Google Drive v. Digital Asset Management - Which Solution Is Best For Your Marketing Team?

December 22, 2020

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Dan Devoe
Written By
Dan Devoe
Topic
Metadata, DAM

It's a question we hear a lot and you are likely wondering about: What's the best solution for managing content across a marketing team?

 

In this post we’ll look into one of the most widely used solutions for managing content, Google Drive, and how it compares to digital asset management solutions. 

We’ll dig into the specific use cases, features, strengths, and drawbacks of each solution so that you can have a better sense of what might be best for your team.

Specifically, we’ll look at these key dimensions and see how Google Drive and DAM stack up:

 

 

What is Google Drive?

It’s one of Google’s core products. You know it. You may love it. You may hate it. Or maybe a healthy bit of each (that’s how I feel!). It is a go-to tool for many teams to manage content for individual team members and across an entire organization. Google describes it as “easy and secure access to all of your content.”


What is a Digital Asset Management System?

Digital asset management (DAM) is software that allows an organization to store, organize, manage, find, and share their digital content from a single location. So, from that definition I’m sure you notice the similarities with Google Drive. There are a few distinctions that we’ll dig into more below. 


What is the Difference Between Google Drive & DAM?

The major distinctions between Google Drive and DAM are that digital asset management are:

  1. A more visual-forward platform, showing thumbnail and detailed views of all kinds of files
  2. Relies on metadata to make content searchable 
  3. Usually managed at the organization level rather than by individual users
  4. Built for directly serving content to websites

It’s obvious why the question comes up. 

Content is still king and now even small teams can be dealing with thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of pieces of content!

Managing content can get overwhelming really fast, even more so these days as remote work increases and the need for cloud tools grows.

The answer, like so many answers, is: it depends.

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Search

If you can’t find your content, you can’t use it. It’s that simple.

To be effective your team has to access, work with, and be able to share content quickly. With the right folder organization and consistent file naming, your team may manage to know exactly where everything is and should be.

But in the real world, how often does that happen?

It’s more likely that you try a bunch of searches, browse through folders, and ask colleagues where a certain piece of content is. There’s no shame. We’ve all been there. It’s time-consuming, frustrating, sometimes embarrassing, and it takes you away from other important work.

That’s why effective search is important to any system you use to manage your content.

Google Drive:

Google knows a thing or two about how to search, but you may have found that searching in Drive is not quite as good as the real search engine. If searching text in documents or file names, you’ll likely be alright.

If you don’t know the file name and it’s not a document file, that’s where things get trickier. Say I wanted to find a photo of the Image Relay CEO, Skye Chalmers, in our Google Drive but the name of the file is 00001234.jpeg. If I search for “CEO” or “Skye Chalmers,” that image won’t come back because Google Drive has no way of knowing what the image is. Many types of files stored in Google Drive lack something important to make them searchable: contextual metadata

Digital Asset Management:

DAM systems utilize metadata to make search easy and effective.

Metadata is the information about a file, including tags, descriptions, folder location, and technical information about the piece of content (file type, file size, orientation, create date, etc.).

Metadata adds context to your content lets your team (and external partners) know more about what a file is, how it should be used, and important information like usage rights. In a digital asset management system a photo of Image Relay’s CEO would be tagged “Skye Chalmers” and show up in search, regardless of what the file name was. And a user would also know other information about the image, such as year taken, rights issues, or anything else the organization wants to communicate about that piece of content. 

 

Verdict:

Digital asset management.

This is the function that most people experience the biggest difference. If document text search is all you ever need, then Google Drive is great. For images, videos, design files, audio files, and the other creative content marketing teams work with, Google Drive often falls flat. With descriptions, tags, and other metadata, digital asset management takes search to another level. 

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File Types

Content comes in hundreds of different file types, and each has a particular purpose. There are document files like text documents, PDFs, and slide decks; image files of all kinds, especially jpegs, pngs, and gifs; design files like Photoshop or inDesign; video files; audio files; 3-D files; and many others.

Most marketing content will be document files, image files, design files, and video files. 

Google Drive:

Does amazing things with document files. Creating collaborative files directly in the storage system through the Workspace is probably Google Drive’s greatest strength. When it comes to non-document files, however, it’s a different story. Many file types need to be downloaded to be viewable in another tool.

Digital Asset Management:

As a more visually focused system, digital asset management provides thumbnail and detailed previews of almost all file types. You know what you’re looking at before you click into a file. The system also provides preview playback of video and audio files. Again, no need to download a file to actually view it. Digital asset management systems also make file conversions on the fly, so a user can, for example, view a .PSD file and download a usable .JPEG or. PNG file instead of having to work with the source file. That helps improve speed and let users work with pieces of content even if they don’t have all the design tools that other team members may have. 

 

Verdict:

Digital asset management.

Creative content is rarely limited to a few document files types. For images, videos, and design files, the better tool is the one built to easily browse, preview, and provide quick file transformations. That’s going to be a DAM, not Drive. 


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Collaboration

No one can do it alone. Your team needs tools to collaborate to produce and share amazing content. And collaboration starts with access. Who has access to what and how easy it is to manage that access. 

Google Drive:

As part of Google Drive, users have access to the Google Workspaces tools, including Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

These tools are game changers for collaborating on and storing document files for a team. Users can provide edit access to teammates and produce written content at the same time or however they want to.

The tools are great … but mainly for those inside your organization. Working with people outside your organization, like a partner, agency, or client can get annoying. The permission rules on every individual piece need to be changed to ensure the right people have access. That often leads to “Access denied” warnings and lots of annoying requests for access. 

