Aldis, digital asset management


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 at first. 

Here’s a glossary of some of the key terms that come up in conversations to help bridge your understanding and conversations. As librarians, our aim is to make information accessible.

We hope this list helps you understand how these terms may impact your DAM conversations, purchase, or optimization. Don’t hesitate to reach out if there’s anything else we can shed some light on!

AI and Machine Learning

The use of computer algorithms to generate potentially rich metadata about an asset with minimal human work. 

Examples include speech-to-text, language translation, and face recognition.

Often, human review is useful to help make corrections and better train a system for a customer’s unique content.

Amazon 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. The S3 standard has expanded beyond Amazon at this point in the evolution of cloud offerings.

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.



An ‘Application Programming Interface’ is a set of rules that defines 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.



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


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.



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-based, and best kept in an off-site location. Unlike an archive, the backup is meant to be 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 the complexity of the system needing to track where all pieces of a file went when it’s asked to retrieve them.



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



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



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 from which a user can pick from. Controlled vocabularies help eliminate typos and synonyms, allowing for more efficient searching.



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”.


Data Migration

Switching 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, crosswalked, and imported properly. 


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. 



Taking a physical item (photograph, tape cassette, videotape, film reel) and scanning its contents to create as high-quality a digital version as possible. Since all physical media is 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.



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.

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.



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.



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-based or command interfaces.



Where hardware or software is located and operated; this could be at your location, a partner location, a cloud data center, or a combination of these.



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



Making use of 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.



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



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

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 suggesting reuse rather than reshoots.

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 would 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).


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


A ‘Media Asset Management’ system is a subset of DAM 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”.


Information that provides 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 if any sort of rights management is in place. 


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 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 are bundled to be considered a single ‘object’ within the storage system. Microsoft’s Azure Blob storage is a type of object storage.



Shortened from ‘on-premises’, this refers to hardware or software located and running within the walls of your facility rather than a remote facility. This is sometimes referred to as ‘terrestrial’.



Defines/demonstrates the relationships and properties that exist between concepts in a particular topic. 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.



Production Asset Management’ 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 archive or searching across a large catalog. 


Pick List

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



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



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



A version of a media file that allows for easy web playback and download.



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



Software as a Service’ is a term that is sometimes used interchangeably with Cloud. SaaS is a software subscription model, where users subscribe to a license for software that is centrally hosted by the vendor rather than at the client’s location. This minimizes the need for local servers or IT resources, but can raise different security issues since the storage of data is external.



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 (“concurrent users” or “floating seats”).



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.



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.


Spinning Disk/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 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.


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 disk-based drives, though also usually more expensive per terabyte and their lifespan can depend on how long it’s been left without power.



The process of applying human or machine-learning metadata to a record.



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. 



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.


Video Asset Management (VAM)

A ‘Video Asset Management' 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.



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. 



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.



Z File System’ is a highly configurable software raid that allows you to turn nearly any piece of server hardware into a working ZFS storage server for your DAM assets.

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