Aldis, digital asset management


DAM Terms You Should 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 can refer to a few different concepts in the DAM space.

1. The ability to access a system or parts of a system. Access control is crucial to security and can be determined through settings such as network or VPN connection requirements, administering permission levels, and managing users and groups.


2. Principles and practices designed to make the web navigable for users with disabilities, including the blind and visually impaired. The use of alt text, screen-reader-friendly content, and avoiding reliance on visual elements like font color to convey meaning, are a few examples of accessibility in web design. Here are more web accessibility guidelines from the ADA.


3. The goal of all aspects of DAM and librarianship is to ensure that your assets are able to be found, retrieved, and used. Ensuring reliable long-term accessibility—more commonly referred to as simply access—is why robust preservation practices are vital to DAM.


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 digitized content. AI visual recognition tools can be used to generate alt text to reduce time and effort associated with manual processing; however, AI alt text has the potential to misinterpret the context and/or content of an image.


Application Programming Interface (API)

An API is a set of rules that define how different software and/or hardware can 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. APIs allow for the integration of external tools and systems into a DAM, allowing organizations to connect different platforms to the DAM to maximize its use and function in organizational processes.



Archival practices in DAM consist of making copies of media for long-term storage, preservation, and disaster recovery. This can include copying to LTO tape, a cloud server, or hard drives, that will live off-site in a controlled environment. Archiving also allows older media to be taken offline from the DAM system, freeing up storage space for new media.


Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence is a hot topic in every industry these days, and DAM is no exception. AI in DAM tools is proliferating and includes capabilities like auto-tagging, facial recognition, transcription, translation, and even the generation of new content. Generative AI is not flawless, but with human oversight, it has the potential to save time on certain tasks and augment human expertise.


Automation Engine

An automation engine is 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, and running backup and archive tasks based on watch folders and/or metadata flags.



Like an archive, a backup is the process of regularly creating a copy of media for disaster recovery purposes, such as a system failure or ransomware attack. Unlike an archive, a backup is intended to be a snapshot of current media storage and does not include media that has been taken offline and archived for long-term storage. This snapshot can be overwritten to always reflect current media storage and therefore is intended only for short-term recovery purposes, not long-term preservation.


Block Storage

Block storage is 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 DAM solution by requiring it 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.



Cloud is an umbrella term used to refer to remotely-hosted services and resources, available to users with an internet connection. The cloud includes web hosting, data storage, software, databases, and other resources and services. Many DAMs incorporate cloud storage and SaaS. A hybrid model of cloud-based and on-site services is also common, depending on the needs and requirements of each organization.


Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is a specialized network built to efficiently distribute large data content loads. They utilize multiple Points of Presence (PoPs) that are geographically spread out to replicate content across the network, ensuring fast download speeds.


Content Management System (CMS)

A 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 DAM software, to access the media necessary for editing and publication.


Controlled Vocabulary

A controlled vocabulary is an approved set of terms (and/or rules for terminology) allowed in a given metadata field, such as location, subject, or name. Controlled vocabularies can be organized and managed in a variety of ways, all with the goal of reducing redundancies, misspellings, and ambiguity in your metadata. This encourages more consistent, accurate, organized, and reliable tagging, searching, and browsing in your DAM.


DAM Champion

A DAM Champion is an individual or group 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

Data migration is the transition from one system to another that requires planning to move records and metadata coherently and efficiently. In this phase, careful attention should be paid to asset management best practices to effectively 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 to utilize different types of metadata, as well as include tags with descriptive information from users. Often used synonymously with “MAM,” the goal of a DAM is to provide your organization with a useful single source of truth for all your digitized content.  LEARN MORE


Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Digital Rights Management is 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.



Digitization is the process of creating a digital copy of analog media, such as video tape, vinyl records, and photographic prints. Digitizing physical media vastly increases accessibility to content, as digital media can be shared and distributed easily, and to many users at a time. Digitization also helps preserve the original media, because allowing access to a digital version means the original media can be safely stored, and not incur as much wear and tear. It also extends access and preservation to content long after its original format and hardware (e.g. VHS tapes and players) are obsolete.  LEARN MORE


Duplicate Detection

Duplicate detection (or deduplication) is the 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

Emotive tags are metadata generated through sentiment analysis of text, facial expressions, and voice to determine the emotional tone or appearance of subjects. Artificial intelligence (AI) analysis can misinterpret emotion due to a lack of nuance.



An information security process in which data is translated into an unreadable form unless it’s processed with a specific software key or password. Encryption is just one of several robust security practices that together can protect your assets and your DAM system from unauthorized access.


Enterprise Content Management (ECM)

An Enterprise Content Management system is a centralized repository 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.


Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP)

XMP, or Extensible Metadata Platform, is a standard developed by Adobe for embedding metadata directly into digital files, facilitating easier management and sharing of information such as authorship, copyright details, keywords, and descriptions across different software platforms.


Faceted Search

A faceted search is a way to refine search results by applying multiple filters, or facets, such as shoot date, file type, director, or anything else that will narrow the search results, making it easier for users to find what they're looking for quickly and efficiently.


Facial Recognition

Facial recognition is a form of artificial intelligence that uses an algorithmic tool to compare 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.


File Format

A file format refers to the standardized organization and encoding of data within a file, enabling software to interpret and process the content accurately. Examples include JPEG for images, WAV or AIFF for audio, PDF for documents, and HTML for web pages.

Flash Storage

Flash storage is a 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

Format migration is the 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 is a set of guidelines and procedures for engaging stakeholders in a process of sustained change management over time, with provisions for version control, metadata fields, and more. 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 Hard Disk Drive is 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

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



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



A hypervisor is software that can create and manage multiple virtual machines on a single physical host, allowing multiple operating systems and applications to run on the same hardware simultaneously.


Independent Software Vendor (ISV)

An Independent Software Vendor is 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 is the process of importing content into a DAM system, during which the software 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)

Key Performance Indicators are 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.



Keywords are terms or phrases assigned to a digital asset to describe its content, context, or usage. Keywords help users categorize, organize, and search for assets efficiently within a DAM system.



A DAM lightbox is a tool within a digital asset management system for organizing, previewing, and sharing collections of digital assets like images and videos.


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

Linked data refers to 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

Lossless compression is a type 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 the preservation of digital files.


Lossy Compression

Lossy compression is a type 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)

Machine learning uses computer models 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 DAM with under-the-hood optimizations for working better with media and sharing digital assets, 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 is information (or data) that provides detailed information about other information. Examples of metadata fields 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.



You may hear the word "migration" used in several different contexts. A system migration is the process of moving from one DAM platform to another, including the transfer of content and data that maintains associated files and metadata.


Data migration is the detailed process of moving records and metadata coherently and efficiently between systems. In this phase, careful attention should be paid to asset management best practices to effectively convert and map records for automated or manual migration to the new system, ensuring that data has been captured, cross-walked, and imported properly.


Format migration is the process of transforming a set of media files from one format to another for purposes of accessibility or preservation. It is often performed to make the content web-accessible, limit the file size, or move to a lossless format for preservation purposes.


Natural Language Processing (NLP)

NLP is software that parses speech and text and recognizes meaning in the phrases and sentences. It allows for more complex and sophisticated searches and helps power translations, transcriptions, and chatbots.



Nearline storage 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)

Object Recognition is an algorithmic tool that analyzes digitized content in the form of 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

Object storage is a form of scalable 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. Providers include Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Google Cloud Storage, Microsoft Azure Blob Storage, and OpenStack Swift.



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 refers to 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)

A technology used to transform text visible in an image, video, or document (such as a scanned handwritten document, or a photo of signage) into searchable text. OCR can be used in a DAM by adding this text extracted from assets into searchable metadata.


Pick List

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



A plug-in is 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 can track workflow and revisions during the creation and editing process, but not generally for long-term archives or searching across a large catalog.



A proxy is a smaller version of a full-resolution media file that allows for easy web playback and download using compression and sometimes lowering the pixel resolution.



RAW is a file format in digital photography that stores unprocessed data directly from the camera's sensor, including metadata like exposure settings. It provides photographers flexibility in post-processing without quality loss before converting to formats like JPEG or TIFF.



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



Reuse refers to utilizing existing digital assets, such as images, videos, or other media files, for new projects rather than creating new content from scratch, allowing organizations to save time, effort, and resources while ensuring consistency and maximizing the value of their digital content library.



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 is 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 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.”



The term "server" is 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 sidecar is a file, usually a small text file, that 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 Solid-State Drive is 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 is the process of applying human or artificially intelligent machine-learning metadata to a record.  LEARN MORE



Taxonomy is 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 a single source of truth regarding controlled vocabularies is used when applying metadata to media.  LEARN MORE



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



Transformations refers to 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.  LEARN MORE

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

A watch folder is a folder that is set to monitor for changes. It’s common to upload files to a general watch folder and let digital asset management software run automated ingest and file-moving processes based on how a workflow is designed.



A watermark is a text, graphic, or audio message burned into a file. Use cases include making it clear if 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 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 is a catch-all term that could be used to describe any standardized process 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.



ZIP is a compression format and tool used to shrink file sizes for storage and transmission. It combines numerous files into a single archive, simplifying management and sharing. Frequently utilized for distributing files, email attachments, and storage needs.



Z File System or ZFS is a highly configurable file system and software RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) 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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