Cloud Storage vs. Digital Asset Management: The Difference?

These two technologies may seem similar at first glance but serve entirely different use cases.

Cloud storage vs digital asset management

Both cloud technology digital asset management (DAM) solutions are surging in popularity among business owners and enterprise leaders.

Organizations used these technologies to respond to the challenges of pandemic lockdowns. These same companies are capitalizing on a reopening economy. Digitally enabled businesses will continue outperforming their competitors in the future.

But many business leaders aren’t sure they invested in the right technology. Many cloud-enabled businesses are moving towards DAM systems. Many others are asking what the difference between cloud storage and digital asset management really is.

What is Cloud Storage?

Let’s start by defining cloud storage. Cloud storage services like Google Drive, iCloud, DropBox, and OneDrive all work the same way. They offer users a convenient space to store data.

Cloud Storage

Cloud storage services store data on cloud-enabled servers they own (or in some cases, lease). Most of these companies allow users to store a small amount of data for free. As users add more storage capacity, they begin to charge for the upkeep and maintenance of the service.

Most of these services are popular because of their convenience. Google Drive synchronizes perfectly with Google Docs and the rest of the Google Workspace toolset. The same goes for Microsoft’s OneDrive and its Office 365 productivity suite. If you use any of these tools, it simply makes sense to store your data on the attached cloud storage service.

Up to a certain point, at least.

Cloud storage solutions are well-suited to the needs of individuals, freelancers, and small businesses. It’s easy to manage document security, accessibility, and permissions for ten users. But how do you scale that to meet the needs of a hundred users? A thousand?

This might seem like a lot, but “users” aren’t just employees. Partner agencies, product distributors, and sometimes even customers may also count as users on your cloud storage platform.

Once an organization has to deal with hundreds of users handling media assets in multiple file formats, consumer cloud storage services start to show their weaknesses. Finding key documents takes more time. Production bottlenecks start to impact revenues. Executives cannot find and share assets with commercial partners easily.

What is Digital Asset Management?

Digital asset management takes the premise of cloud storage one step further. It does more than simply give users access to an empty hard drive on a server somewhere. It provides a comprehensive service for managing branded assets of all kinds.

Digital Asset Management

In a typical DAM platform setting, administrators create multiple permission groups that correspond with different types of users who need access to data. Some examples of different user groups and the data they might need include:

  • Marketers: Branded promotional materials, content strategy documentation, customer data, and more.
  • Salespeople: Product documentation, customer data, accounts receivable invoices, and more.
  • Vendors and Distributors: Product documentation, accounts payable invoices, and more.
  • Customers: Their own accounts receivable invoices, branded promotional materials, and more.
  • Accountants: Accounts receivable invoices, accounts payable invoices, and more.

Without a comprehensive DAM system in place, someone has to manually grant permissions to each individual user based on their particular needs. As the company grows, this becomes a complex, time-consuming process that costs more than it’s worth.

DAM platforms simplify the process of managing user permissions and helping users find the assets they need. In a typical cloud storage environment, only text files are indexable. Anyone looking for an image, video, or other media asset will have to know the file’s exact name and format. Otherwise, they might spend hours guessing where someone might have put it.

In broad terms, digital asset management opens up the utility and business value of cloud storage. It does this by integrating scalable solutions for handling large, complex operations.

7 Differences Between Cloud Storage and Digital Asset Management

Cloud storage solutions and DAM platforms solve many of the same problems, but at entirely different scales and complexities. Organizations that wish to make the move to a DAM system environment can look forward to the following major differences between the two:

1.   DAMs Maximize the Value of Metadata

One of the ways that DAM systems enable users to find assets quickly is through metadata. Metadata is the contextual data that helps identify a unique file. A file’s “Created On” date is an example of a useful bit of metadata.

Cloud storage services do not typically allow users to search for media assets using metadata. If you’re looking for a promotional interview audio file and all you know is the date it was recorded, you will need to use a DAM system to find it based on those criteria alone.

2.   DAMs Enable Professional Presentations

Digital asset management is not exclusively about internal communication. It also enables users to create compelling presentations for outside agencies, partners, and customers. DAMs let users customize the visual representation of their assets in a variety of ways.

