The choice between cloud-based and in-house DAM used to be easy. Between the high cost of cloud storage and bandwidth, and the limited capabilities of SaaS (software as a service) solutions -- the argument for in-house DAM was clear.

Cost is no longer the sole determining factor. Cloud computing and storage costs have lowered in the last few years, making SaaS a viable choice for many organizations. SaaS DAM vendors have responded to customer needs by offering new features and functionality that directly compete with the capabilities of in-house solutions -- such as integration tools for social media -- which places them squarely on the competitive playing field.

What’s the Difference?

SaaS is not a panacea, in-house solutions are still the right fit for many organizations.

In general, in-house DAM solutions are limited only to the organization’s hardware infrastructure, security governance, network and quality of IT support. The client is responsible for the purchase and support of the hardware, software, database, storage, security and business continuity planning. In-house DAM solutions provide faster and better internal management for high volume, large files within your network.They typically offer extensive customization options with a wider range of features and functionality. These solutions also offer add-ons that can provide integration points with internal systems to allow for development of complex internal and external workflows. Finally, in-house DAM solutions are typically part of a capital project and are amortized over the life of the project following corporate amortization schedule.

In a SaaS DAM solution, the vendor manages the hardware, software, database, storage and security of your assets through a subscription model. It’s a pay as you go model that allows the client to purchase as little or as much services as needed. The client has the ability to make limited configurations, set permission levels and access rights for users and assets. Additionally, the client can create workflows for managing and distributing assets. Finally, more and more SaaS vendors are offering more extensive customizations and are willing to work closely with their clients to develop new functionality and custom designed user interfaces.

And then there's the emerging trend of hybrid solutions that offer a blend of both in-house and SaaS DAM solutions. This approach provides the benefits of an in-house DAM solution with the ability to share and manage assets with a broad audience.

In a hybrid solution, the vendor and client share some of the same responsibilities and costs. The vendor manages the hardware, software, database, storage and security for the assets sent to their cloud solution. The client supports the in-house hardware, software, database, storage and security for internal assets.

Why Use a Hybrid Model?

Let’s say your organization manages high volume, large files within your network, such as raw camera files or raw video files. In this case, a SaaS solution may not make sense, since you would need to rapidly move the large files around your internal systems. If your business has a need to share the final edited versions of these files broadly or globally, then uploading the files to cloud based SaaS DAM makes sense. In this scenario a hybrid approach might cost less and provide a better overall experience for your external clients.

Learning Opportunities

How Do They Compare?

The chart below looks at a high-level comparison between SaaS and in-house DAM solutions.Keep in mind there is a wide range of features and capabilities and costs from vendor to vendor.


*The hybrid approach is a complex blending of these comparison areas.

What is the Right DAM Solution For Your Company?

Finding the answer may take some work. Do your homework, spend the time gathering requirements and fully understanding your needs. Consider these questions:

  1. Do you have IT resources to support an in-house DAM?
  2. What is your current and projected monthly bandwidth usage (number of files and size)?
  3. Are the files used / managed locally (same building or campus)?
  4. Do you need to share assets broadly / globally?
  5. Are you able to provide geographic and internal redundancy for a DAM?
  6. Do you require a highly customized solution with complex workflows?
  7. Do you need to integrate with existing internal systems?
  8. What is your total cost of ownership (TCO)?

Understanding your organization’s resources, TCO and business requirements will help steer you to either SaaS, in-house or hybrid model. Go make the right DAM decision for your project.