File sharing vs media management: what’s the difference?

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I have often been asked why, in a world full of low-cost and free options to help businesses manage large amounts of content, anyone would choose to spend thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars on a media management system. The answer is simple: more efficient media management means more efficient storytelling and ultimately results in a better connection with your audience.

While it’s true that applications like Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive all do handle some level of organization and sharing of files, when it comes to truly helping you manage your media files, they simply don’t cut it.

So the next question I hear often is, "what makes a media management solution better or different?" Essentially, if you want something where you can simply drop and share your files, file sharing solutions are fine. However, if you want something that makes your content easily discoverable and actionable, and enables you to be creative with your media without unnecessary obstacles, then it probably makes sense to evaluate solutions which have been designed specifically for this purpose. 

When is file sharing enough?

That said, in some circumstances, file sharing may well be enough. The provision of file sharing solutions and services has veritably exploded over recent years and they are getting better. If, for example, your content library is quite small and you are just looking for web-based shared access to a central repository of files, then file sharing could be enough. Of course, most file sharing solutions also allow you to email links to files to other people and give you some level of permission management. And they do all of that pretty well. 

Where simple file sharing falls down is on some of the more sophisticated workflows, but also some things that seem fairly simple. Have you ever struggled to find a file? Perhaps you gave it an odd name and can’t remember what that was. Or you accidentally put it in the wrong folder. Maybe one of your colleagues accessed it from the other side of the globe and then accidentally moved it or renamed it. The other challenge is in even determining where to put items. For example, say you have a folder for videos of dogs, one for families, and another for beach scenes, where do you put a video of a family walking a dog at a beach? That is when simple file sharing can be a headache.

What can media management do that file sharing can’t?

Well, quite a lot actually. Starting with that headache of re-finding files if you don't know the name or location. Because they allow vast amounts of metadata to be associated with every file, some of which can even be applied automatically, they allow pretty sophisticated searching based on any number of parameters. So finding your files is really simple, no matter where you put them or what you called them.

Of course, this is just one example. The table below shows a basic feature comparison between two traditional file-sharing solutions and a cloud-based media management solution. 

Updated Table

Do I need Media Management?

This feature set is only the beginning of where a good media management system diverges from the traditional file sharing services. The choice to purchase a media management solution vs. staying with the traditional file sharing platforms should be based on asking questions like these:

  1. Is it cumbersome or difficult at times to search for and find files within our current system?
  2. Would it be very beneficial if we could search based on a strong set of metadata instead of just filenames?
  3. Would it be much more efficient if our approval processes included an in-depth tracking of approvals tied to our assets?
  4. Are there repetitive tasks that we have people doing on a regular basis that feel like they should be automated?
  5. Would it save you time if the system could automatically tag item based on the content? 
  6. could the way you collaborate on media be more efficient?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then trying media management could be well worth it. 

Investment in Time and Money

Many companies assume that huge amounts of time and money need to be invested to get setup with media management solutions. This is often the biggest barrier and the reason why many go for what seems the simpler file sharing option. And who can blame them, with many traditional solutions that was, and still is, the case. The good news is that media management is rapidly changing. Modern solutions require, for instance, no on-premise servers and can actually be configured within a few hours. 

Cost is also coming down a great deal. This is largely due to the provision of cloud solutions, which allow you to often adopt a software-as-a-service approach. Only paying for the features and/or capacity you use has obvious benefits and promises to revitalise the media management market.   

File sharing vs Media Management

In my experience, businesses that start working with a good media management solution never go back. That is because once you have experienced the powerful search abilities, the massive time savings of automated workflows, and automations for things like client file deliveries, transcription services, AI metadata tagging, and others, the idea of going back to a simple file sharing solution simply doesn’t make sense. 

The problem with simple file sharing is it doesn’t make your media actionable enough. In a world where competition is fierce and businesses are using video to instantly engage with their audience, being able to push out the right content in a timely manner is vital. File sharing solutions are simply not setup to do that in a cohesive way and that means losing out on views for your content and potentially customers. 

Parham Azimi, CEO and Co-Founder of Cantemo

Image Credit: Bakhtiar Zein / Shutterstock