What is a CMS? What is a DAM? What’s the Difference?

Content management systems (CMS) like WordPress, Drupal, FirstSpirit and SiteCore publish online editorial content. Digital Asset Management (DAM) is designed to organize digital assets. Both systems therefore manage digital content. But what is the difference between CMS and DAM? Does one still need a DAM system, if one’s company is already using a CMS?

A CMS manages editorial content for publication on websites, blogs and eCommerce pages. In most cases, this content consists of articles with text, images and even videos, arranged in a pleasing layout. A DAM system also organizes content such as documents, pictures and videos, but in the form of media files. Digital files can be documents, photographs, presentations, videos, photos or even complete InDesign layouts and PDFs. Companies invest a lot of time and money into the production of digital content – therefore, these files are considered digital assets.

Most CMS feature a “media library” to insert images or other content into articles. However, these media archives are somewhat rudimentary, and are generally just a place from which to upload files – they are not designed to effectively organize and manage content. DAM systems, however, include sophisticated metadata schemes, approval workflows, granular roles and the ability to manage copyright information.

CMS and DAM are focused on fundamentally different tasks – on the one hand publication of content, and on the other the organization of media files. This makes DAM and CMS ideal team players. One needs media files like images and videos to publish content and communicate visually. Therefore, DAM and CMS do not compete, but work best together as a team. Their integration provides many strategic advantages for companies.


DAM and CMS – the integration

Cumulus Integration for WordPress CMS
Cumulus Integration for WordPress CMS

How do the two systems connect? When CMS and DAM are integrated, the media library of the CMS is usually replaced by an Asset Browser that accesses content directly from the DAM system. Web editors are thereby afforded the best possible access to all produced assets. Streamlining production and approval workflows through DAM saves time and money and also avoids human error.

Images from a DAM system can be transferred to CMS either as a copy or as a link. The difference here is simple: If you copy an asset from your DAM catalog to your CMS, a duplicate copy is created, which means that the asset lives both in your DAM catalog and in the CMS. Handing over a link, on the other hand, will only result in a reference, which links to the appropriate image in the DAM. Another important dimension of DAM/CMS integration  is that DAM and CMS can use common LDAP directories to show only relevant and approved content for publication to the CMS user – a great feature for more visibility and better compliance.

A professionally integrated system makes all required content from the DAM available in your CMS – with the benefit of advanced next-generation DAM features such as versioning, embargo date, social DAM, license management and workflow support.


The best integration is tailored to your individual requirements

Sitecore DAM integration for Cumulus CMS

How to integrate CMS and DAM depends on the technical possibilities of your systems. Yet, the way that you run your business is just as important as technical questions. Therefore, you should consider your requirements closely, and how the teams responsible for DAM and CMS best work together.

For instance, whether you choose to send assets as a copy or as a link to your DAM depends on more than technical advantages — it’s also a workflow matter that hinges on where in your workflow images are cropped and edited. Are all images in your DAM already final, and only to be used as-is on your websites? In this case, it may be best to transfer assets as links, because this method avoids creation of unnecessary duplicates. However, if you choose to leave it to web editors to crop and edit images themselves, then you would need the images as asset copies in your CMS.

Integration success depends not only on technical implementation, but also to a large extent on the preparation, monitoring and follow-up of your project. For this reason, you may wish to consider an experienced partner whose specific expertise in these kinds of projects can support your DAM/CMS integration.


CMS and DAM = good teamwork

Integrating CMS and DAM increases the efficiency of both systems and makes it easier for teams to improve digital workflow. There are different technical solutions for integration. Your decision, however, should depend on individual needs and requirements and exactly how digital workflows function in your organization. Companies that already use a CMS can improve asset management for photos, illustrations, and videos through the use of a DAM system. This helps them communicate effectively across multiple channels.

To learn more about CMS and DAM integrations, contact Canto.