What is Digital Asset Management?

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Digital assets are assets in digital form, that is, assets that can exist in an electronic file. Digital assets can include text files, database files, presentation software files, PDFs (Portable Document Format files), audio files, graphics files, image files, video files, and software applications. Digital asset management (DAM) is generally handled through a software system for organizing, tracking, maintaining, and distributing digital assets.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

One reason that digital asset management is so important is that the ownership of and rights to digital assets is a complicated area. While it is fairly clear what you may and may not do with a leased car, various digital assets may have different kinds of permissions. The ability to edit assets, the permissions that must accompany their use, and the length of the license for assets that are not fully owned all must be tracked along with the original asset itself. Also, unlike the leased car, it is essential to keep backup copies of digital assets in safe and secure locations where they cannot be degraded, damaged, or lost. With some organizations' digital assets numbering in the hundreds of thousands or more, keeping them organized in a way that maintains their accessibility for a variety of purposes and keeping their file formats update through changing technological developments are critical tasks.

Most organizations that rely on digital assets employ at least one Digital asset management system (DAMS). Also referred to as digital asset software, such systems are usually designed to handle a wide variety of file formats and may have conversion capability. The systems generally have tools for entering new digital assets into the system, controlling permissions so that only appropriate users are granted access to and ability to edit various assets. Other key features in digital asset management software include the ability to tag assets, create versions of assets, and various ways of grouping, reorganizing, and analyzing assets.

Digital asset management software can be simpler or more complex. In its simplest form, it is a browser that allows viewing assets and their metadata, but without storing them. More sophisticated is cataloguing software, which maintains metadata in a separate database. Digital asset management software of the cataloguing type allows for virtual sets. It is also possible for digital asset management software to actually store the assets, enabling it to act as a virtual digital asset server.

Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth is passionate about reading, writing, and research, and has a penchant for correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to contributing articles to wiseGEEK about art, literature, and music, Mary Elizabeth is a teacher, composer, and author. She has a B.A. from the University of Chicago’s writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont, and she has written books, study guides, and teacher materials on language and literature, as well as music composition content for Sibelius Software.

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