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What are the important differences between DAM and CMS?

by Casey Schmidt  |  January 27, 2020

3 min. read
A laptop displaying different code on a desk.

Content management systems (CMS) and digital asset management (DAM) are both systems that manage content but they do so in different ways. It’s important that companies understand these differences so they can effectively use each one. It also guarantees they choose correctly if deciding between the two or looking at different vendors. Make sure you understand the ways these two systems function individually and how to pair them together. Here’s a breakdown of DAM vs CMS.

What is a content management system?

Chances are if you’ve created a blog, online business or website, you’ve used a content management system. The content management system is a place to edit the pages of your website, particularly things like text and pages. Users add or remove content from their site inside the CMS. Probably the most notable aspect of a CMS is that it provides users a chance to fully edit and manage a website/webpage without strong technical understanding.

A picture of a laptop using WordPress.
A CMS allows users to build and edit webpages.

The CMS is one of the first steps in creating SEO web pages. It offers users the possibility to change things like meta titles, links and other valuable SEO details. Users can go into the CMS and change things like code and other technical details. Furthermore, they can do this without understanding much of how the code works on an in-depth level. It also stores media files, which are used to add images and videos to site pages when necessary.

Its media storage is a great segue into how it differs from DAM, as the CMS lacks sharing and other capabilities DAM offers.

What is digital asset management?

Digital asset management handles all of a company’s media such as images, videos and presentations. The digital asset management is a comprehensive enterprise solution that organizes media assets, enhances file searches, boosts team communication and secures digital assets. Without a DAM system, enterprises (especially larger ones) would struggle to sync all their different files and data. The DAM gives companies a chance to find and share assets quickly and with a wide range of users.

DAM stores content in a central location for quicker asset sharing and retrieval. Furthermore, it secures this content through things like permissions, administrative oversight, file encryption and image watermarking. It’s a tool designed to give companies a seamless way to handle their entire media library. Think of DAM like a tool that automates the entirety of a company’s file-sharing processes.

Now that you have a good idea of both, it’s time to compare DAM vs CMS. What are the specific ways DAM and CMS differ? Here are the main distinctions:

What does a CMS do?

  • Publishes pages for blogs and websites
  • Edits webpage text and media
  • Manages website data and site structure

What does DAM do?

  • Secures media in a central location
  • Boosts sharing and storing of media files
  • Increases project efficiency
A screenshot of the Canto DAM interface.
The user-interface of a digital asset management system.

DAM and CMS integrated

DAM and CMS are vastly different systems but they can be used in unison. By integrating the two, all media files needed for editing in the CMS are immediately available in the DAM. Integrations also provide a quick way to share files for someone in the CMS.

By integrating the two systems, companies might discover that they build off of each other. This ensures projects are completed quickly and efficiently. It also gives users a chance to implement new projects and make new changes to webpages seamlessly and with minimal downtime. As an example, Canto’s digital asset management system integrates with WordPress, Drupal and Typo3 (showing how relevant these integrations have become).

Remember, there are massive differences between DAM and CMS. However, via an integration, CMS and DAM increase their efficiency and make it easier for teams to improve their digital workflows. Consider adding both of them to your current enterprise tools.

For a further breakdown of these two important systems, watch our DAM vs CMS video here: