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Image management software for businesses: a comprehensive guide

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Do you know what defines professional image management? And have you budgeted for that yet? If not, then this guide should be of welcome help to you.

Since 2006, corporate spending on online advertising has increased more than fivefold. In Germany alone, digital advertising budgets amounted to over 10 billion Euro per year in 2020.

In addition to advertising budgets, corporate investment in digital content creation has also multiplied. So it’s no surprise that digital content is one of the most valuable marketing assets companies have today. In other words: We have fully arrived in the digital age.

But why is so little attention paid to the management of these very digital assets (images, videos, documents, etc.)? Why do many companies not care? And what means can be used to remedy this deficit?

In the following sections, we’ll get to the bottom of these questions and show you ways to get even more out of your company’s digital media assets.

What are digital assets?

There is a very important difference between a digital file and a digital asset. A digital file can be created by any employee. It does not necessarily represent real value to your organization. Whereas digital assets literally means digital assets.

Digital marketing assets include intangible assets and creative works. They come as photos, graphics, videos, audios and texts, often in mixed form, i.e. multimedia content. Together, they form a total that has to be increased. Good digital asset management, always means maximizing the ROI (return on investment).

Due to the complexity and importance of this special field for medium-sized and large companies, it is generally recommended to use a professional image management software. In technical terms such a software is also called digital asset management system. (DAM system or DAM platform for short.)

What is DAM or Digital Asset Management? The solution for professional management of images and other media

DAM stands for digital asset management.

Why does my company need professional image management?

Unlike a simple cloud storage or file sharing service, professional image management software can be used to enrich digital marketing assets from your media pool with relevant additional information and metadata. These are, for example, image descriptions (captions), keywords (tags), license information, copyright notices, references to consent declarations or campaign information.

As a result, a company’s digital assets can be located more quickly and are available for immediate use by all employees with permission access for image management, regardless of location. Needless to say that this increases your team’s productivity. Your digital content production processes accelerate. And ultimately your media reach increases.

In many companies, digital assets are not only generated and used within the marketing department, but often also within corporate communications, event organization, or product and industrial design.

In a professional media management system, all types of digital assets can be managed and organized together. This also includes special file formats such as vector graphics, multimedia presentations or RAW formats.

Why you shouldn’t organize digital assets via services like WeTransfer or Dropbox

Typical cloud storage and file sharing services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive or WeTransfer often only focus on file storage or data transfer. With a cloud-based DAM system, on the other hand, the range of functions is significantly greater than with conventional cloud storage.

A principle of professional media management is to store all assets centrally in unique original versions. If the asset is needed in a different resolution, file size, or file format, the system always reverts to the centrally stored original version to create the modified version of the asset. Even when creating albums, collections, or other curated compilations, assets are not physically copied, but made available virtually. In other words, no unnecessary copies are created that remain permanently in the system. Instead, file references are used to keep the system lean and efficient.

Of course, contemporary image management is not just about efficient organization and secure storage. The functional area of release, distribution and tracking is at least as important. Access and editing rights can usually be assigned granularly to individual users or user groups of the image management. This makes it possible to better distribute digital content within a company. Thus, the degree of utilization of the existing media and image stock increases.

The digital heart of your brand and corporate communications

In contrast to classic cloud storage, which focuses on mere file management, a digital asset management system places the content at the center and seamlessly maps all relevant processes (archiving, structuring, distribution, implementation, tracking) around this core.

Ultimately, cloud-based media management is the digital heart in an organization’s communication processes. Such a system makes it possible to speed up internal processes when working with digital assets, make them more efficient, and ensure the long-term usability of image or video files. After all, you can only achieve maximum ROI if the elaborately produced photo shoot or video unfolds its full potential of media reach and does not “gather dust” unused in a cloud storage.

A DAM platform available online is more comparable to a well-structured, modern library. A library in which all relevant information can be found in a very short time and whose infrastructure makes it possible to easily duplicate results, distribute them quickly and publish them with little effort. By having a central distribution channel for your digital assets within your company, you also ensure consistent and uniform brand visibility, especially in decentralized structures.

