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Combining On-Premise And SaaS DAM Strategies

by Ralph Windsor on June 5, 2014

Jeff Lawrence, of DAM consultants, Celerity has written an article for CMSWire: Finding the Perfect Balance Between SaaS and In-House DAM.  This is an interesting subject which does not get discussed as widely as it should.  Jeff describes the various scenarios where an on-premise (or in-house hosted) DAM might be more suitable than a SaaS option – and vice versa:

A hybrid solution can effectively serve the needs of the internal customers, while efficiently distributing assets to external customers. Additionally a hybrid solution allows the organization to rapidly scale externally to meet market demands while reducing the time-to-market.  Not every organization needs a hybrid DAM solution, but if you do, this may provide you with a perfect balance between SaaS and in-house.” [Read More]

A lot of the on-premise benefits (as you might expect) relate to bandwidth and security.  Transferring bandwidth-heavy, high-resolution media over internet connections tends to be a slow process.  Where assets are potentially sensitive, it might be risky (or even prohibited) to move these outside a corporate network.  Set against that, SaaS solutions enable suppliers and external users to more easily access assets over a public network (i.e. the internet) and it is usually quicker to get up and running with a SaaS system because you avoid many of the IT overheads associated with installation and configuration.

There are some topics in Jeff’s article that are worthy of further discussion.  Noting Jeff’s point that not every organisation needs a hybrid DAM solution, I would contend that they actually do, although the extent to which it is one is more open for debate.  For example, we recommend that if you choose a hosted DAM solution you arrange your own independent backup, separate from anything the vendor provides in order to manage risks and protect your data.  Many organisations might achieve that by connecting to the vendor’s servers and downloading it to an internal network location (i.e. within their firewall) and they effectively have a hybrid DAM as a result.  The scenario Jeff describes is a lot more developed and is more oriented to the opposite direction where an on-premise DAM feeds an external system, but other comparable options include integration with in-house solutions.  For example if you have an HR system which stores photos of staff, these might go out of your firewall to an external DAM.  To implement this, it may be necessary to have middleware installed internally which will prepare the photos and link up any associated metadata (either embedded in the image or in corresponding files).  Certainly with larger organisations, hybrid DAM almost becomes a necessity to deliver an integrated DAM strategy that can take advantage of other enterprise applications.  Although there should be a clear line between where responsibility for the DAM starts and ends, both systems may need to have some awareness of each other which will make that not quite as black and white as it may first seem.

My co-contributor, Nick Brookes, covered the news from Canto earlier this week that they are now going to offer their own SaaS DAM, having been one of the principal flag-bearers for the on-premise installed DAM for some time.  Nick described internally hosted application delivery methods as entering a ‘sunset’ period.  I would not disagree with him – and you would have to back SaaS/Cloud systems as eventually becoming dominant since they have the force of momentum behind them.  I do not think this will signal the end of the hybrid DAM either, however.  Rather than On-Premise + SaaS, I can envisage multiple SaaS solutions being used together in an increasingly ad-hoc manner.  In many ways, Cloud platforms positively encourage integration.  While hybrid DAM offers a number of advantages, one of the aspects not discussed in Jeff’s article is the IT complexity of effecting integration between in-house and externally hosted solutions, which can be something of a minefield.  Many of those issues, like passing data through firewalls etc are more easily avoided if all the applications are available externally outside the corporate network.

In one of my own recent CMSWire articles, I talked about how most larger enterprises nearly always end up having to implement multiple DAM solutions because one is rarely sufficient to cover all their requirements.  That seems to be implicit in Jeff’s article and although those that are wedded to their mono-DAMs might want to regard this as a specialist  type of requirement that is not relevant to them, what he describes is not at all uncommon and most end users soon realise it is impractical to hold all your digital assets solely in one repository (whether you call it a DAM system or something else).

I suspect the hybrid DAM topic is less widely discussed because many end users (and some commentators) are still getting to grips with understanding what DAM is and do not yet appreciate the multitude of ways it will soon connect across enterprises (and how long it has been building up to this point already).  That period is rapidly coming to an end now.  Many of the updates we have covered from DAM vendors recently suggest the market is reaching maturity in terms of built-in functionality and the level of innovations is also tailing off as a result.  The action is moving more towards integration and interoperability since this offers a far more wide-ranging opportunity to extend the scope of what DAM systems can do than just building increasingly bloated products that try to offer everything simultaneously.  Hybrid DAM points at what this process might begin to look like and is relevant whether your DAM of choice is a SaaS solution, hosted internally, or already uses both approaches.

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