Digital Asset Management: Cloud vs On-Premises

Digital Asset Management (DAM) enables you to standardise the usage of digital assets. You can do that by creating practices that define how assets are used, modified, published, stored, collected, and shared.

Types of Digital Asset Management Systems

Digital asset management systems have come a long way from being simple cataloguing or editing tools. Modern systems enable you to incorporate most aspects of digital management into a single platform, including organisation, licensing, versioning, and sharing. To suit the changing needs of businesses, DAMs have also expanded in terms of implementation.

When you’re deploying a DAM system you have three options to choose from:

  • On-premises—self-hosted on company servers and fully managed and maintained by in-house IT. On-premise systems typically provide greater control over your data and can grant greater opportunities for customisation.
  • Software as a Service (SaaS)—cloud-based and at least partially managed by your vendor. SaaS systems typically offer less flexibility but can provide easier distributed access to assets and require less effort from in-house teams to maintain. Depending on your organisational resources, these systems may also be cheaper since you are not responsible for purchasing or maintaining host infrastructure.
  • Hybrid—a system that is distributed across or used to interface both cloud and on-premise infrastructure. Hybrid systems are more difficult to deploy but can provide the distributed access of cloud systems with the greater control and flexibility of on-premise systems.

Cloud vs On-Premises DAM: What Is the Difference?

When comparing DAM systems, it can be difficult to choose which is the right option for you. It may seem like the distinction between deployment types isn’t clear, particularly if you aren’t the one who is responsible for deploying the system or configuring infrastructure.

To help clarify the differences, keep the following in mind:

On-premise DAM solutions are software that you purchase once, rather than paying a subscription fee. Your IT team is responsible for installing the software on your organisation’s resources and performing any and all maintenance required to use the solution. This includes support, customisation, integration, and upgrades. Additionally, these systems do not scale easily so you need to have a good idea of your resource requirements before deployment.

Generally, on-premise solutions are best for organisations that:

  • Require system customisation, such as security or integrations
  • Have data the falls under compliance restrictions
  • Have well-established and experienced IT
  • Already own infrastructure for hosting

SaaS DAM solutions are services that you subscribe to with a monthly or yearly fee. These services are cloud-based and the provider is responsible for system hosting and maintenance. You can configure the settings of a SaaS DAM system but typically cannot customise operations and are limited to integrations supported by the provider.

Generally, cloud-based solutions are best for organisations that:

  • Prioritise startup ease over customisability
  • Use remote teams or require distributed access
  • Are growing or foresee the need to scale in the near future
  • Want managed support to supplement or outsource IT

Cloud-Based DAM Pros and Cons

If you think a cloud-based DAM might be the right solution for you, consider the following pros and cons:

Lower upfront costSince cloud-based systems are scalable, you only pay for the resources you’re using. This also means you can avoid the costs of purchasing hosting hardware or the associated costs of housing or maintenance.Vendor lock-inSolutions may use proprietary technologies or formats that make it difficult to export or migrate files in the future. This can leave you reliant on the solution and vulnerable to price or service changes.
Mobile-readyCloud-based solutions are designed to be remotely accessible. This often means that solutions are more compatible with mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets.Network performanceSince services are Internet accessible and not available on-premises, access is determined by your Internet connection. If you have a slow connection or lose connectivity your productivity and system performance suffers.
SecurityCloud-based services manage some aspects of security for you. For those aspects they don’t manage, they typically offer tooling and expertise for securing your data. Unless you have high-level security experts in-house, vendors are likely to have more security expertise than you.Shared resourcesCloud-based solutions typically have multiple clients share servers. While your data should be isolated from these other tenants, their resource demands may negatively affect your system performance. Additionally, if a neighbour tenant fails to secure their resources, the vulnerability has the potential to affect your security as well.

On-Premises DAM Pros and Cons

If you think an on-premises DAM may be the right solution for you, consider the following pros and cons:

Total controlOn-premise systems offer total control over implementation, configuration, data, and security. There is no intermediary and you can choose exactly how your assets are handled and managed.High upfront costWhile long term costs may be less, upfront costs are typically more. This is especially true if you don’t already have the infrastructure needed to host a DAM.
Local accessibility and latencyOn-premise systems aren’t restricted by your Internet connection. This means that data remains accessible even if connectivity drops. Additionally, because data is hosted on-premises, access speeds don’t rely on bandwidth and request latency is often lower.Long deployment timeSetting up an on-premises DAM often takes more time than cloud-based because you have limited deployment support. Where cloud-based DAM providers can help you configure your system, an on-premises system requires you to start from scratch.
Regulatory complianceOn-premises systems make it easier to meet regulatory compliance since you maintain the auditability of your data. You don’t have to worry about where data is stored or who is accessing it since you have full control.Support and maintenanceAny customisations you make to your DAM require integration and ongoing maintenance. This means your IT is responsible for managing updates for any associated applications and for all support needed.


DAM systems can help you ensure you have control and visibility of your digital assets. However, different DAM environments provide different capabilities. Sometimes, there’s an overlap between on-prem and cloud offerings, but most solutions provide different capabilities per environment.

In addition to reviewing this article, you should also carefully read official documentation and (when possible) consult with software representatives. They will be able to further guide you through the process of choosing the tooling that best suits your needs. Specifically, be sure to match DAM capabilities with your existing tooling stack and available talent skillsets.

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