File-sharing vs. DAM: Which system is right for you?

file-sharing vs. DAM systems

Businesses have endless options for storing and sharing their brand’s digital assets. From Dropbox to Google Drive, SharePoint, and OneDrive, you’ve likely used (or use) at least one of the popular file-sharing systems out there. But, how do these solutions stack up against a full-blown digital asset management system? And, more importantly, which solution is right for you and your organization?

First thing’s first, let’s get some basic definitions down.

Both file-sharing and most DAM systems are cloud-based and allow you to store and share digital assets. They are both collaboration tools that sync across users and devices. So, if one contributor deletes or updates a file, every permissioned user will see the edit. For the most part, this is where file-sharing tools start and end. DAM systems, however, focus on the entire content lifecycle and, therefore, have the features and solutions to support it. Deciding which solution is right for you comes down to your unique needs.

To DAM or not to DAM. That is the question.

Maybe you already use a file-sharing tool and are thinking about transitioning to a DAM solution. Or, perhaps you’re new to the game and want to start off on the right foot. Either way, begin by thinking about your biggest existing (or foreseeable) content challenges. Then, evaluate how a file-sharing tool or a DAM system will help you overcome them. Here are a few typical scenarios for you to consider:

1. Your digital assets live in email and local drives.

Have you reached a point where you need to get more digital assets to more and more people in a controlled manner? If so, it’s time to get your valuable collateral, brand assets, and videos off of hard drives and email and into a shared-storage solution. At the most basic level, file-sharing and DAM solutions both offer storage options that any permissioned user can access. A file-sharing solution, like Dropbox or Google Drive, is an excellent choice if you only have a few hundred assets and the same few people typically collaborate. Your files sync, and as long as everyone uses the same folder and file-naming conventions, you can stay somewhat organized. But, as your asset volume grows and your team of collaborators and users expands beyond a few people, a file-sharing solution can quickly become cumbersome and messy. A DAM system, on the other hand, can handle large volumes and complex workflows. So, regardless of how many people, assets, and content touchpoints you have, a DAM system will safely house your digital assets, ultimately helping you get the right content to the right people at the right time.

2. You use a file-sharing solution, but it is a black hole.

If you use a file-sharing system but it’s impossible to find what you need, you’ve likely outgrown it. Of course, you can always buy more space and spearhead a cleanup initiative, but this will not improve long-term searchability. File-sharing solutions are folder-based. So, you need to either remember which folders you put your digital assets in and drill through the hierarchy or search by folder or file name. If you’re like most organizations, it will be difficult to find any digital assets with wonky names, such as IMG135.jpg. Alternatively, DAM systems have advanced metadata management and search capabilities that allow users to search using a variety of methods, such as:

  • Spotlight: Navigate to your most popular assets via featured searches and collections.
  • Predictive: Start typing, and before you finish you’ll see possible completions based on the assets in your library.
  • Faceted: Narrow down your results with customizable, intelligent search filters based on asset metadata.
  • Keyword: Just as you would search in Google, enter exact or contextual keywords to return relevant results based on any number of metadata fields.
  • Category: Browse via a category menu with customized and intuitive hierarchies.
  • Collections: Search within curated collections of assets for specific campaigns, events, products, or photoshoots.
  • Text: Search within the text of PDF and Microsoft Office documents for keywords and strings.

3. You are constantly policing how people use your brand assets.

Is it difficult to ensure that all of your marketing, sales, creative, and partner teams use your brand assets correctly? Do you see expired images, old videos, or, worse yet, unauthorized assets in presentations and across the web? File-sharing tools help you control access and permissions but at a very basic level. You can share files and specify edit or view-only permissions. Outside of this, management is manual. For example, if you want to expire, replace, or update a video in your files or on a web page, you need to do it one-off. If it is difficult to manage your content and how people use it, it might be time to consider a DAM system. Here are a few benefits:

  • Access control: Use granular roles and permissions to control who has access to your assets and what they can do with them
  • Batch edit: Upload, overwrite, version, or apply metadata to groups of assets all in one batch process
  • Cross-system integration: Connect the systems that rely on your content so everyone from your email marketing team to your designers has instant access to the most recent and approved assets
  • Lifecycle and rights management: Manage version control, expire assets, and attach documents across the entire content lifecycle
  • Embed codes and share links: Distribute images, videos, or documents across web-based channels and versions will automatically update based on the latest version in your DAM system

4. Your budget is tight.

Most file-sharing systems use a “freemium” pay model. In other words, their basic offering is free and you pay for add-ons like additional storage, chat-enabled customer support, and more advanced sharing capabilities. Upon first glance, the price point is attractive. But, price is only part of the equation. You need to evaluate your return on investment. Yes, a DAM solution is an investment. It is not an impulse buy. But, if you drive more savings and revenue with a DAM system, isn’t your investment worthwhile? For starters, check out our handy DAM ROI calculator to understand how much your time is worth. Depending on the complexity of your content workflow, a DAM system can help you get more out of your content investment. Here are a few ways:

  • Revenue: DAM systems give you visibility into who is using your content, where, when, and how. Backed by data insights, you can optimize content efforts by focusing on the visual content that drives the most sales.
  • Search and share time: Time is money. When employees spend hours looking for, downloading, emailing, and saving digital assets, you are accruing costs. This time adds up over the course of a year and can cost companies thousands of dollars in salary costs. With a DAM system, users can find what they need in a matter of minutes.
  • Asset creation and repurposing savings: If you can’t find content, your design team needs to spend time recreating it. Likewise, if teams require different file formats and sizes, you’ll sacrifice time and money converting files over and over again. Whereas a DAM system automatically converts file formats for you.

Does it have to be one or the other?

File-sharing tools are often a stepping stone for organizations that eventually transition to a DAM solution. But, the two solutions can also complement each other. Many DAM vendors offer integration options to connect their system with popular file-sharing tools. By connecting both systems, you can enhance the use of file-sharing tools and accomplish more. Here are a few common ways file-sharing and DAM systems work together:

  • Accessibility: Sync assets from your DAM system to your desktop and mobile devices (or vice versa) for convenience or offline viewing
  • Flexibility: Distribute files to disparate groups, like printers or agency partners, who already use a file-sharing tool
  • Automation: Put a hot folder on your desktop so you can automatically upload large files, like videos, to your DAM system. Just drag and drop files and your DAM system will handle the upload behind the scenes.
  • Versatility: Allow non-users to upload content to your DAM system via sync capabilities with file-sharing tools

There’s more where that came from!

If you need additional guidance, our knowledgeable team is here. We are happy to answer your questions or provide more information to help you determine if a file-sharing solution, DAM system, or combination of the two is right for you and your organization. Contact our team today!

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