Digital Asset Management:

Access to content based on a user’s role is a hallmark of digital asset management. Different groups of users have access to different groups of content, all managed by an admin or admins at an organization.

Don’t want the sales team to have access to marketing source files?

Don’t give them access. With DAM, it’s easy to give groups of users access to the content they need, it’s not an all-or-nothing choice for users at the organization!

For external users, you can invite them to any permission level you choose or you can easily send content (individual files, groups of files, folders, or Collections) without the need to go in and change access rights on every individual piece of content. 

 

Verdict:

Split decision.

Google Drive’s asynchronous collaboration in documents is almost unparalleled. Digital asset management solutions simply don’t offer that kind of real-time document collaboration. On the other hand, working with colleagues and partners outside of your organization makes Google Drive a deeply frustrating tool. 

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Sharing/Distribution

Content is rarely just for internal consumption.

Sharing content with partners and with the world is what it’s really all about. Your team needs tools for quick sharing, the ability to share the right file types and formats, and connectors for where your content ultimately needs to go. 

Google Drive:

Sending someone a link is easy from Drive.

Ensuring that everyone sent the link has the right access to the file sent is less easy. And trying to figure out who has access to which files across the library . . . good luck.

For users inside your organization sharing from the team Drive is great and allows for collaboration right away. That’s where Drive is strong. For file transformations like resizing or changing file types, Drive is not up to the task. And it’s not built for direct embedding or feeding content to websites and partners through an API. 

Digital Asset Management:

DAM systems are made for distribution.

That means easy ways to send colleagues or partners individual files, groups of files, folders, or Collections of files in moments and the recipient doesn’t have to deal with .ZIP files or finding out they don’t have access to a file.

The access issue may sound like no big deal but what about when you send something to an international partner and they are left without access and a looming deadline while you are asleep and unaware of their request for access.

DAM systems also provide for quick file transformations and resizing. Need to turn that Photoshop file into a usable jpeg? It shouldn’t take downloading, opening a new tool, and changing the file type.

Digital asset management systems can do that operation on the fly so that you only share or download the file that you need. DAM systems also provide embedding tools and (often) flexible APIs to distribute your content more effectively to help build websites or ecommerce sites.

 

Verdict:

Digital asset management.

With easy ways to share, automatic file transformations, embedding, and distribution through API connections, DAM is made for getting your content to the right people and out into the world. 

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Customer Support

No software is perfect and questions will come up about how to perform an action, address a potential bug, or get some advice on how to accomplish a task. Sometimes you might want to consult with an expert on an issue about organizing or distributing your content. 

Google Drive:

There are forums and lots of blog posts about how to accomplish tasks. Getting someone from Google on the phone...Good luck!

Digital asset management: 

Many DAM vendors, including Image Relay, offer live chat solutions (in addition to email and phone options).

Your team can be talking with expert support in moments. DAM solutions also often have dedicated support libraries for answering common questions

 

Verdict: 

No contest. Digital asset management.

When it comes to customer support it’s a clear case of getting what you pay for. Paying a small amount to a giant company can guarantee that customer service won’t be a top priority. For companies like Image Relay, superb customer service is what we’re all about.

It’s in our DNA. 

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Price/Value

The right tool for your marketing team has to be right for your budget. That may mean you have almost no budget for a tool for a very small team, or you may have millions to spend for an international team of 10,000s. 

Google Drive:

For individuals, it’s free for limited storage.

Adding more storage can be only a few dollars per month. For businesses, it’s as low as $6 per user per month.

Those low prices give users Google Drive’s storage tools as well as all the collaborative document creation tools. With very large teams this can get expensive overall, but on a per user basis, it’s a bargain. 

Digital asset management:

The price for digital asset management systems varies a lot.

Some systems, like Image Relay, start at under $100 per month for a team. Some highly customized enterprise systems can cost tens of thousands of dollars per month.

DAM systems can help organizations save millions of dollars in time and help organizations increase revenue. That means the value, the return on investment, can be huge with digital asset management, even if the price can be high. 

 

Verdict:

On price, Google Drive wins.

It’s tough to compete with free (or almost free). Price isn’t everything when it comes to value. The cost-savings and efficiency improvements from digital asset management means lots of savings, increased revenue, and large ROI. For most marketing teams, the value of digital asset management should more than pay for itself within a year.

So, which is it?

After looking through all the differences and where each system performs best, you might still be thinking, “What should I use?

For most organizations, we think the answer is BOTH.

 

How to Use Google Drive:

Use Google Drive where it is strongest. For individual team members managing working files and for collaborating on documents, Google Drive shines. If a use case means creating document files and storing personal files, go with Google Drive. 

 

How to Use Digital Asset Management: 

Use a digital asset management system where a DAM performs best.

That means for storing, accessing, and sharing finalized content. If a use case means that search, brand consistency, permission controls, file transformations, or connecting content to websites is important, go with digital asset management.

 

Conclusion

Having worked with hundreds of marketing teams to manage content, we’ve pretty much seen it all. We’ve worked with small nonprofits managing content for a handful of people, and we’ve worked with large enterprises managing hundreds of thousands of pieces of content for tens of thousands of users.

We’ve seen teams successfully use Google Drive for almost everything and we’ve seen organizations manage all their content in a DAM.

More often than not we see successful marketing teams use both Google Drive and a digital asset management system for doing what each solution does best.  

 

Want to learn more about how digital asset management can help your marketing team manage all your amazing content? Sign up for some time with our team and we can show you how to take your content operations to the next level beyond Google Drive. 

 

 



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