Digital Assets

A professional video presentation can mean the difference between getting your business funded or watching investors pour money into your competitors’ coffers. Asking an investor to open a link, download a video file, and then find the corresponding software to play it is not a visually compelling experience.

Compare that experience a personalized playlist of video content presented in a customized player that opens directly in the browser. Reputable video DAM platforms enable a Netflix-like media library experience that cloud storage services simply aren’t designed for.

3.   DAMs Enable Asset Versioning

Things pile up after an organization spends a few years working on a regular cloud storage platform. Searching for a common media asset like the company logo can turn up 10 different versions of the same file, showing every change and edit made at various times in the company’s history.

Not every user knows exactly which version of the file is the most current. Partners and distributors may not even care – but they’ll use it on their assets anyways. Without effective versioning, there is no way to keep track of these changes.

DAM systems allow administrators to assign versions to the files they create. That means content creators can easily access the first version of any given file, while editors and other stakeholders can save their changes without impacting the original file – or confusing anyone else in the process.

4.   DAMs Support More File Formats

Technically, cloud storage services will accept any file format. But simply storing a file on a server is not the same as opening, previewing, and playing the file. This is a problem for media-heavy libraries where simply identifying a file is challenging because there is no way to play it without first downloading it and opening it in another application.


Multiple file formats

Media-friendly DAM solutions address this issue by opening up compatibility to multiple file formats. They also include highly compatible (and often customizable) media players that allow users to view media directly in the browser.

This is a valuable step forward for marketers, content creators, graphic artists, and other creatives. Cross-compatibility with different file formats eliminates production bottlenecks and streamlines approval.

5.   DAM Permissions Focus on Groups

Cloud storage solutions are typically designed to store files created by individual users. They make it easy for individuals to share access permissions with other individual users. They don’t make it easy for users to set permissions for entire categories of users.

Multiple Users

Even small companies can have complex group user categories that require different levels of access permissions. If administrators have to grant access to each user on an individual basis, onboarding new users will take a great deal of time. Errors will inevitably creep into the mix, as well.

Group-based permission allows administrators to share assets in a far more flexible way. You could share marketing materials with everyone who works at the marketing agency your business has partnered with. You can automatically assign financial documents to your accountancy firm. Setting individual permissions becomes the exception, not the rule.

6.   DAMs are Built for Compliance and Security

Cloud storage services are designed to help individuals store their data. They are not designed to comply with data privacy protection laws like Europe’s GDPR or California’s CCPA. Depending on the industry you work in, additional regulations may apply.

DAM systems are designed for organizations to store, manage, and share assets across the entire enterprise. The best ones include robust compliance and security features that keep their users safe from cybercriminals while keeping data regulators at bay.

7.   Some DAMs Offer Built-In Analytics and Automation

DAM technology focuses on the needs of the enterprise user. It should come as no surprise that many DAM vendors integrate valuable data analytics tools into their platform in order to give businesses cutting-edge insights into their operations.


The most advanced DAM providers enable next-generation automation. They gather analytics data on DAM-hosted assets and make them available as automation-compatible data points. This allows brands to glean insight into how users are interacting with their content and launch responsive strategies based on that information.

For example, an analytics-oriented video DAM platform can analyze how many users finished an e-learning playlist designed for corporate training. The training host can see which employees did not finish the entire playlist, and automatically send an email that prompts those specific users to finish their content before moving further.

Which is the Best Option For Your Digital Assets?

Any growth-oriented organization that relies on digital assets for production, marketing, or sales can optimize its processes by incorporating a robust DAM solution. The ability to guarantee enterprise-level security and compliance while driving marketing returns with comprehensive user analytics is too valuable a net gain for any aspiring enterprise to give up.

Digital asset management provides all of the benefits of cloud storage and enhances them for enterprise connectivity. In an age when consumers expect personalized content from the brands they trust, maximizing the value of your digital assets while minimizing preventable inefficiencies is a must-have for growing businesses of all sizes.

Cincopa is a DAM vendor that offers advanced security and next-generation user analytics to administrators and content creators. Find out how our DAM platform can help you make the most of your media assets.


Originally published on March 25th, 2021, updated on June 12th, 2021
The Blog

Cloud Storage vs. Digital Asset Management: The Difference?

by Austin Jesse Mitchell time to read: 7 min