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Bynder’s New Platform Hasn’t Quite Made It Into ‘Orbit’

Spencer Harris has contributed this preliminary review of Bynder’s recently released free DAM solution, Orbit.

 

On July 25th of this year Emily Kolvitz from Bynder made an announcement on LinkedIn that the company would soon be launching ‘a free DAM’ claiming it is intended for ‘everyone’, ‘even your mom. Your neighbor. Your friends who still use Dropbox and Box.’ Earlier this month, Bynder formally launched Orbit, ‘the first ever, free forever SaaS DAM for everyone.’

Under-whelmed and Under-Developed

I have had my account active for only a few days and uploaded half a dozen personal assets to test out the basics of their platform. My initial feeling (and this is a common amongst other DAM professionals) is that I am under-whelmed. While the platform has a clean interface in terms of their color pallet selection and hidden menus, there is nothing ‘out of this world’ about their platform (except their pricing plans). There isn’t any new or unique functionality to their platform.

When you go to your ‘Account Overview’ there is a section where you can supposedly integrate Orbit with other solutions such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, but these are all ‘coming soon’ integrations. I am not sure why the developers wouldn’t have this ready to go for the public launch. To me, this is mission critical functionality to have up and running before launching.

There are a few other core DAM features that are either missing or not being done automatically. When uploading assets, the upload window asks you to identify the file type for the assets you are uploading. This identification also exists if you are doing a bulk upload. This should be automatic based on file extension. Then there is the metadata, or better yet, lack. The system doesn’t extract standard metadata, nor does it give you the option to edit standard metadata fields. The only type of ‘metadata’ option you have are ‘tags’.

Pricing is out of this World

At this point, there are three tiers of service: Free Forever, Orbit Plus, and Tailored. The free option, can be attractive to ‘everyone’, including my ‘mom’ and ‘neighbor’, and Bynder promises that this account level will always remain free. However, this account tier tops out at 10GB of cloud storage (you can get up to 100GB if you invite friends to your account, much like Dropbox), which isn’t bad compared to other cloud-based storage competitors. However, when the time comes to grow your storage needs you move up a tier, to Orbit Plus. This is where you start to leave planet Earth with astronomical pricing.

Going back to the idea that this platform is for ‘everyone’, including your ‘mom’ and ‘neighbor’, the Orbit Plus tier doesn’t speak to the general public, but more to experienced DAM professionals, small businesses, and maybe even commercial photographers. At a whopping €379 EUR ($454 USD) a month (they are currently offering an introductory price of €100 EUR a month less)! That is over €4,500 EUR ($5,400 USD) a year for Orbit Plus! This price only gets you 1TB of cloud storage plus some additional features and functions. That is 40 times more expensive than the $99 USD a year for 1TB of storage on Dropbox!

While the orbit platform has a better interface for viewing your rich media, and some functionality like file conversion (coming soon) that you do not get with other cloud storage solutions, I am not sure it is really worth 40 times more in price. I know for sure my ‘mom’, ‘neighbor’ or ‘friends’ are not going to see the benefit and be prepared to pay that kind of money.

Not only that, my ‘mom’ or ‘neighbor’ aren’t really the ones who have a need for file conversion. They primarily originate media using their smart phones and store their files on the cloud storage offered by the phone manufacture, (e.g. iCloud, etc).

With this pricing, I am left to ask the question, who is the end user they have designed this for? The price point and functionality at each tier does not support the idea of being designed for the general public. Rather, this suggests the idea of a paid test environment for perspective clients who could potentially move to their main platform a low cost way to ‘kick the tires’ and see how they like the platform.

As I mentioned earlier, Bynder Orbit does offer integrations with eleven other solutions, but right now it isn’t clear if these integrations are something that will be part of the free account or is something you have to pay extra for. If this platform is designed for the general public, then minimally six of the eleven integrations need to be part of the free account in order to draw in a general audience.

Orbit Plus has three features that should not be charged for: App Integration, Sharing History and Email Support. If Bynder wants ‘everyone’ to use their new platform, then ‘everyone’ shouldn’t have to pay extra for the mobile app or the ability to connect to their Dropbox or Box accounts. In addition, the fact that I have to pay extra to see when and who I shared assets with feels it bit like a hostage situation forcing me to pay the excessive monthly subscription.

