The Ultimate Digital Asset Management Guide / Chapter 2
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The Ultimate Digital Asset Management Guide / Chapter 2

The Evolution of Digital Asset Management Systems: On-Premise, Cloud, and Dynamic

The Evolution of Digital Asset Management Systems: On-Premise, Cloud, and Dynamic

Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions amplify the benefits of rich media, such as images and videos, by centrally storing, sharing, and organizing digital assets. Today, images and videos are still trending, and rich forms of 3D and 360⁰ photos and videos are rapidly gaining traction. As dynamic user interactions become more popular, assets are no longer static.

To face these challenges, brands and retailers are searching for new solutions to deploy digital assets to a range of devices. Multiple deployment options are available, including on-premise, public, and hybrid cloud environments.

See Chapter 1 of this guide for a comprehensive introduction of digital asset management (DAM).

Evolution of the Digital Asset Lifecycle

In the past few years, the digital asset lifecycle has evolved in significant ways.

Traditional Digital Asset Lifecycle

Traditionally, the lifecycle of digital assets contains four main phases, as shown here:

Traditional Digital Asset Lifecycle

New Digital Asset Lifecycle

A variety of stakeholders must review and approve media assets to ensure brand consistency. Stakeholders can include creative, marketing, and development teams. Once reviews are complete, media can be processed and delivered.

Effective and dynamic DAM solutions enable these functional teams to seamlessly and efficiently work on assets. This process takes several stages, including collaboration on assets, dynamic manipulation, and dynamic publishing across devices and channels.

Evolution of Digital Media and DAM solutions

When they first debuted in the 1990s, DAM Solutions played only a minor role in the media stack. The table below describes how those systems have evolved from a niche media-storage tool to an organization-wide enabler over the past two decades:

Evolution of Digital Media and DAM solutions

Basic Media

Brands created digital images primarily for convenience of sharing, followed by printing and deployment as required.

Main focus:File sharing

Assets:Videos and photos

Target audience:Publishing and print companies


Creative Library for
Big Brands

DAM vendors added visual content to their storage offering. Some offered specialized Media Asset Management systems.

Main focus:Management of photos, videos, and visual documents

Assets:Photos, videos, and visual documents

Target audience:Major consumer brands and marketers



DAM vendors offered integrations with marketing platforms, such as Management Information Systems (MIS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools and Product Information Management (PIM) tools.

Main focus:Scalable marketing strategies with metadata as a key part of marketing automation

Assets:Brand visuals, social media, videos, and photos

Target audience:Marketers, content writers, and eCommerce stores


Dynamic Media

Dynamic, organization-wide DAM solutions manage and manipulate assets, optimizing end-user experiences.

Main focus:The entire asset spectrum: creation, storage, categorization, manipulation, optimization, approval, search, and delivery

Assets:Videos, photos, infographics, and documents

Target audience:Creative, marketing, and development teams; and end-users

DAM Deployment Models

The initial DAM solutions were on premise and stand-alone. The emergence of the cloud offered a much more economical, versatile, and convenient alternative. Nowadays, DAM solutions must manage assets dynamically to satisfy the growing need for asset uploads, sharing, manipulation, and distribution.

On-premise DAM

On-premise DAM

On-premise DAM solutions are still in use by large enterprises to fulfil regulatory requirements of data storage of graphic files.

  • Total control by IT: In-house IT management and maintenance, including system backups and security updates.
  • Stable production environments: In some cases, companies prefer to defer the adoption of certain releases, upgrading them only when deemed necessary.
Dynamic DAM

Dynamic DAM

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Dynamic DAM solutions enable functional teams to streamline asset workflow, maximize asset value, and optimize visual experiences across all touchpoints.

