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DAM Terms You Need To Know

Like any industry, digital asset management (DAM) has its own lingo, shorthand, and abbreviations that can make anyone’s eyes glaze over. And don’t get us started on all the acronyms.


Here's a glossary of some of the key terms that come up in conversations to help get you started. As librarians, our goal is to make information accessible and understandable.

Accessibility

Ability to access and use a system. Accessibility is configured by system administration but can include on-site, off-site, or a combination of the two. Access is determined through settings such as permission levels, network or VPN connection requirements, or user groups and status.

 

Alt Text Generation

Alt text is appended to an image or video to describe its content, providing accessibility for the visually impaired through screen readers, appearing when an image doesn't load, and helping search engines understand your page's content. AI visual recognition tools can be used to generate alt text to reduce manual processing; however, AI alt text has the potential to misinterpret the context and/or content of an image.

 

Apache Server

An open-source web server architecture that can be utilized in a number of ways, including serving content to the internet as well as encrypting that web traffic.

 

Application Programming Interface (API)

An Application Programming Interface is a set of rules that define how to make different software and/or hardware communicate with each other. System developers define specific “calls”, or requests made to a system, how the system deals with them, and what conventions the user of the API should follow for effective deployment.

 

Archive

Making a copy of media for long-term storage on LTO tape, cloud storage, or a second set of drives. Ideally, the archive copy should live in a different building than your primary storage for disaster recovery purposes.

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Computer systems capable of executing tasks that have traditionally required human intelligence. Some examples include speech, object, and facial recognition, translation, and generation of text and images. Often, human review is useful to help make corrections and better train a system for a customer’s unique content.

 

Automation Engine

A system that allows users to build complex actions with a minimum of human interaction, such as transcoding and copying/moving files, sending notifications to users, running backup and archive tasks, based on watch folders and/or metadata flags.

 

Backup

Making a periodic copy of everything on your system (media and databases), which can be reverted to in the case of system failure. This could be cloud, drive, or LTO tape and is best kept at an off-site location. Unlike an archive, the backup is meant for short-term disaster recovery.

 

Block Storage

A form of data storage that breaks up files into multiple smaller blocks, each stored as its own separate piece with a unique identifier. This can help make the most efficient use of space on a storage volume but adds to the complexity of the system needing to track where all pieces of a file went when it’s asked to retrieve them.

 

Checksum

Checksums are created by running an algorithm based on every bit in a file. Common algorithms include MD5, SHA-1, SHA-256, and SHA-512. Each file’s checksum is unique to that file and is used to assure file integrity.

 

Cloud

A general term to refer to services offered over the internet on remote (not local) servers. 

 

Content Management System (CMS)

Content Management System is a platform that can help prepare, optimize, and publish content to locations on the web. A CMS will often connect to a primary media repository, such as a DAM, to access the media necessary for editing and publication.

 

Controlled Vocabulary

A concise list of terms a user can pick from. Controlled vocabularies help eliminate typos and synonyms, allowing for more efficient searching.

 

DAM Champion

An individual or group of individuals responsible for the promotion, implementation, and use of the DAM system. Champions lead the charge to help establish buy-in from various stakeholders and work to integrate the DAM into the organization's work environment.

 

Data Migration

Transitioning from one system to another requires planning to move records and metadata coherently and efficiently. In this phase, careful attention is needed to convert and map records for automated or manual migration to the new system, ensuring that data has been captured, cross-walked, and imported properly.

 

Digital Asset Management (DAM)

A Digital Asset Management system is a platform for storing, cataloging, searching, and sharing digital assets of any kind. Systems can read technical information from files as well as be tagged with descriptive information by users. Often used synonymously with “MAM”.  LEARN MORE

 

Digital Rights Management (DRM)

The protection of digital intellectual property. This can include the use of technology to prevent illegal copying or the layers of control applied to media to stratify who has permission to access and use materials.

