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Stucture in your digital files? metadata or folder structure?

ZETICON VISUAL SM 08

In our previous blog "What is Digital Asset Management", we already extensively discussed the added value and the use of a DAM system. Now, we go one step further and discuss one of the most important functional aspects of Digital Asset Management, namely metadata.

What is metadata you ask? Well, in a nutshell, metadata is the enrichment of files with additional descriptive information such as the author, relevant topics, the language, location of a photo, accessibility & GPDR, the preservation or storage, and so on. In other words, data about data, or metadata!

But why is the use of metadata so important, so relevant? In what ways does it differ from a classic folder structure? And above all: what are the advantages for the end user? Let us clarify this!

WITHOUT METADATA NO DAM

We are often asked why Zeticon prefers metadata for digital files over a traditional folder structure. To put this in context, it is important to go over the essence of Digital Asset Management (DAM) and the advantages it brings. The purpose of DAM is to efficiently organise, store and (re)use digital information. The ultimate goal is to ensure that digital files are easier to find and faster to exchange. Time savings in all forms of cooperation, both internal and external.The use of metadata, whereby you literally enrich your digital assets with additional data, facilitates these advantages of a DAM.

In simple terms, metadata means that you describe digital media files and their content with the help of additional data. We distinguish 3 types of metadata:

  • Descriptive metadata: The purpose of this is to identify and describe digital assets. This includes information regarding origin, identification and interpretation. Descriptive metadata includes data such as title, author, date, etc.
  • Manageable metadata: Management metadata aims to structure the management of your digital assets. Management includes the information about ownership, provenance, GDPR and reuse, accountability for management activities and so on. Management metadata is therefore data such as retention periods, selection lists and rights;
  • Technical metadata: Its purpose is to represent technical information of a digital asset. Technical metadata is very important for data management. These data tell us, for example, the type of file format, the resolution, ...

In a DAM, all this metadata is used to find objects quickly on the one hand, and to determine the behaviour of the object on the other. Speed, saving time and getting a better grip on information, in other words. That is what the use of metadata is all about.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN METADATA AND A FOLDER STRUCTURE

Some may wonder what exactly is wrong with the classic folder structure. After all, using and navigating folders is a skill that anyone with basic computer knowledge can master. The answer is quickly apparent from a potentially recognisable example:

Take an average organisation with a shared folder structure. These folders contain everything from the latest quarterly results to marketing materials and company photos. These folders are usually easy to navigate for those who originally created the structure, but are an absolute nightmare for newcomers. After all, those photos from the last successful customer project are not in the "Photos" folder, but under "Marketing/2021/projectX/completion".

And it goes even further: What if all your customer projects are divided into folders per customer, but you are looking for all photos on which the mayor stood, or all photos of a company party where there was dancing? The folder structure is now a lot trickier: you have to scroll through each folder, manually view each sub-folder and then select only the relevant files. The limitation of folders becomes immediately clear: they only allow you to organise files efficiently in one way and make them searchable.

Let us now look at the alternative: In addition to the folder structure, all multimedia files are also metadataised: tags or descriptions have been added to each file, for example, the client name, the project staff or the activity that took place. The collection is now much easier to search because with a simple search command, the computer can easily find all the files together with the corresponding tags.

With this approach, you do have to take into account that all files have to be metadata-dated. But that extra investment of time when adding new multimedia files can dramatically increase the usability of the database. And don't worry, our solutions are designed to streamline this process as much as possible. For example, you can predefine the possible tags, which means you only have to select them from a list.

And time does not stand still either! Zeticon, through the Cronos network, works with specialised partners to integrate the latest technologies into our DAM system. For example, we partner with innovative Artificial Intelligence companies to automatically generate suggestions for certain tags, which drastically speeds up the metadata process. Users only have to check the suggestions of the AI system, improve them if necessary and accept them.


BENEFITS TO YOUR ORGANISATION

In the first place, metadata ensures that your digital assets can be organised and searched more efficiently. After all, you are no longer dependent on the limited folder structure and searching by file name, but now find all files easily by using various parameters such as tags, descriptions or categories.

But the use of metadata also offers additional advantages:

  • Access/Rights Management: What if you only want to give users access to files from a certain project? Or if certain files are not allowed to be used by the marketing team? Thanks to metadata, setting and determining rights is easier than ever: after all, you link objects to certain groups of users.
  • GDPR: The recent GDPR rules allow users to request from companies all the information that has been collected about them. Using metadata, this task is a piece of cake, as you only need to configure the appropriate metadata fields to store the necessary GDPR information.
  • File information: Sometimes it can be difficult to quickly deduce the contents of certain multimedia files. Video files, for example, often conceal little information in the thumbnail, but even a photograph without a context can sometimes cause difficulties. With good metadata, a user can get a faster and better understanding of the contents of a file.
  • Filtering: Can't see the wood for the trees? By using predefined metadata structures (via e.g. taxonomies, predefined code lists, ...) for metadata, you can easily filter and find the right files.
  • Preservation: For databases that need to preserve data for a longer period of time, metadata is crucial to ensure that the data can be accessed at all in the future. Most file formats become obsolete after a while, and are no longer supported by contemporary software. By including information about compatible software and hardware, long-term compatibility can also be assured.

The possibilities are endless, but which metadata you want to use exactly is unique to the processes within your company. It is therefore a matter of defining the right fields that are relevant to your organisation, something which Zeticon always helps its customers with.

CONCLUSION

Hopefully we were able to clarify what metadata is, and what benefits it can bring to the usability of your data. Although metadata requires an extra investment of time when adding new files, it can dramatically increase the efficiency of retrieval and support important processes like access management and GDPR compliance. And the future is promising, because with the help of new AI technology, the required time investment for metadata objects will only decrease.

So it's clear: Metadata is the core of DAM. Do you have a mountain of data and are you curious about how you can improve the usability of that data? Contact us and we will gladly guide you to a new future for your (meta)data!

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