DAM – SaaS vs. On premise

Every organization needs a DAM system. Organizations vary greatly in size so often one of the first considerations is what platform to choose: SaaS/Cloud or on premise. At one time this would have been viewed as a very backwards way to approach your investigation of a solution. Consultants would tell their clients to look at requirements first and map to functionality and then find some candidates to investigate further. Traditional benefits of DAM such as:

  • Find assets/files fast
  • Enrich assets with metadata and organize them
  • Share assets securely with remote users (workers and consumers)
  • Granular control of permissions
  • On the fly media renditions
  • Workflows for both process and approval
  • Process automation
  • Integration with other systems
  • Centralize control and costs
    …are assumed to be part of any solution you would consider.

DAM – and development – has matured to the point where most systems have most of the functionality required. How the solution fits into your workflow and the other platforms and software you use, can actually make or break a candidate system as easily as budget can. Functionality is less important than it used to be because most good purveyors of DAM systems use rapid development disciplines so features can be rolled out more easily and integrations are much more feasible because APIs are web services able to be used in almost any development environment.

Some platform choices are pre-decided. Companies will mandate a SaaS solution because they do not have the IT bandwidth to maintain it in-house or because strategically, they have decided to go with hosted/cloud solutions. Where there is actually a choice to be made, there are a number of factors which are very important to be aware of as well as lesser factors. The really important factors are:

Access Speed
Many will tell you speed with today’s internet is a non-issue. This is particularly the case with ubiquitous mobile users. This is very often true. If your use case is to share smaller files in the single to low double digit MB range it is a non-issue. A solution for sales and marketing to share collateral with a few added features like being able to build slide decks should not really impact platform.

Authoring solutions with workflow can be entirely different though, especially when high quality imagery or video is involved. The files are often 100’s of MB in size or much larger, especially with video and they aren’t getting any smaller with better cameras. These don’t move around the internet as smoothly, especially in a production environment where investments in gigabit and 10 gigabit ethernet have been made to keep production moving smoothly. Adobe CC Photoshop and Premiere users who are used to loading files at gigabit LAN speeds will take a significant productivity hit trying to work directly over the internet.

Integration with Other Systems
A smaller number of solutions require a defined integration so this won’t affect as many people looking for a solution. A greater number will like to keep their options open as they have intentions of future integration – often with a CMS. If you have definite integration plans, it is worth looking at the API capabilities of prospective solutions. Good APIs are prevalent in on premise systems where the owner must secure them but might not exist or be robust enough on some SaaS solutions.

Regulatory Issues
Government and institutional users often have requirements that their data and even their system reside in their country. This is especially important because of caching and remote backup as copies of your data can be located on the other side of the globe. Terrorism has made this an even greater concern because it initiated changes to access to information policies which can allow host governments ability to breach assumed privacy. We have seen this in legal cases as well from a number of governments and even the Patriot Act in the US. This is a requirement for some and a non-issue for others but worth understanding the consequences.

When considering a platform it is also good to know that many solutions offer a number of different options. SaaS is a service completely hosted by the provider. Benefits include: no IT Involvement; no hardware investment; continual access to latest updates.

On premise solutions are traditional installations of software on hardware provided by the owner. There are also hybrid solutions which vary greatly as to where the system is and where the data is located. If you want a full-featured solution with the ability to move on premise if you choose, you can simply host your “on premise” solution with an IaaS provider. We have done this with Google and Azure and it would also be easy with Amazon.

You can also mix and match by storing your assets on a different provider. You could have your system hosted in the US and your data hosted in Canada. This is actually becoming much more common with Microsoft opening Azure located in other countries and Amazon doing the same with S3. They are also guaranteeing it doesn’t leave that country. There are also performance hybrids to address special media like video where the video can be stored on a CDN (content delivery network) so that all the renditions and device specific requirements are handled by the CDN.

Don’t feel compelled to choose between SaaS or on premise. You can use parts of both to get a solutions to fit your needs.