 

Digitize

Taking a physical item like a photograph, tape cassette, videotape, or film reel and scanning its contents to create as high-quality a digital version as possible. All physical media are susceptible to degradation and damage, and the hardware to play them will continue to become obsolete. Digitization is an important part of preserving your history.  LEARN MORE

 

Duplicate Detection

A process of identifying identical or highly similar visual content. There are different methods to compare media, including computer processes that don’t require advanced AI. Machine learning approaches are the most robust but require training and monitoring to improve performance and reliability.

 
Emotive Tags & Sentiment Analysis

Metadata generated through the analysis of text, facial expressions, and voice to determine the emotional tone or appearance of subjects. AI analysis can misinterpret emotion due to a lack of nuance.

 

Encryption

A form of information security in which data is translated into another form that is unreadable unless it’s processed with a specific software key or password.

 

Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

An Enterprise Content Management system is for managing and storing content across the enterprise. Content can include Word documents, PDFs, emails, and scanned images. Content is accessible by employees and business stakeholders, with the ability to deliver information from the ECM to customers.

 

Facial Recognition (FR)

A process in which an algorithmic tool compares new images and/or videos of people against an existing set of visual media that has been trained by humans. By running this visual comparison, the AI attempts to match or recognize faces from the data it has been trained on.


Flash Storage

A storage device that has no moving parts required for use. Memory cards, USB thumb drives, and solid-state drives are all examples of flash technology. Flash storage typically has very fast read/write speeds, as there’s no need to position a reader over a disk or tape.

 

Format Migration

A process of transforming a file from one format to another for purposes of accessibility or preservation. Often performed to make the content web-accessible, limit the file size, or move to a lossless format for preservation purposes.

 

Governance 

A set of guidelines and procedures for engaging stakeholders in a process of sustained change management over time. Establishing a team for governance ensures that a DAM system will remain relevant to the sets of users it is supposed to serve.  LEARN MORE

 

Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Graphical User Interface is the term used for visual interface displays that use graphics, icons, buttons, and other visual cues as opposed to purely text or command-based interfaces.

 

Hard Disk Drive (HDD)

A type of storage where data is magnetically written to and read from a spinning platter. They are typically slower to use than solid-state drives (SSDs) but remain cheaper per terabyte. While they can retain data for long periods and be rewritten many times, they are still susceptible to physical damage or mechanical failures from disuse.

 

Headless CMS

Refers to a content management system that is not connected directly to a front-end system. Instead, a headless CMS will manage content like a repository and use APIs to push content to various front-end platforms. This creates a CMS that does not force what front-end system is used or limit how content is pushed to other systems.

 

Hosting

Where hardware or software is located and operated.  This could be at your location, a partner location, a cloud data center, or any combination of these.  LEARN MORE

 

HTTPS

An extension of the standard HTTP web protocol that encrypts web traffic for enhanced data security.

 

Hybrid

Hybrid systems use a combination of on-premises and cloud options, such as having a copy of your files in the cloud as your backup while your main active storage is in the walls of your building.  LEARN MORE

 

Hypervisor

The operating system software that creates and runs virtual machines allowing for multiple VMs to operate at the same time.

 

Independent Software Vendor (ISV)

A company or entity that develops and sells software products that can run on various platforms, such as physical hardware, virtual machines, or in the cloud. ISVs typically focus on creating software solutions that address specific needs or provide specialized functionality.

 

Ingest

The process of importing content into a DAM during which the system analyzes technical information from each file and users enter additional metadata.

 

Ingress / Egress

Refers to incoming or uploading (ingress) and outgoing or downloading (egress) of content from server storage. Often used in pricing models for cloud environments that store content. This refers to content coming and going through the server environment and the bandwidth required to manage that activity.


Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

Measurable values that demonstrate the effectiveness of achieving key strategic objectives, for example, speeding up the time it takes to locate specific assets by X% will save Y hours over a year, or tracking the number of times files are downloaded suggests reuse rather than reshoots.

