What Is the Difference Between DAM and CMS?

Content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, TYPO3, Drupal, CoreMedia or Magnolia make it possible to organize and publish editorial content. Digital asset management (DAM) is designed to organize digital assets – i.e. valuable media files such as logos, presentations or other brand assets. In the wider sense, both systems have the task to manage digital content. But where does the difference between DAM and CMS lie? And, what’s more, do you still need a DAM system when your organization already uses a CMS?

Here’s the short answer: CMS and DAM are two systems that work with digital content but are designed for different tasks. Digital asset management is for working with digital media files and a content management system is responsible for the publication of editorial content. A CMS does not replace a DAM, and a DAM, in turn, cannot accomplish the same tasks as a CMS.

DAM and CMS are therefore two difference solutions that share an important common ground: Both profit from an integration of their functionalities.

Learn more about integrations of DAM into enterprise systems with our free ebook: Marketing Professional’s Guide to Enterprise DAM

What Is a CMS and What Is a DAM?

A CMS manages editorial content with the aim to publish it on websites, blogs and e-shop pages. This content usually consists of articles with text, images and even videos that are arranged within an appealing layout. A content management system offers users the possibility to put different media content into a context and to process them for publication on a website or blog. CMS have developed into a standard tool and are widely used. A DAM system, on the other hand, organizes content such as documents, images and videos but in the form of media files. This could be first drafts, illustrations, presentations, videos, photos, InDesign layouts and PDFs.

The CoreMedia CMS asset browser.

Companies invest a lot of time and money in the production of digital content – therefore these are digital assets. To use these files properly, they are enriched with metadata in a DAM, including information about the file. There users can instantly view technical details such as image size, resolution and color depth as well as contextual information like author, license rights, approval status, etc. Digital asset management has meanwhile become the gold sandard for media management in companies and larger cooperations and is used worldwide by many successful brands.

Media management with Cumulus DAM – more metadata than a CMS.

Media Management With CMS and DAM

Confusion is added when trying to distinguish between the two software categories as the content management systems also has integrated media management. If a user wants to imbed an image into an article, for example, the relevant media file needs to be uploaded into the internal library of the CMS first. Compared to full-fledged digital asset management systems, media management is rudimentary. Often no or only prescribed metadata can be stored; search for files only works via the file name; there is no version control; and other important DAM functions are missing entirely.

Despite CMS and DAM fundamentally also having different tasks – on the one hand publication of contents, on the other management of media files – there is an overlap in the use and management of media files. At closer look, it is evident though, that this is not a duplication. On the contrary, the functions of CMS and DAM perfectly complement each other and form an efficient combination. After all, for creation of editorial content, you need finished photos and videos to be able to communicate visually. Before we go into the synergy between CMS and DAM, here’s another brief recap about what we have already learned: DAM and CMS are not systems that are in competition with each other, but work best together as a team. An integration of both solutions offers organizations many strategic advantages.

DAM and CMS – The Integration

Admittedly, CMS usually already have the aforementioned media library to incorporate photo and other content. These media archives are however simple and offer the option to incorporate files as items only – they are not created to organize and manage content effectively. DAM systems with sophisticated metadata schemes, release workflows and granular roles and permission concepts are here simply superior in the way they are constructed.

But how can both systems be combined? When CMS and DAM are integrated, the media library of the CMS is replaced by an asset browser, which has direct access to the content of the DAM system. This way, web editors can access perfectly edited, finished assets directly. This simplification of production and release workflows through the DAM not only saves time and money but avoids possible errors.

What does a best possible integration of the different systems (DAM and CMS) look like?

The Technology Behind the Integration

Images from the DAM that should be used in your CMS can be delivered as a file or a link. The difference here is, that with a file, a copy is created – the assets then exists once in the DAM catalog and once in the CMS. With delivery of a link, merely a reference is sent, that in turn can call up the relevant image from the DAM.

Moreover, via the jointly used LDAP directories, users from the CMS and the DAM can be aligned so that only relevant and authorized content are available for publication – this increases overview and compliance. A good integration makes all required content from the DAM available to your CMS – including all the progressive features such as version control, embargo date, social DAM, license management and workflows that the latest generation of DAM systems possess.

The Best Integration Is Customized

How you integrate your CMS and DAM depends on the technical capabilities of the systems used. But the organization’s operating procedures are more crucial here – you should think about what your exact requirements are and how the teams responsible for DAM and CMS best work together.

Cumulus DAM integrated in TYPO3 CMS.

If you want to send assets to your CMS as a copy or link to your DAM then there are technical capabilities to consider but so its the decision of where images should be edited. Are images in your DAM already processed to the final version that they should appear as in in articles? In that case, it is advisable to hand over the asset link to avoid unnecessary duplicates. Do you want to leave it up to the web editors to determine the image section themselves? In that case you will require the images as an asset copy in the CMS.

The success of an integration does not only depend on the technical implementation, but also on the preparation, support and post-processing. Therefore, look for an experienced partner for your DAM-CMS integration project.

Better as a Team

Let’s quickly recap: The difference between CMS and DAM is the purpose of both systems. CMS are used for the publication of editorial content. DAM is a technology to organize digital media files. This difference however is not an exclusion criterion but an interface. Via an integration, CMS and DAM increase their efficiency and make it easier for teams to improve their digital workflows.

There are different technical solutions fort the integration. The most important thing should always be your individual requirements – how should digital work be conducted in your organization? Organizations that utilize a CMS get a better overview of photos, illustrations and videos with a DAM system  – and profit from being able to communicate more efficiently via several channels.

Should you have questions around different ways of integrating DAM and CMS, our experts at Canto Professional Services are happy to help.

For more insight into how enterprise DAM enhances Marketing, check out our ebook: Marketing Professional’s Guide to Digital Asset Management

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