ability to bulk upload assets and apply metadata, initially and ongoing.
  • Availability of analytics data on assets use
  • Capabilities of the search function
  • Whether the system is scaleable
  • How secure a system is

For a more in-depth look at what kind of considerations are part of selecting a DAM system, check out the Understanding Requests for Information (RFI’s) and Requests for Proposal (RFP’s) document. It includes a template list of questions for an RFI or RFP.

Costs associated with different types of systems

There are three main types of systems: Software as a Service (SaaS or Cloud), on-premise, and open source. Each has its own set of variables when it comes to cost.

  • SaaS: Lower upfront cost since you don’t need to purchase special hardware like servers, but you will probably pay an ongoing subscription.A key consideration when you are evaluating the cost of a SaaS system are what kind of support is included in the cost quote, if upgrades are included, and if there are limits on users or storage space. Since the provider is responsible for uptime and upgrades to the software, you will have to rely on them to help you solve problems. SaaS is often quoted as a monthly or yearly subscription. This is a bonus for budgeting, since ongoing costs are easy to forecast.
  • On-premise: Generally carries a higher start-up cost since an on-premise system is installed on your hardware and managed by your team. The apparent benefit of paying lower annual maintenance fees must be weighed against the need to purchase and maintain your own hardware and pay staff to manage the system. All updates, troubleshooting and security must be attended to internally. The total cost of ownership may be difficult to assess. This option is usually selected by organizations with special security needs like medical records companies.
  • Open source: The benefit to open-source is that it is a low or no-cost software. Open source may be SaaS, on-premise or a combination of both.  As with an on-premise DAM system, be prepared with staff on hand to manage the technical side of the system, make updates, and train users. There may be hidden costs with an open source solution, since you might purchase add-ons to extend the capabilities of your system or encounter unanticipated issues and limitations.  You’ll also need to pay special attention to security since a wide community has access to the intricacies of the software.


Hopefully this post has given you some information about some of what goes into the cost of a DAM system. Any questions that haven’t been answered? Let us know in the comments.

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