 

Linear Tape-Open (LTO)

Linear Tape-Open is an open-standard technology for magnetic tape data storage. LTO provides high data density, a long shelf life, and the ease of migrating data between generations as the technology continues to evolve.


Linked Data

Relating multiple types of metadata to each other. A DAM system might allow you to relate fields such that if you select a specific name from a Brand field, you will only see associated values for a more granular Product field. More complex possibilities might allow your DAM to pull metadata from another system (such as Workfront or SharePoint) if you define a specific data point to work from (like a unique project number).

 

Lossless Compression

A designation of compression that refers to file formats that maintain their file structure bit-by-bit, over time, maintaining the file's integrity and providing long-term accessibility. Good for preservation of digital files.

 

Lossy Compression

A designation of compression that refers to file formats that may discard unnecessary information from a file, causing subtle file degradation over time that can result in consistency and accessibility issues.

 

Machine Learning (ML)

Computer models used to predict or identify new material using algorithms and statistical models rather than following explicit instructions.


Media Asset Management (MAM)

A Media Asset Management (MAM) system is a subset of a Digital Asset Management (DAM) system with under-the-hood optimizations for working better with media, usually with a focus on video workflows. Systems can read technical information from files as well as be tagged with descriptive information by users. Often used synonymously with “DAM”.  LEARN MORE


Metadata

Metadata is information (or data) that provides detailed information about other information. Examples include a file’s size and name, the codec used to create it, a description of the contents, keywords of the people or products featured, the date the file was created or published, the people involved in a production, a transcript, or any sort of rights management.

 

Migration

The process of moving from one DAM platform to another, including the transfer of content and data that maintains associated files and metadata.

 

Nearline

Storage that is designed to prioritize available space over speed. This is often used in conjunction with high-speed or “performance” storage, allowing assets to be more accessible than ‘offline’ or archive storage.

 

Object Recognition (OR)

An algorithmic tool that analyzes images and/or videos to identify key concepts or objects and applies keywords and/or time markers. Examples may include ‘Laughing’, ‘Dog’, ‘Music’, or conceptual notions like ‘Danger’ or ‘Play’.

 

Object Storage

A form of data storage that relies on unique identifiers for any given object, as opposed to a hierarchical file system or blocks of memory on a drive. Any type of digital item (discrete files, applications, or even large datasets), along with accompanying metadata and a unique identifier, is bundled to be considered a single ‘object’ within the storage system. Microsoft’s Azure Blob storage is a type of object storage.

 

On-Prem

On-prem is short for on-premises, which refers to hardware or software located and running within the walls of your facility rather than a remote facility or cloud. This is sometimes also referred to as ‘terrestrial’.

 

Ontology

The relationships and properties that exist between concepts in a particular topic. Ontology is often used in conjunction with taxonomy, but where taxonomy tends to use hierarchies for classification, ontology is concerned with the context that gives raw information utility and meaning for users and systems.

 

Optical Character Recognition (OCR)

Transforms text visible in an image or video, like handwriting or text shown on-screen, into searchable text.

 

Pick List

A defined list of terms someone can select from within a database field; a type of controlled vocabulary.

 

Plug-In

Software developed to allow separate systems to talk to each other or provide additional functionality within a system.

 

Product Information Management (PIM)

PIM systems are designed to handle all the information (media, distribution, technical, legal) that helps market and sell products. A PIM is typically geared towards data management rather than tracking large media assets and might interface with a DAM to access master files.

 

Production Asset Management (PAM) 

PAM systems are designed with content production in mind, such as film, animation, or video games. They are able to track workflow and revisions during the creation and editing process, but not generally for long-term archives or searching across a large catalog.

 

Proxy

A lower-resolution version of a media file that allows for easy web viewing and faster download.

 

Restore

The process of bringing files back online that have been moved to any form of long-term storage.