State of the art: What else characterizes modern image management?

Modern image management software is usually cloud-based and features an intuitive user interface and a high degree of flexibility and security. Moreover, it is only up to date if the field of machine learning is an integral part. For conceptual classification: machine learning is the basis for the vast majority of forms of artificial intelligence. In practice, the use of artificial intelligence means an extreme acceleration of workflows. Work that previously could only be done manually and with a great deal of time can be performed fully automatically and simultaneously with high precision using an AI platform.

Until now, you may have created keywords by hand, spent hours clicking through folders of photos to find a specific person, or repeatedly found that many files were duplicated and triplicated through your database. When you rely on an AI-powered platform, these problems become a thing of the past. A media management system that has AI modules can save you a great deal of routine work by automatically recognizing people and objects and generating appropriate tags, or identifying duplicates as such as soon as they are uploaded.

Symbol image: automatic recognition of people in photos with AI-assisted image management.

Symbolic image: recognition of people in photos by artificial intelligence

Intelligent file status management

Another feature that can speed up workflow is sophisticated file status management. If the administrative users can immediately see whether an image is still being processed, has been released for public reproduction or has also been blocked, the elimination of communicative necessities not only saves time, but there are also fewer “accidents” due to misunderstandings in the release process.

In summary, it can be said that the introduction of modern media management speeds up workflows in such a way that new time freedoms are created, freedoms that can be used for the actual creative process. So not only do you reduce the production costs of digital marketing assets, but you always encourage the creative output of the entire marketing team.

Best practices – for maximum added value in image management

In the next sections we would like to show you in a practical way how the change from a classic image database to a cloud-based media management platform will succeed without any problems. We start with the question of the right software solution.

How do I find the right software solution for my business?

As with any IT project, you should take a close look at your specific requirements profile at the beginning of the selection process for a suitable digital image management system.

When choosing the right system, the following questions can help you:

    • What types of digital assets should be processed?
      (e.g. photos, illustrations, videos, audios, vector graphics, office formats and presentations)
    • What file formats are used?
      (e.g. jpeg, tiff, png, webp, psd, ai, svg, pdf, mp4, mov, ppt, docx)
    • Approximately how much storage do I need to get started?
    • Can existing data structures (keyword tree, synonym directory, etc.) be transferred to the new system?
    • Which departments should use the system internally in the future?
      (e.g. marketing, PR, corporate communications, human resources, sales)
    • How many employees should use the system? And how many licenses do I need?
    • What is the budget? Which functions can you do without, if any?
    • Which external stakeholders need to be considered?
      (e.g. agencies, customers, clients, partners, sponsors or press representatives)
    • Are legal topics relevant to license management?
      (e.g. for license management of image material from external photographers or stock photos).
    • Are legal issues relevant to consent to media use?
      (e.g. management of model and property releases / consent forms for editorial or promotional use in social media, on websites, for print or for the intranet)
    • Is an AI platform for facial recognition based on artificial intelligence needed?
    • Is AI-assisted object recognition (auto-tagging) needed?
    • Are there company-specific processes or requirements that need to be considered separately?
    • Do special data protection requirements that may go beyond GDPR compliance need to be observed? (e.g., particularly high security requirements due to confidentiality obligations).

Test extensively before you decide

Once you have found the right DAM system for your needs, we can only recommend that you test it extensively. Just so you can gather individual experiences with regard to the features of the platform and the performance of the infrastructure.

Also, make sure that the learning curve of the software does not take too much time. As good as a system may be from a purely functional point of view, if familiarization should cause problems and take several hours even for IT-savvy colleagues, then the point of user experience (UX) was neglected in the development of the solution. So ideally, choose a system that meets all functional requirements and is easy to use at the same time.

How do I organize digital assets properly?

Unlike simple cloud storage or the familiar local file management via Windows Explorer or Finder (macOS), professional media management offers a multi-dimensional organizational structure. You can usually organize and curate your images, videos, and graphic files not only in a folder structure, but also in virtual albums or collections via appropriate links. Furthermore, you can enrich all media files with additional information by using numerous metadata fields. These are provided by the formats Exif, IPTC-IIM or XMP.

