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Comparing File Servers And Digital Asset Management Servers

Most organisations operate file servers to allow staff to share content, and like digital asset management systems the core benefit of this model is to store the files in a central location reached via the network. However, there are several fundamental problems with digital asset reuse which this a file server can cause.

Taking a closer look at the limitations of file servers

Most organisations operate file servers to allow staff to share content, and like digital asset management systems the core benefit of this model is to store the files in a central location reached via the network. However, there are several fundamental problems with digital asset reuse which this a file server can cause.

Here's a quick summary of what we think are the main problems with file servers.

1. Each file is stored in one place

File servers use folders as a descriptive structure, and filenames as a description. This limits the usefulness of the information (and layout) of the storage. Folders on a file server are too inflexible when digital content needs to be classified in multiple ways (or for multiple user groups). That model forces every file to be classified precisely once, or cloned and copied when it's needed elsewhere.

For example, storing a file in //media/projects/building site 3/new plaza/img002.jpg may help one user in the engineering team, but when a member of the marketing department needs a selection of images from various projects, they will have to browse, collect and copy these files to their own project area. This means the content is fragmented - creating problems of tracing and managing re-use at a very early stage.

2. Limited metadata and search

Most file servers cannot present or search complex metadata, such as trees, keywords or drop-down menus. Also, filtering is normally limited to a folder's sort order (by last changed date, media type, file size or filename).

Digital asset management allows a wide range of custom metadata to be added to files, and searched in a more convenient way by providing a purpose-built rather than generic user interface.

3. No workflow or audit

Digital asset management software like Third Light IMS provides workflow - a way of processing content in a logical order, usually involving more than one user. For instance, when a user uploads a file there may be a process for collecting metadata, and the file may also be passed to an administrator for approval. Similar procedures are in place for downloads, with records of the purpose of the downloads captured in simple and unobtrusive forms.

On a file server, though, permissions are generally limited to read-write or read-only, and no records are kept when files are copied, replaced, renamed or deleted. No workflow exists on a file server, so there is no way to involve multiple users in these processes.

4. Reliance on local tools for resizing and repurposing files

When a file is copied from a file server, the end user must have the necessary tools to resize or reformat the media. This means both extra skill and usually extra software is needed on the part of the user. Variants of existing files begin to accumulate, too - low, medium and high resolution copies, web sizes and print sizes being common sources of duplication and fragmentation of records.

In a digital asset management system, downloads incorporate tools to resize or repurpose media for specific uses without needing any software on the user's computer. By providing purpose-built user interfaces there is far less complexity and far greater flexibility built into the process of re-using existing content.

5. Lack of portability and sharing features

While a digital asset management system can conveniently transfer lightboxes between users (without attaching full files) and keep a track of comments, changes and prior uses of files, a file server is inherently little more than a generic way to store files.

Digital asset management software unlocks far more of the potential in digital media, while a file server is generally too basic and unhelpful for advanced users.

Can we help?

To give you a taste of how you can use Third Light IMS< to improve your day-to-day digital tasks, we'd like to share a video with you. This video explains how you can use metadata to provide a powerful alternative that solves file server problems using a feature we call Smart Folders.

If you'd like to try our software for yourself, you can use our software free for 30 days.


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