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Migrating Content to a New Digital Asset Management System

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Blog header graphic: Migrating content to a new DAM system.

Managing content is complicated. Keeping track of where files are stored and which version is the most current can be a time-intensive challenge. Storing files in a central platform, like a digital asset management (DAM) system, can help teams keep content organized and easy to access. 

But not all DAM systems have the same functionality. Perhaps you’ve been using a DAM system for several years but it hasn’t scaled with your business growth. Or maybe it doesn’t integrate with your new marketing technology. Or it could be that you need better customer support across your global offices. Whatever the reason, if you decide to switch to a different vendor you’ll need to migrate content from your existing system to a new platform — which is no small task! Let’s explore how you can set yourself up for success.

Selecting a new DAM vendor

If your team has already picked a new system, that’s great! But if you’re just starting the selection process our DAM evaluation toolkit can help. This hands-on guide includes information, resources, and exercises to help you determine which DAM solution is best for your business. You might also consider using an RFP to guide your selection process

Regardless of your approach, here are a few things to think about.

    • Conduct a needs assessment. What functionality do you like and dislike in your current content management system? Does your vendor provide the services you need?
    • Consider your future growth. Use your business goals to project your future technology needs. 
    • Map your marketing technology (martech) stack. Outline the other tools you might want to integrate with your new DAM system. Will they work together?
    • Consider your file directory system. Your current folder structure can inform the metadata taxonomy in your new system, and streamline system setup and adoption.

Be sure to gather feedback from key stakeholders across teams and departments as you move through this process — it will bolster user engagement down the road.

The migration process

Once your new DAM platform is selected, your preparation for content migration can begin. Here are some steps to consider.

Make a plan

All successful projects begin with a plan! So decide who is responsible for selecting the assets that will be uploaded to the new DAM system, and establish a timeline for collecting files.

Set criteria for the content to be migrated, including:

    • Age. We generally recommend selecting content from within the last three years.

    • File type. Are you going to include creative files, photographs, videos, documents, or something else? Do you need work-in-process files or just final versions?

    • Department. Is your DAM system the repository for content across the organization, or just marketing? For global content, or regional content too?

Be sure to check all the places that content lives, including servers, desktops, hard drives, jump drives, Dropbox, Box, and FTP sites. Create one centralized area (like a server or folder) for project members to save/move the files that should be migrated.

Prioritize assets

If you are migrating a large number of assets (more than 3,000) consider a phased approach to streamline the process. 

Assets that are used by multiple teams should have the highest priority. After popularity, you can prioritize based on currency/date, campaign, product line, or file type.


Although files in the DAM system can be easily recategorized, deleted, or archived, it’s most efficient to upload only the files you need. So before migrating content, be sure to eliminate duplicates such as: 

    • The same file with two different names
    • The same file with the same name, in different locations
    • Different files with the same name
    • Multiple versions of the same file (look for the most recent)

Also, you only need to upload the highest-resolution file (such as a TIFF) because users will be able to convert it to different types (such as a JPEG) when they download the file.

Before uploading assets, ensure files are given a meaningful name — something like IMG_4568.jpg may not be easy to search for. Individual files can be batch edited and renamed in Excel to match the project, campaign, or another meaningful identifier. And if necessary, folders should be compressed (e.g., into ZIP files) prior to upload.

Upload methods

You will likely have multiple options for migrating content into your new DAM system, including:

    • Uploading directly to the DAM system. This approach allows you to simply drag and drop assets through the upload tools using customized upload profiles.

      This is the fastest way to get assets into the DAM system. There isn’t a limit to the number of files you can upload at one time and you won’t need the support of your IT team.

    • Uploading via FTP. Another option for migrating content to the DAM system is FTP, or file transfer protocol. This approach can be useful when you have really large assets to import, like RAW files or huge design assets.

      Using FTP in tandem with the DAM system uploader can really expedite the upload process.

Post upload

Once your assets are in the DAM system they need to be tagged with metadata to make them searchable. Fortunately, the system should have tools to apply these values in large batches. You could also consider using image recognition tools that are powered by artificial intelligence (AI). 


Although every content migration is unique, these best practices can help ensure yours is a streamlined success. If you are curious about the upload and metadata tools available in our DAM system, the Widen Collective®, request a demo today!

Note: This article was originally published in February 2014 and has been updated regularly to remain current and accurate.

Topics: DAM

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