This means that in the future you will no longer have to rely on knowing folder or file names by heart to find a file in your digital media archive. Combinable search and filter facets (by document type, category, license type, image orientation, date taken, date uploaded, color dominance, etc.) also ensure that even occasional users (e.g. internal stakeholders) from specialist departments can find the right marketing asset in no time at all.

How do I plan to implement professional image management?

Whether you choose a cloud-based or an on-premises (in-house hosted) solution when selecting the right media management solution, it always starts with an inventory. So, for the introduction of a new system, it is a must to first sift through and classify the existing marketing assets. Especially in grown filing structures of companies, a lot of inventory data is lying dormant, which has been archived but is no longer actively used in corporate communication or marketing. Identify obsolete or unusable media material and, in the second step, turn your attention to the digital assets that should be kept ready for the long term in the online retrievable image management system.

With regard to the files that then remain in the old filing system, you should critically ask yourself whether they represent any value at all for your company, true to the motto “is this a digital asset or can it go to the trash?”

How do I plan the migration?

It doesn’t matter whether your digital assets have been stored in a cloud, on an external hard drive or on an in-house server. You should be particularly thorough when planning the future data structure. Before you start migrating data, create a structure plan for your digital assets. Put yourself in the shoes of the future users of your media management system. Keep in mind that often each stakeholder group will take a different approach to finding digital assets. When creating the structure plan, also pay attention to the following basic rules:

    • Get an overview: How has your inventory been organized so far? What are the ordering principles and hierarchies?
    • If necessary, find useful additions (groupings, categories, etc.) so that the future structure is as clear as possible.
    • Think uniformity. Apply the same principles everywhere.
    • Use sparingly when creating additional layers. Don’t get lost in the nitty gritty.

Export metadata to exchange formats

Once the structure plan for your digital assets is in place, preparations can be made to switch from your current system to an image database that is technically up-to-date. Here, the migration of the media stock is of course the most important point, but not the only one. If work has already been done with keyword hierarchies, synonym lists, or other tools for a controlled vocabulary, this data has to be retained by all means. So at first the controlled vocabulary (also called thesaurus) has to be exported from existing databases (usually SQL-based) and converted into a machine-readable exchange format (e.g. csv, xml, json). The specifications for this are provided by the new supplier. This person usually also assists with the preparation of the import data.

This is what you need to avoid during migration: photo glitch due to data loss

Focus on critical assets

We recommend making the switch from the previous storage to the new system gradually. At first, try to start with the digital assets that are critical for your daily business. In this way, you ensure that it is possible to switch to the new system at short notice at the operational level. Also users do not have to search two parallel databases.

How can I avoid dependencies on the provider?

Before entering into a contractual relationship, you should carefully check whether the software provider provides a fair exit scenario. Do not rely on verbal promises here. Only written clauses are legally secure and count in court. Please consider the following.

    • All media files should always be exportable in their existing folder structure, e.g. by permanent access via a FTP or SFTP client.
    • All metadata (tags, descriptions, copyright information, license information, etc.) should be transferable into machine-readable exchange formats for download.

In other words, you should always have unrestricted access to all your data and always be able to make your own local backups as well. This is the only way to avoid being forced into a one-sided dependency relationship. Otherwise it would be difficult to return to an on-premises solution.

Conclusion – a DAM system is a must-have for modern businesses

With professional media management, you can significantly increase the usefulness of existing digital assets for your company, while accelerating internal processes and making them more efficient. If you want to get the most out of your photo database and create leeway for creative processes, you can’t get around investing in a modern system these days. The costs for the software are usually amortized within a very short time. They usually result from the number of user licenses, the period of use (month / year) and the amount of storage space used (see also: software as a service).

With on-premises solutions (in-house hosting), the costs are usually significantly higher. In return, the data sovereignty point is maximally taken into account there, as your company has full control over the servers. If you have a poor connection to the Internet and/or above-average storage requirements, an on-premises solution can also be advantageous.

