DAM vs CMS: What Is The Difference?

Stephen McAreavey
June 10, 2022

Both allow users to manage content, but digital asset management (DAM) platforms and content management systems (CMS) solve very different problems for different company departments. To maximise the potential from each platform it’s really important that companies understand the nuances between the two, and what content should go where. 

As well as outlining the differences between DAM and CMS offerings, we’ll answer a very common question; “If I have a CMS, do I really need a DAM?” (Spoiler alert: the answer is yes!).

Here’s what you need to know about DAM and CMS:

  • What are the definitions of DAM and CMS?
  • What are the features of DAM and CMS? 
  • What should I use DAM and CMS for?

CMS Definition TechTarget

A content management system (CMS) is a software application that enables users to create, edit, collaborate on, publish and store digital content. CMSes are typically used for enterprise content management and web content management.

Essentially, your CMS is the foundation for your website. The CMS enables you to edit, publish, and remove content on your site, making it an invaluable tool for multiple teams who may not have coding experience. 

A CMS’s media library acts as a repository for content that’s being shared on your website. It can usually store digital files by uploading them into a media library. However, its searching, sharing and permission capabilities are limited, so it is not an appropriate storage or management solution for media which is not part of your website.

Use your CMS to:

  • Search for and retrieve relevant web content 
  • Set very basic access permissions to edit and view
  • Report on your website content
  • Store and index web pages and copy

DAM Definition TechTarget

Digital asset management (DAM) is a business process for organising, storing and retrieving rich media and managing digital rights and permissions. Rich media assets include photos, music, videos, animations, podcasts and other multimedia content.

A DAM platform helps companies organise, collaborate on, and distribute their digital assets and media from one central repository. DAM systems provide a single source of truth for all the important digital content within an organisation, which helps to reduce bottlenecks, improves consistency, and ensures digital assets are kept secure and resilient to human error. 

DAM systems can store nearly any type of digital file; from audio to images, documents to videos, even digital evidence for court cases. Within the platform users can reformat their media, track usage and change history, view how their assets are being used, and share selected media with third-parties. Utilising a DAM system is also one of the best ways to ensure digital assets are kept as secure as possible; organisations can change user permissions on an individual level, ensure compliance with regulations, recover assets, and create watermarks to assert ownership. 

Use your DAM platform to:

  • Store and manage all forms of digital assets
  • Find and retrieve assets using advanced search mechanisms 
  • View comprehensive audit trails
  • Enrich assets with custom metadata and keywords

“If I have a CMS, do I really need a DAM?” Yes!

A CMS is an invaluable tool for democratising website editing. They allow teams throughout organisations to edit and publish website content without code, as well as providing a safe container for their site content. 

However, they are not suitable for a company’s entire digital media library or an important digital archive With limited search functionality, trying to use a CMS for all your assets may cause more bottlenecks and confusion than you had in the first place. 

DAM software is purpose built for huge libraries of varying types of content. Organisations looking to bring digital calm to their data and safeguard their assets should invest in a dedicated DAM solution.

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