Why Use Digital Asset Management Software?
The top performers in our review are Widen Media Collective, the Gold Award winner; Bynder, the Silver Award winner; and Picturepark, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing digital asset management software, along with detail about how we arrived at our ranking of these 10 applications.
As your company grows and thrives, your asset list does too. Beyond the physical assets your company possesses, but no less important, are your digital assets. These could be photos, videos, articles, presentations, research documents, among other digital creations. Initially, you may simply store them on your in-house server and provide employees limited access through an intranet. Although this seems like an easy solution, organizing and accessing those files becomes increasingly difficult as your company grows. Creation is never-ending. Soon you could outgrow your server, with your employees finding it harder to locate specific files. It isn't long before projects and files start falling through the cracks.
Ordo ab chao, is Latin for "out of chaos comes order," and it's a fitting description of how digital asset management software can help your company save money, time and your employees' sanity. A DAM system does more than simply store assets or allow for file sharing. It's a solution to task management and file organization. It helps ensure you use assets that already exist in your arsenal of files, rather than having the creative department recreate an image that you can't find on your server or in your email.
The best digital asset management software keeps your files secure and includes watermarking capabilities so you can protect your copyrights. These systems also let you track usage of files, whether they were modified or approved. You can set permissions to allow your employees access to all of the assets they need and only specific files for clients so you can share works in progress and easily get approval for projects.
Media asset management is becoming more necessary for companies in the digital age, although it may be too much for smaller businesses. For backing up and sharing files, online data backup services could fit your needs. If you need a system that also includes task management, content review and approval, activity audits, easy collaboration, and advanced search capabilities, read our articles about digital asset management software.
DAM Software: The Basic Features You Need
Choosing digital asset management software that works best for your company comes down to the details. All DAM systems let you store and share files, and all of them include search bars so you can find the files you need quickly. However, some media asset management software does this better than others with advanced search functions, such as allowing you to search by file type, category, tag or metadata.
All of the digital asset management solutions we tested give you version control, so you can roll back a document or file to an older version. Not all of the services, however, show you when a user has modified a file. Although some of these features seem advanced, they could be considered basic for your business.
Hosting: Online or On-Premises?
You have a choice about where you store your files and whether you use traditional licensed software or software as a service (SaaS). Almost all of the software in our lineup offers online-hosted service, so your files do not live on your in-house servers. This frees up space on your servers for other data and software, but it also means that you pay a fee to store your assets elsewhere.
The good news is that in most cases, you have unlimited space for those assets. A cloud-based solution also means that you have remote access to the application and assets, a convenience your employees may lose by keeping files on your company's server. However, there are still many DAM software companies that offer an on-premises and cloud hybrid solution so you can use your company's servers and online storage to save on annual or monthly costs.
Although your employees are likely tech savvy, new applications with unfamiliar menu options can include steep learning curves. You want to choose DAM software that includes intuitive menus and shortcuts that are similar to what your employees already use in other programs. If you can't quite figure out how to perform a task within the application, the user guide should have the answer you need, and you should be able to find it quickly.
It's important to choose a digital asset management system that grows with your business. Most of the DAM software available doesn't limit the number of users, which means you can have an infinite number of accounts for employees and clients. It's also important to ensure the storage capacity is large enough to accommodate your existing assets and future assets that you create.
Media asset management software companies offer tiers of storage, so if you have a small business, you only pay for what you need. If you need more space, you can upgrade. Maximum file size is another critical point to check. A single video file can take up several gigs of space, so look for a service that offers unlimited file size. If your company doesn't create large files, you can consider Filecamp, which limits single files to 20GB or smaller. MediaValet limits your maximum file size uploads to 200GB, but you're unlikely to have files that large anyway. If you do regularly have files of that size, the company will work with you.
One of the main reasons to get good digital asset management software is that it gives your employees the ability to effectively search your content quickly and easily. An advanced search function lets you find an asset based on file type, date created or keywords. A typical search lets you find a file if a text keyword exists in the document or title. But if it's an image, video, presentation or other file type, it might be a fruitless endeavor. That's where metadata comes into play.
Digital asset management software applications, such as Canto and Extensis Portfolio, let you include information about the data you've uploaded in an ID tag – think of the keywords like hashtags for your assets – so you can easily find related items in a search. For example, a photographer uploads a picture of a government building surrounded by trees with falling red, gold and orange leaves. You can add descriptions and keywords, such as "fall, autumn, capitol, government building, trees, red, September" and easily find it again with a quick search. Additionally, you can create categories for projects or related files and then simply search for that category to find all files related to that group.
As helpful as it is to have a DAM system organize your files and make it easy for your employees and clients to collaborate on projects, some applications go further. MediaValet and Nuxeo are two examples of digital asset management software that include task management, which means you can assign tasks to users, apply deadlines and schedules and track the progress. This also allows you to set up an approval process through the application. So, if you need a client to sign off on several documents, images and videos for a single project, you can give them access and permission to change the status of each item.
Whether you open up your digital asset manager to clients or keep it for employee use only, you can benefit from the customization options that some software companies, such as Bynder and Widen Media Collective, offer. These applications let you change the look of your software to include your logo, color scheme and designated font. This is especially important if you have clients using the system to sign off on projects because it keeps your brand in their minds.
Even though digital asset management software is powerful and includes several functions of other programs, it isn't an all-in-one platform. If you use customer relationship management applications or content management systems, you are likely to need them still. Some applications, like Widen, let you integrate third-party applications, such as Salesforce and WordPress.
