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SaaS vs. Hosted vs. Hybrid vs. Open Source DAM: Which is Right for You?

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When it comes to digital asset management (DAM), there’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Your business has different needs, workflows, priorities, budgets, and resources than your neighbor, so finding the best solution comes down to what is right for your organization.

Before getting too far in the evaluation process, take some time to understand what you need out of a DAM solution. Only then can you figure out which DAM delivery model will best help you achieve your goals.

Four basic DAM delivery models

DAM solutions typically fall into one of four categories — software as a service (SaaS), hosted, hybrid, or open source. Each of these categories represent a different approach, or delivery model, to DAM. And while no one solution covers every scenario, each has pros and cons.

Software as a Service (SaaS) DAM

A SaaS DAM delivery model refers to a cloud-based DAM system that is accessible via the internet and is managed by a third-party vendor. Rather than purchasing the software and hosting it locally on your computers and servers, you essentially “rent” it on a subscription basis. Fee structures vary from vendor to vendor. While some providers charge flat rates for unlimited access to some or all features, others charge rates based on storage usage and user count.

This cloud-based delivery model gives you the flexibility to access and use your DAM solution from anywhere, at any time. Since SaaS DAM solutions are hosted and serviced off-site, they don’t take up space on company servers or require in-house IT resources. The vendor handles all system upgrades, fixes, and tech support. This typically translates to faster deployment and product improvements. With that said, the vendor is ultimately in control of the functionality and experience, so look for vendors that provide visibility into their product roadmap, incorporate client priorities, and offer customization options.

Hosted DAM

A hosted, or on-premise, DAM delivery model refers to a DAM system that is installed on company servers. Unlike cloud-based SaaS solutions, hosted systems rely on your network. This can mean greater LAN speed and quicker access to files. But, since you aren’t relying on a third-party vendor, it also means that you need to have the infrastructure to handle the security, management, IT, upgrades, and support for your system. As you scale, this can quickly become problematic without the right in-house resources.

As such, hosted DAM systems tend to work better for large organizations that have the resources and need more control over their digital assets. For example, if you have tight security requirements such as restrictions on where you can store data, you may benefit from a hosted solution. Or, if you want to customize your DAM solution beyond what a SaaS vendor can provide, hosted could be the ticket. 

Hybrid DAM

A hybrid DAM solution is a deployment model that combines both hosted and SaaS solutions. To the end user, there’s only one DAM system, but behind the scenes, both cloud-based and on-premise servers are utilized. 

A hybrid DAM solution is ideal for organizations that need to control where their assets are stored but want the global accessibility and distribution benefits of a SaaS solution. For example, you can use a hybrid DAM solution to manage sensitive digital assets (think: patent information) on your servers. But, at the same time, when your files are market ready, you could use SaaS capabilities to quickly share them with your global teams and partners.

Open source DAM

An open source DAM solution is software with a publicly accessible source code that organizations can use and modify to build their own DAM solution. Many people equate open source with free, but companies that use open source software can end up paying much more in the long run. The reason for this is related to integrating and adapting the software to company systems and needs. 

This level of customization comes at a cost, and if your IT department can't find a way to adapt the code, the associated labor costs can add up quickly. On the other hand, if you have specific customization needs, open source is the most flexible option. Just be aware of copyright restrictions — yes, those exist with open source! Also make sure that you have a strong IT team that can install, maintain, and customize your open source solution. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting time and money.

Why DAM SaaS may be the best option 

Most organizations today prefer SaaS DAM solutions over hosted, hybrid, or open source alternatives. According to Gartner, worldwide SaaS revenues are expected to hit $113.1 billion by 2021, an over 30% increase from 2019 estimates. Much of this popularity comes down to these five factors: time, support, scalability, accessibility, and cost.


The amount of time it takes to implement a SaaS DAM solution is significantly less than with a hosted, hybrid, or open source alternative. For starters, SaaS DAM software is already developed and tested, so it’s essentially ready to go. Within a few short weeks, you can implement and roll out a SaaS solution, whereas it can take months or longer to install and roll out an alternative. When it comes to quick implementation (and maintenance) there’s no competing with SaaS DAM. Plus, since SaaS DAM solutions are cloud based, they provide a more time-efficient system for sharing, managing, and creating data and digital assets. Talk about win-win!


If you aren’t working with a SaaS DAM vendor, you’ll need to rely on your in-house IT team to fix bugs, deploy upgrades, and discover ways to grow and leverage your system’s capabilities. This is not only expensive but requires a lot of time and people resources. Whereas SaaS providers have dedicated product, IT, and support teams. This ensures that you get the service you need and that your system is firing on all cylinders 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Plus, with a dedicated team whose primary job is maintaining and improving the software, you can rest easy knowing that there’s a team working to solve tomorrow’s needs and challenges.


Before moving forward with a DAM solution, you need to think about how it will scale to accommodate your organization as it grows. If you require more users or your digital asset library grows, how will your solution (and your IT teams) keep up? SaaS DAM solutions are by far the most turnkey, scalable options on the market. SaaS allows you to scale immediately without dedicating more IT budget and resources to expand your server infrastructure, upgrade systems, or purchase expensive hardware. 


Since SaaS is cloud-based, all you need is an internet connection to access your software — no need to log in via a VPN or be on the network at your office. This flexibility ensures that everyone from your globally dispersed teams to your road warriors, remote workers, and night owls have 24/7, on-demand access to your SaaS systems. In an always-on, knowledge-based economy, access translates to productivity and dollars. 


SaaS uses a one-to-many model. This means that providers can offer affordable pricing because their subscribers share the cost burden of their services. So, rather than paying for the servers, people, technology, and hardware to support, maintain, and manage a software solution from your end, you join forces (and pocketbooks) with other organizations that subscribe to the service. 

See the Widen SaaS DAM solution in action

Deciding if a SaaS, hosted, hybrid, or open source DAM solution is right for you comes down to your unique business needs. If time, support, scalability, accessibility, and cost are top of mind for your organization, a SaaS DAM solution might be your answer.

Still have questions? Take a look under the SaaS DAM hood. Share your challenges and goals with a trusted advisor and check out our DAM solution, the Widen Collective®. Schedule your personalized demo today!


Topics: DAM

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