Digital Asset Management: Are in-house solutions headed for the Cloud?

cloudvinhIf you’re of a certain age you’ll remember the important role the fax machine played in any office environment. With email and the universal appeal of PDFs ‘fax’ has floated downstream to live with words like ‘mimeograph’ and ‘overhead transparency sheet’.

With all the talk of cloud based storage, applications and services is it truly time to have a blowout ‘every server must go’ parking lot sale? A few IT departments might agree that it’s time to move everything to the cloud but others will take a more cautious approach.


There are lots of easy to identify cloud computing advantages from the IT side, cost savings, less IT interaction, no server hardware to purchase, setup/maintain, etc. On the flip-side workflow related benefits require more investigation and thought. Every organization has its own unique workflow making it difficult to paint a broad stoke on what cloud computing has to offer to all.

Wimpy or Beefy

Going with a cloud based DAM provider can be a no-brainer if you have limited IT resources (or none at all). Setup is generally easy and requires little to no technical know-how. If you have a beefy (or semi-beefy) IT department an in-house DAM should be pretty painless.

Hub and Spoke or Silo

Fancy title huh? I’m basically trying to say if you have multiple offices, employees that work from the field, or outside consultants you’re hub and spoke. If you have a main office or campus and don’t have lots of people who work on the road your workflow is siloed.

One could make a case that both hub and spoke and siloed workflows can equally benefit from in-house or cloud based solutions.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that there are many ways to service outside vendors, employees and contractors without having a cloud based DAM. A few in-house vendors offer add-ons that will allow you to easily share and distribute assets via the internet.

Security and Control

If you’re part of a small workgroup (making most of the IT related choices) you’ll have no one to convince that assets are safe and secure in the cloud.

If working with your IT department, you might find yourself in a tech heavy conversation around the cloud being less secure and more vulnerable to intrusion. This concern is not unwarranted but let’s be honest hackers aren’t interested in your company holiday party images or that great InDesign layout you made last week (not exactly high value targets).

Speak to your cloud based DAM vendor about security. It won’t be the first time they’ve had the topic come up and will likely already have ‘IT speak’ FAQs or white papers.

Control. Moving to the cloud means that you will be giving up absolute control of your assets. In basic, you’ll be relying on someone (or something) to make sure you can search, preview, and work with your assets quickly. Redundancy and high availability are also out of your hands. Ditto for backup.

Cloud Gotchas

The cloud seems dreamy right? No noisy hardware in the office, access from home (preferably poolside) and easy access while onsite with a client.

There are a few caveats to a cloud based DAM, one is setup fees. Typically anything other than a very limited base account will come with fees. These one-time fees typical start at $1000 and go up.

Technical limitations and challenges of going all-in with cloud need to be considered. What if your internet connection goes down? Work stops. What if your cloud DAM vendor has a service outage? You won’t be able to go in through the file system as you could with many in-house solutions.

If your organization produces hundreds or thousands of assets a day how much time will be spent uploading and downloading from the cloud? Do you have budget to dramatically increase your pipe to the internet? Are you willing to pay more for a cloud solution that offers upload/download acceleration?

Unhappy with your cloud vendor? “Oh no they have all our files, how do we get them back?” “What will happen to all the metadata we entered?”

Take away? Ask lots of questions before you make a small or large jump to the cloud.

Mix and Match?

The majority of organizations will benefit from an in-house plus cloud based hybrid blend. High value/often used, sensitive/proprietary, and large size assets have a place behind your firewall on your fast local area network.

Assets that need to be shared with others or accessed easily while in the field will be more at home in the cloud.

The Future?

As cloud offerings continue to grow and mature we might find our server rooms getting smaller and smaller. We may also find that we no longer have a desktop PC.


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  1. Cloud vs. Premise Solutions

About Max Mabe

With 15+ years of experience working professionally with technology Max Mabe has a diverse background in the areas of Fine Art, digital photography, graphic design, digital production workflow, DAM and Font Management. As the Product Manager for DAM Solutions for Extensis, Max helps drive the development of new features for the DAM product line. Previously as the Manager of the Integration and Consulting team, he developed, implemented and delivered workflow discovery sessions along with product training to a large and diverse customer base. Before managing the ICS team, Max worked as a Senior Systems Engineer for Extensis. Prior to Extensis, he worked as a Production Manager for a large digital photography studio in New York City. Max has a deep knowledge of Windows and Mac operating systems (desktop and server) and is fluent with all Creative Suite Applications. He holds a BFA from The School of Visual Arts along with other tech-related certifications.