 

Reuse

Concept of taking existing content previously created and used for an early purpose or project that is stored in the DAM and finding a way of integrating or adding that old or legacy content into a new project in order to avoid recreating or duplicating content. Maximizes the use of resources while minimizing the investment required for new content.

 

S3

S3 stands for Simple Storage Service and is a form of cloud storage that allows customers to store files as well as host and run applications. At this point in the evolution of cloud offerings, the S3 standard has expanded beyond Amazon.

 

Scalability

The ability of a process or system to change or adapt in size, functionality, or performance due to organizational or end-user needs. Dependent on the responsiveness of a system or service provider to initialize and implement changes based on application or system demands.

 

Seats

Seats refer to how many users a system can have. Some DAMs limit the number of separate accounts (or “named seats"); others allow for unlimited accounts, but only a certain number can be logged in at the same time, referred to as “concurrent users” or “floating seats”.

 

Server

A term used to describe a few different types of computer hardware or software in the DAM realm. These could be storage servers designed for holding all the digital files, software servers that run specific applications such as the DAM or automation engine, web servers that manage the web interface for a DAM, or media servers, optimized for shuttling large files around quickly, such as to LTO or cloud archives and other distribution needs.

 

Sidecar

A file, usually a small text file, which contains metadata about the main media file. This might be information about how that main file was edited, how it relates to other files or manually entered information that a DAM system might be able to use to populate fields.

 

Software as a Service (SaaS)

SaaS is a software subscription model where users subscribe to a license for software that is hosted by the vendor rather than a local app on dedicated hardware. This minimizes the need for local servers or IT resources but can raise different security considerations since the storage and/or processing of data is external.

 

Solid-State Drive (SSD)

A type of storage with no moving parts often built around flash memory. They are typically faster, quieter, and less prone to physical damage than spinning disk drives, though also usually more expensive per terabyte and their lifespan can depend on how long they've been left without power.

  

Tagging

Tagging is the process of applying human or machine-learning metadata to a record.  LEARN MORE

 

Taxonomy

The classification of a subject area, usually using a hierarchy with parent-child relationships between different terms, categories, and sub-categories. Developing a taxonomy is usually an early step in an organized DAM process, to ensure that controlled vocabularies are used when applying metadata to media.  LEARN MORE

 

Transcode

To create a new version of a file that preserves the content of a file while changing other factors such as aspect ratio, codec, adding a watermark, etc.

 

Transformations

The integration of digital technology into multiple avenues of an organization's workflows and processes. Transformations are intended to create new or make modifications to existing policies and procedures –introduce new technologies, integrate technologies, and enhance current capabilities.

 

Video Asset Management (VAM)

A VAM system is a platform for storing, organizing, cataloging, and accessing large volumes of digital video content. A dedicated VAM provides central video storage with access by team members for video projects.


Virtual Machine (VM)

Virtual machines are a way of using software to run multiple concurrent and contained operating system instances on a single piece of hardware.

 

Watch Folder

Any folder you have a system monitoring for changes. It’s common to upload files to a general watch folder and let a DAM system run automated ingest and file-moving processes based on how a workflow is designed.

 

Watermark

A text, graphic, or audio message burnt into a file. Some use cases include making it clear a file is a low-res or proxy version, applying specific branding if there are copyright issues that need to be cleared, or if something is meant only for internal use.

 

Widgets

Widgets are small tools or applications that can gather and present specific information in a clear and direct manner without the need for entire sections or components of information and systems in the way. Widgets can gather information from different processes and systems and bring the data together to present to end-users. Widgets provide easier access to specific information defined by the purpose of the widget.

 

Workflow

A catch-all term that could be used to describe any somewhat standardized processes within the overall DAM environment, ranging from specific automation and API tasks to the steps to follow for ingesting content into a DAM to the full media production process.

 

ZFS

Z File System or ZFS is a highly configurable file system and software RAID that allows you to turn nearly any piece of server hardware into a working ZFS storage server and works well for many DAM systems. LEARN MORE

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