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Comparing Cloud-Based and On-Premise DAM Software

Ben Owen

By Ben Owen | Sep 16, 2021

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At Stacks, we believe that digital asset management (DAM) is not a project or a platform, but a program a brand implements to get the most out of its content. The DAM system works across the organization as a single source of truth and provides direction to its users. Time and money previously spent searching for or recreating lost assets goes instead towards putting them to use and leveraging them to generate growth. With the right standards and workflows in place, an organization can grow without impacting the usefulness of its DAM.

If you’re interested in implementing an effective DAM program, it may seem overwhelming to get from where you are now to what we just described. It helps to begin by breaking the project down into specific steps. For example, deciding whether your DAM system needs to be cloud-based or on-premise is one of the most important determinations your team can make. It sets the stage for creating effective DAM standards, finding the right DAM platform, and on-going management of the DAM system. To aid in this decision, we defined cloud-based and on-premise solutions and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Defining "Cloud-Based"

Most of us are aware of the cloud and regularly use cloud-based software programs such as Google Drive or iCloud Photos. But what exactly is a “cloud-based” solution?

Software that is cloud-based is hosted, managed, and secured by a third-party software provider. Basically, this means that users pay a service provider to access their technology through the internet. This usually requires an annual or monthly subscription fee per user. The core appeal of this form of software is flexibility. Users can change technology at any time and access it from anywhere with an internet connection.

Defining "On-Premise"

In contrast to cloud-based technology’s use of a third party and dependence on the internet, on-premise solutions keep everything in-house. If the core benefit of cloud computing is flexibility, the primary benefit of on-premise computing is security.

Generally, organizations license software from a provider. Their IT department then implements it within their own server, behind their own firewall, on their own property. Users access the system via a direct connection to an on-site server. Because of the independence of an on-prem system, some highly regulated industries are required to go this route.

Comparing Cloud-Based and On-Premise

Now that you have a better understanding of what cloud-based and on-premise solutions are, you can compare the two and decide which works best for your organization. Below, we outline how each type of system stacks up based on five important criteria: implementation, accessibility, cost, security, and control.



Pro: Because implementing new software in an on-prem environment is up to your team, it can be totally customized. You decide what systems it integrates with and how it's rolled out.

Con: On-premise implementation can be costly. In order to host the software, your organization must invest in server hardware, storage, backups, IT services, and security solutions such as firewalls.


Pro: Most cloud-based software is ready for use “out of the box,” meaning your team can start using it the day you purchase it. There is often no need for large-scale implementation beyond training and onboarding users and integrating your new software with other tools in your system.

Con: “Out of the box” solutions aren’t typically custom. Because the software is created and hosted by a third party, there can be limitations on the modifications available to you and your team.



Pro: With on-premise solutions, the software is hosted on servers within your organization. This means that even in the case of an internet connection issue or another disaster, your team can still access the system.

Con: On-premise systems are only available when you or your employees are also on-premise. They are also limited to use only by those within the organization that hosts the software, so sharing data with clients and partners is difficult.


Pro: If your employees have a stable internet connection, they have access to the system. This allows employees to easily work remotely when needed (i.e. 2020). Many cloud-based solutions also support external guest permissions for those outside the organization.

Con: Given the system’s dependence on the internet, your team will be unable to work when it’s down and must rely on the provider’s IT team to handle communication and fix the problem.



Pro: Although on-premise solutions are generally more expensive than cloud-based ones, the benefits may outweigh the extra cost.

Con: It costs more to implement and manage an on-premise solution than a cloud-based one. This is due to the costs associated with purchasing server hardware and storage and utilizing IT teams to build the system. Ongoing costs include hardware maintenance, buying and implementing software updates, IT services, s and purchasing more storage as the organization grows.


Pro: Purchasing cloud-based software licenses is cheaper than implementing an on-prem solution. You can increase or decrease the number of seats you have or discontinue using the software entirely as your organization changes and grows.

Con: While the basic costs may not be as high, there are ongoing expenses associated with cloud-based technology. As noted above, many vendors charge per seat, meaning that as your team grows, so will your monthly or annual fees. Annual contracts can also cause unnecessary expenses if you need to switch to a different solution mid-year.



Pro: Security is the biggest strength of on-premise solutions. The system is built behind pre-existing firewalls and encryptions and can only be accessed by those within an organization.

Con: Building and implementing custom security solutions and permissions hierarchies is complex and time-consuming. Your IT team must be prepared to implement these technologies as well as your software.


Pro: Cloud-based software vendors build security technology into their software to ensure it's as secure as possible. They often allow the client to designate an administrator to set permissions for each end-user in order to control who has access to sensitive information within the organization

Con: Because cloud-based systems are accessed via the internet, they are more susceptible to a breach or hack than locally-based systems. This means that organizations need to develop standards for managing login information and sharing data.



Pro: When you purchase a license for on-premise software, you have a great deal of control over it. Your team implements, secures, onboards, and updates the system as needed and customizes it to fit your specific needs.

Con: When something goes wrong, it’s up to your team to fix it.


Pro: Software updates and bug fixes are handled by the vendor and don’t require the purchase of a new license, as on-prem solutions do.

Con: When something goes wrong, it’s out of your hands. The vendor’s communication and level of service are the only things you have to depend on to get your team back up and running.

Cloud-Based vs. On-Premise DAM Systems

Based on these pros and cons, you and your team may already be very close to deciding what kind of system will work best for your organization. If so, that’s great! You’ve taken the first, and one of the most important, steps towards creating a highly effective and efficient DAM system. As you make your final choice, be sure to keep your goals in mind. When the system is up and running, what do you hope it helps your team accomplish? What are the primary concerns of your organization? What are your budget limitations? We've often found that simple, cloud-based solutions work great for many organizations looking to get started in digital asset management. However, some industries and organizations require a form of on-premise software, so take the time to ask questions of vendors and your IT team and find out what is most important.


Still having trouble making your decision? Contact Stacks! We’ll be happy to work with you and your team to set goals, core system requirements, and DAM standards and workflows.

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