Selecting an Open Source Solution for Managing Distributed Digital Assets

Digital Asset Management (DAM) has become an essential tool for increasing business agility. As your business grows, digital assets multiply exponentially. With digital information originating from different production and collaboration points, both internally and externally, data inconsistencies and noise increasingly challenge productive workflow. A DAM system ingests, catalogs, stores, and distributes digital assets throughout a dispersed business environment. With digital information organized and readily available, workflows can be integrated and automated, thus reducing information replication, errors, and bottlenecks. A DAM increases the efficiency of your distributed workflow by bridging the information gap between data sources, bringing clarity to production processes and decision-making.

Choosing a DAM system for your unique business model, however, can be overwhelming. To assist your business in sorting through the options, this whitepaper outlines key considerations for selecting amongst the general features as well as emerging technologies and services.

Compatibility with Infrastructure

A primary concern in choosing a DAM is the need for integration with existing or future IT systems. DAMs integrate, or map, a business’ existing digital assets into a centralized organizational format, but their ability to ingest data from different origins can vary widely. But what if your business’ assets are distributed amongst multiple databases and file systems that may or may not be compatible, or if your business outgrows the current state of DAM development?

It can be time-consuming and costly to contract with a proprietary DAM to customize data solutions that suit your unique and growing business needs. Some DAMS rely on ingestion software that limits data conversion options. Even more, development and updating of proprietary DAMs are constrained by the vendor’s resources and support. If a particular vendor fails to thrive, businesses that use their DAM will also suffer the consequences. Since proprietary DAMs constrain a business’ data within the host application only, your business growth and adaptation are locked into the development timetable of the vendor. When the DAM fails to meet growing business needs, you must re-invest in an entire new data management solution. 

The most compatible DAM solutions have an open Application Programming Interface (API), which support a business’ ability to engage with increasingly complex data infrastructures. An API creates a collaborative service environment that integrates multiple enterprise and business software tools. DAMs that are based on open-source  code can be customized to specific business ecosystems by in-house developers, avoiding the need for ongoing external consulting and support. Compared to open-source DAMs that employ Java or Microsoft.NET as their platform, DAMs based on languages such as Python are relatively easy for experienced internal IT staff to pick up and manipulate for specific business needs. As a result, these DAMs are highly flexible and scalable with a reasonable price point. 

Implementation, Training and Support

Access to asset management implementation and operational support is critical to successfully employing a DAM system. While all the leading DAMs provide training, the type of support varies widely. Training ranges from access to online videos, forums, and FAQs for in-house IT staff to webinars and classes for employees across the corporate spectrum. In addition, some DAM solutions offer private consulting but the costs and knowledge base of consultants varies widely.

Some DAMs, especially proprietary solutions, offer complete—but potentially costly– implementation support. In addition to large initial investments in trademarked software, associated hardware or technical infrastructure for proprietary DAMs, businesses must account for the less obvious costs of employee training and ongoing business support. While DAMs like North Plains offer a range of support services throughout the implementation process, the cost may be prohibitive for a growing business, especially with regard to consulting hours for ongoing refinement of the digital assets become more distributed and complex. During budgetary fluctuations, businesses may find it difficult to afford necessary data maintenance and systemic updates. Since selecting another DAM after the initial investment will be overwhelming and costly, both in time and money, a business is ‘hooked’ into continuing investment with the system regardless of continued costs. 

Open-Source

Open-source DAMs are affordable but some structure their costs in ways that may make the overall investment opaque in the initial stages. Many proprietary vendors, for instance, offer a free trial for 30 days with a pay-per-seat cost structure thereafter. For implementation and customization, they provide online access to their development staff for general questions and urgent requests for technical assistance. However, the technical aspects of applying a DAM solution must go hand in hand with workflow analysis and up-to-date best practices of data management, which increases costs in time and consulting hours. Without initial investment in those consulting hours, your business could spend significant time learning how the DAM functions particular business workflows and data. 

One open-source DAM offers a more investment-friendly cost structure. TACTIC is free to download and licensed through an approved open source license. A business’ in-house IT staff can employ the open-source code with assistance from community support forums to inexpensively and rapidly customize TACTIC for specific business ecosystems. Commercial site licenses are available as well at zero cost-per-seat with multiple, professional consulting support packages at a range of cost points. Support services range from webinars for your business’ internal administrators, to set-price and affordable block hours for consulting on workflow, deployment, and technical issues. These services are designed to help businesses get up and running quickly in meeting specific needs with the TACTIC system. Combining the full support service of a proprietary solution with a range of development resources for in-house IT staff provides budgetary flexibility and scalability.

Functionality and Product Development

Most of the leading DAMs provide similar functionality and ability—with a few exceptions. Generally speaking, a solid DAM offers: 

● Integration with existing infrastructure 

● Centralized data storage 

● Support for common file types 

● Efficient search and retrieval 

● Configurability and scalability 

● Asset version control 

● Web based interface 

● Localization of assets 

● Task and project management tools

A business should not bear the brunt of ongoing product development. Beyond considering the state of product evolution at purchase, businesses should expect ongoing development and updates of the DAM they invest in. Companies that offer proprietary DAMs are operating in their own business ecosystem and can shift development focus away from the product your business invested in causing concern about a product merging or a shift in development focus away from their DAM.

Open-source DAMs are not subject to the same market pressures as proprietary products. While the possibility of in-house development is a benefit of open-source APIs, many DAMs rely only on users to extend the capabilities of their product. For example, vendors often provide email lists and community forums to connect their business customers for the exchange of information regarding product customization and development.

By comparison, TACTIC maintains their own development to extend the DAM for ever-widening types of business ecosystems. For instance, TACTIC continues to expand its toolset for supporting a broad range of data structures. In addition, TACTIC continues to create apps for specific business needs whereas other DAM systems provide a standard and static set of initial apps and rely on business consumers for further development.

Conclusion

In choosing a solution for managing distributed digital assets, open-source solutions offer more flexibility and scalability compared to proprietary DAMs. Proprietary DAMs may be costly to implement and become constrained by resources or support for continued development. By comparison, open-source solutions offer a less expensive option for DAM implementation and operation, allowing your business to retain the choice for managing information assets by either engaging professional consultants or relying on inhouse IT staff. While both proprietary and open-source DAMs offer similar basic functionality, open-source solutions are more reliably adaptable in the development arena. Even amongst open-source solutions, however, business consumers should look for a DAM that offers continued commitment to cutting edge developments.