Sharing & Collaboration
The best DAM software include features to make your employee and client relationships work seamlessly. Digital asset management systems such as Picturepark and Razuna include the option of commenting. This allows anyone who has permission to view and modify a particular file to add a comment, which is supplemental and doesn't change the content itself. This is useful when you need a document edited or you need a client's opinion on a project in progress.
You can set up the application to notify you via email when a specific file has been opened or edited, and you can even see which user has modified the file. This can help keep workflow on track. If a change is made to a document and saved, but the client or employee wants to revert to the original file, not all is lost – most DAM software let you go back to older versions of files.
Additionally, most media asset management software applications include reporting options, so you can go through details reports that list various activity with all of your company's digital assets. This is helpful data if you need to know which files are used most often, assets that aren't used at all, and who's using what.
One of the most useful management tools in DAM software is the ability to check in and check out assets. As a user, you can choose a file from the asset list, check it out from the system, download it and make edits. While that file's status is marked as "checked out," no other user can edit it, although they can still view it. Once you're done, you upload the modified file, check it back in and it's ready for the next user. This prevents extra versions or conflicts of files. The best DAM software, such as Widen, Bynder and MediaValet, include this option of locking and unlocking assets.
Software such as Picturepark and Canto let you post to social media platforms directly, which is a timesaver because you don't have to download and then upload to your social media accounts. MediaValet also allows social media sharing, but it's limited to Hootsuite only.
What Else is Important When Choosing Digital Asset Management Software?
Aside from increasing efficiency and improving workflow, digital asset management software needs to keep your files safe in storage and transit. The best media asset management systems protect your files in a variety of ways, including encryptions and watermarking.
Support is also a necessity for any company that's adopting a new application or service, whether it's easy access to customer service, training or comprehensive educational materials. Many DAM software companies include blogs and FAQs to help answer common questions about their products.
You want to look for a digital asset management system that gives you an unlimited number of permission levels because as your company grows, your access levels may vary widely. Not all employees need the same access, and you may want to offer some clients more access than others, depending on the projects you have in progress.
In the same vein as adding keywords to your content, you can add digital watermarks to your assets. Digital rights management is important as you create unique, copyrighted materials. Digital watermarks add bits of information to your content, such as your company's name and the date the file was created, which protects your business's work if it is used improperly.
All DAM software protects your content as it sits in cloud-based storage, but some go several steps further to protect your assets. As your employees and clients share files and information through the application, the data is encrypted, such as in Nuxeo, with secure socket layers (SSL), which is what most websites that transfer sensitive information use. Account IDs and passwords are also encrypted, so the login information for any user is less likely to fall into the hands of someone who wants access to your proprietary information.
All of these security measures make remote access a viable option, so your employees and clients don't have to be at the office to work on, approve or view content in the application. The digital asset management software we evaluated have web-based applications, so as long as you have access to a browser and an internet connection, you can get to your files. You can access your DAM software from mobile devices, but many software companies also offer apps that make it even easier for your employees and clients to access files through their iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. Also, all of the software or SaaS in our lineup are cross-platform, so if you have a mix of Windows and Mac users, they can all use these systems.
Help & Support
When you run into a snag with the application or you need a question answered immediately, you can count on software companies like Razuna and Bynder that offer phone, email and live chat support. Nearly all of the applications in our lineup offer phone and email support. Only Filecamp answers questions via email. If you prefer to find the answer to a question on your own, you can refer to the FAQs section on the manufacturer's websites.
Getting started with DAM software can be daunting, but you can get specialized training from some software providers. Widen and Bynder, for example, offer on-site training for your employees, but it comes at an extra cost. MediaValet offers online training, and it comes standard with any contract.
Digital asset management software is rich with features, so it can be overwhelming for some users initially. Companies such as Picturepark and Nuxeo offer a variety of educational resources on their websites in the form of blog posts, articles, videos and whitepapers to help you better understand the application's capabilities.
Our Verdict & Recommendations
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. The software companies had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
The most comprehensive DAM software we tested and reviewed is Widen Media Collective. It is far and away the easiest program to use, and it offers a variety of helpful resources. The interface is natural for anyone who has used a computer – the drag-and-drop feature lets you instinctively move between this digital asset management software and other programs. You can integrate a number of third-party programs, which makes work for all users even easier.
Bynder starts you off with a tour of the program, but the software is fairly intuitive anyway, so it's almost unnecessary. If your company deals with several brands, you likely have a variety of rules, logos and best practices for each one, so Bynder's internal wiki feature is helpful. You can make those rules clear to your employees for each brand.
Although Picturepark is not as intuitive as other DAM software, it's a powerful program. Some features and menu items aren't immediately recognizable, but once you get to know what each command is, the software becomes easier to use. The color-coded status triangles let you know at a glance whether an asset is available or not.
If your business requires DAM software that quickly processes requests, you want to look into mission-critical software like Nuxeo. For example, if your company controls the screens at a gas pump, you want to ensure that as soon as a customer enters their credit card, they're seeing the right ad for them and the area. Your company's coding recognizes that the person at the pump is in Miami, Florida, in October, and it's 80 degrees outside – so it immediately pulls an advertisement for an icy cold soda. A customer in Minnesota filling up at a separate station at the exact same time might get an advertisement for a hot cup of coffee.
When you need the best DAM software, it's important to look at more than features – most digital asset management software has the same features. You want to know how the software is going to work for your needs, for your users and for your company. Read our articles to find out more about each company and to learn which one is made for your business's unique needs.