And with regards to the email support, why do I have to pay extra to get this type of support when the platform offers an instant chat option with a free account? They do have a knowledge base section where you can go if the instant chat isn’t online. I have also noticed, that when on the site outside of their European office hours, the instant chat allows you to send an email question for follow-up during normal business hours. So, the question now becomes, what is the service level difference between for the free account versus the paid account?

The DAM Qualification Test

It is important to put any new DAM platform up against the DAM Foundations 10 Core Characteristics as a way to evaluate how much of a true DAM it is. While it can be argued if some of the characteristics truly exist in a platform, I am basing this evaluation from the perspective of an end-user without having a sales rep from the company trying to convince me a certain function or characteristic actually exists in the platform.

  • Ingest – Check (You can upload assets but doesn’t pull any embedded metadata.)
  • Secure – Check (HIPAA Compliant and ISO 27001:2013)
  • Store – Half Check (Your assets are stored on an AWS server; however, metadata isn’t extractable or editable at this time.)
  • Render/Transform – Half Check (Previews are rendered upon ingest. No file conversions at this time.)
  • Enrich – Half Check (Can use tags and collections to improve findability. Reading or editing existing metadata or creating new metadata fields doesn’t exist at this time.)
  • Relate – No Check (Tracking assets relationships between originals and versions doesn’t exist at this time.)
  • Structured Process – No Check (There isn’t any sort of collaboration, workflow, or automated processes at this time.)
  • Find – Check (Broad searching only – no advanced searching. Filtering – Only two options.)
  • Preview – Check (Multiple Preview Options)
  • Produce/Publish – Check (Can share with other users and download. No social media publishing at this time.)

Based on the list of core characteristics that is accepted by the DAM industry, Bynder Orbit gets a score of 6.5/10. With that score, I don’t think it is appropriate for Bynder to promote this solution as a DAM solution just yet, but rather a more robust file sharing solution. They need to improve the core functionality before the platform will be considered a legitimate DAM solution by its competition or DAM professionals.

DAM Right

What Bynder has done correctly with Orbit is to make the interface clean in terms of their color pallet selection and hidden menus. The upload window is non-obtrusive and after uploading the user is presented with a separate window that gives you the ability to individually or bulk apply tags and assign assets to a collection as a way to organize and find your assets later.

The asset previews are reasonable in size and give you key information below the asset. Hovering over the asset allows you to individually select the asset to be downloaded or shared (as well as a mini-menu of related options) and you can click on an asset to open a larger preview and see the assigned tags and collections.

The cleanliness and simplicity of the main interface does make this a platform that can be used by ‘everyone’, including my ‘mom’, ‘neighbor’ or ‘friends’ without any prior DAM knowledge or experience.

 My DAM Thoughts

Overall, this is a clean solution with regards to the interface and a good start for anyone interested in a cloud-based file sharing platform. The big question that I am still trying to answer is, who is the primary customer for this edition? It seems this solution is meant to be a ‘sandbox’ version of their more robust solution for perspective clients. If that is the case, then again, they should not be marketing this as a solution for everyone.

This could also be a ‘lite’ version of their main platform that can be good for a small businesses or commercial photographer with a small budget and in need of a solution that is stronger than Dropbox or Box to share their assets. But, the market does not appear to be the same one they target in their marketing literature.

This product, on the surface, may appeal to a DAM professional like myself, who want the functionality of an enterprise system but who lack the enterprise budget. However, as I pointed out above there is some core functionality that is currently missing that stop it from qualifying as a true DAM, and therefore would be a hard sell to this target group. It feels like the marketing materials were prepared without proper consultation with the product development team and that Orbit is more like a ‘trial’ edition of their paid-for solution.

With the exception of the free account (and based on the pricing model) this is not an ideal solution for the general public users they claim they wish to target. Further, they need to tweak the functionality offered at each pricing level. If it is truly meant for the general public then the ‘Tailored’ plan option is unnecessary and renaming it to ‘Small Business’ might be more appropriate, (not enterprise as this is clearly not a solution aimed at that audience).

I would strongly suggest that they offer storage upgrade only options for the free account. As for the plus version, I would suggest $99 to $149 USD a month or perhaps $1,000 to $1,500 USD for up-front payments. This would make it more economic and justifiable for users beyond the Free Forever tier.

 

Stay tuned for my in-depth review of Bynder’s Orbit Saas, Cloud-Based solution.


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