The proof is in the pudding

Just get to know our cloud-based solution by starting a free 14-day trial for the teamnext | Media Hub now. The Media Hub is an image management solution for businesses. It impresses with AI functions and intuitive usability while meeting the highest data security requirements. The Media Hub is preferred by medium-sized companies in the GSA region as well as by large organizations within the EU. More info about the product can be found here:

In addition, you can of course book an appointment for a free online product demo with one of our experts at any time. Simply use our contact form for this purpose.

Screenshot desktop view Media Timeline of teamnext | Media Hub, the professional digital asset management platform

teamnext | Media Hub in responsive grid view

The most important features at a glance

The following list shows you again the features and advantages of a modern media management.

    • Cloud infrastructure with global access options for efficient teamwork
    • Fast findability & controlled sharing of media files
    • Familiar folder structures combined with intelligent search functions
    • Efficient indexing of large media collections through AI-supported recognition of persons & objects
    • Own keyword structure & additional meta content for optimized findability & complete documentation
    • Legally compliant media use through image license management & consent forms
    • Granular user rights management for maximum security during collaborative work
    • Product or media portal (content hub) for the provision of image material for larger external groups of recipients
    • Uniform brand experience & professional appearance through individualization options
    • Optimized user experience, e.g. through alternative upload option via drag & drop
    • Modern security standards & data sovereignty through development & hosting in Germany
    • One hundred percent GDPR compliance

List of abbreviations and glossary

Our final overview of relevant abbreviations summarizes the most important technical topics in the field of digital image management for you once again.

AI / AIArtificial Intelligence
MLMachine Learning
DAMDigital Asset Management System
MAMMedia Asset Management System
VAMVideo Asset Management System

Deployment forms

SaaSSoftware as a Service – In a SaaS licensing model, the digital media management and IT infrastructure is operated by an external service provider. An Internet connection is required to use SaaS services. The monthly usage fees usually already include all maintenance work, updates and regular data backups.
Private CloudA private cloud license is also a SaaS license. The difference is that digital image management is hosted in a separate cloud infrastructure that is operated exclusively for one organization.
On-PremisesIn the case of an on-premises licensing model, the customer operates the system on its own responsibility locally on its own servers, i.e. via its own IT infrastructure. Usually, additional maintenance fees are charged in this license model in order to participate in the further development of the solution.


DPAData Processing Agreement. This agreement regulates the data protection-compliant handling of personal data by an external service provider. A DPA is mandatory for companies based in the EU.
GDPRGeneral Data Protection Regulation – Since May 28, 2018, the GDPR has been in force in the European Union as a uniform data protection regulation for the protection of personal data. The management of images and video is usually always data covered by the GDPR. Therefore, a DPA must be concluded with the respective provider in accordance with article 28 GDPR.
SLAService Level Agreement – A SLA is a supplemental service agreement that can be entered into to address specific service requirements for support services provided by the vendor.


Dublin CoreGeneral metadata schema for describing electronic resources.
EXIFExchangeable Image File Format – EXIF is a standard format for storing metadata in digital images. Modern digital asset management systems also work with the IPTC and XMP metadata standards.
IPTCThe IPTC-IIM standard, like EXIF, is a data format for storing metadata in image files.
XMPExtensible Metadata Platform – XMP is a data format developed by Adobe for storing metadata. The IPTC and Dublin Core specifications can be mapped within the XMP format.

Storage and transmission

AES-256Advanced Encryption Standard – AES-256 is a worldwide standard for encrypting data. The high level of security makes AES-256 encryption suitable for protecting critical customer data. Modern solutions encrypt digital assets at rest to protect them from unauthorized access.
FTPFile Transfer Protocol – FTP is a network protocol for transferring data. Often, cloud-based systems have FTP access to facilitate the upload of large volumes of images and video files for photographers and other contributors.
SFTPThe Secure File Transfer Protocol is an alternative to FTP designed for the Secure Shell (SSH) that enables encrypted data transfers.
WebDAVWeb-based Distributed Authoring and Versioning – WebDAV is a network protocol for delivering files over the Internet. It is based on the HTTP protocol and, unlike FTP, offers a version control specification. This allows a cloud-based media database to be mounted as a network drive.

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