  • Organization-wide collaboration: Creative, marketing, and development teams can collaborate seamlessly on these systems, maximizing the value of assets.
  • Cloud-scale architecture: The single-cloud platform provides high performance.
  • Extensible APIs: These APIs can integrate with tools like Content Management Systems (CMS), Product Information Management (PIM) systems, and other project-management tools.
  • More efficient publishing process: These systems can automate the creation of multiple versions of images or videos with no delays or dependencies.
  • Optimization of customer experience: You can customize digital content on these systems for personalized delivery.
Cloud DAM

Cloud DAM

Cloud-based DAM solutions offer many benefits related to cost, speed, scalability, accessibility, and distribution.

  • Scalability: Most companies are rapidly accumulating digital assets. Because of their scalability, cloud-based systems are ideal for flexible storage, providing processing power according to your needs.
  • Hosting: Systems are web-hosted, making deployment fast and straightforward. The system vendors manage all the upgrades, maintenance, and system backups.
  • Security: Public cloud vendors, like AWS, Azure, and GCP, apply multiple layers of security to protect customer data.
  • Cost: Typically, cloud DAM solutions are less expensive with no purchases necessary for replacement hardware, software, or storage.
Hybrid DAM

Hybrid DAM

In some cases, companies opt for both cloud and on-premise deployments, for example, for storage of financial records on site and marketing material in the cloud.

  • Maintenance: The system vendors manage all the upgrades, maintenance, and system backups.
  • Cost: With the benefits of the cloud, these systems require a lower budget to run.
  • Internet access: These systems are not fully dependent on Internet access, hence no downtime risks during power outages.

Adaptation to the Modern Digital Asset Lifecycle

Early DAM solutions were replaced by ones capable of streamlining creative workflows and facilitating collaboration. With modern DAM solutions, you can move digital assets efficiently through an integrated pipeline, from creation to distribution. However, the final frontier—delivery of personalized and optimized assets to end-users—has yet to be perfected.

Visual storytelling is a proven marketing tool; brands tell stories with engaging images and videos, make emotional connections, and inspire users to engage. The brands’ ultimate successes lie not just in asset management, but also in the consistent delivery of personalized and optimized experiences at scale. However, this type of delivery slows down the time to market and raises costs.

Dynamic DAM solutions, which enable cross-team collaboration on a single cloud platform, can be a solution. These systems eliminate functional silos and bridge the gap between asset management and delivery.

Adaptation to the Modern Digital Asset Lifecycle
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Dynamic DAM solutions

To maintain a competitive edge, you must publish media quickly and at scale to websites and mobile apps. You must deliver consistent visual experiences to consumers. Adopting a dynamic DAM system enables you to organize assets before finalizing or publishing, meeting those needs.

An example of a dynamic DAM system is Cloudinary, which offers the following advanced features:

  • Transform images on demand to any format, style, or dimension.
  • Optimize images by minimizing their file size without losing quality to accelerate page loads.
  • Resize or crop images to match the graphic design of your website or mobile app.
  • Optimize the visual quality and compression level of JPEG, JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, WebP, and GIF images.
  • Apply image filters and effects.
  • Automatically transcode and optimize uploaded videos for web browsers and mobile devices.
  • Embed videos in web pages with HTML5 video tags.
  • Stream videos during their encoding phase and deliver them through a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
  • Resize and crop videos to match the graphic design of your website or mobile app.
  • Rotate videos freely.
  • Dynamically adjust image resolution, format, or quality to fit website designs.
  • Automatically retrieve media files from remote locations and deliver them through a CDN.
  • Resize or crop social media profile pictures and deliver them through a CDN.
  • Deliver PDF files, convert them to images, and generate thumbnails.
  • Automatically tag media libraries to add metadata for searches.
  • Automatically identify appropriate content to facilitate rapid deployment of searchable metadata. Especially useful for media libraries that serve the travel, tourism, and hospitality arenas.
  • Automatically pinpoint the primary foreground subjects of photos and remove the background to eliminate superfluous or distracting content.
  • Auto-crop images for delivery of different aspect ratios.