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Solving the DAM Problem

Let's say your company has a surfeit of digital media, but it's a small company, not fortunate enough to have an IT department like the big companies have. You know you need to get a handle on managing your media assets, but the idea of building your own platform and doing it all yourself is, to say the least, daunting. Where do you turn?

Recently, a new breed of service providers has arisen to help the non-do-it-yourselfer. One example is Onstream Media, an online service provider of on-demand, rich media communications based in Pompano Beach, Florida. Onstream's goal is to free customers from the need to build, manage, and operate their own media asset management infrastructures by providing a set of tools that lets users search, access, share, and distribute assets within a secure hosted platform. Onstream calls its solution the Onstream Digital Media Services Platform (DMSP).

Onstream Media is actually an application service provider, explains Mike Castle, the company's vice president of strategic alliances. It provides "software-as-a-service." The company’s business model aims to capitalize on what Castle sees as a larger, global trend among companies to outsource their digital media needs with Web-based applications. Compared to the traditional practice of buying hardware and software and implementing everything internally on an enterprise platform, Web-based applications promise to be more efficient, less time-consuming, and therefore cheaper in the long run. Castle expects more and more companies in many markets to realize this and turn to service providers like Onstream Media in the future.

Thus far, Onstream has perhaps found its most receptive market among video production and postproduction facilities. In fact, it has an entire subsidiary called EDNET (or Entertainment Digital Network). A spinoff of LucasArts’ Skywalker Sound, EDNET provides reliable high-speed exchange of high-quality audio, compressed video, and multimedia data via a network of about 600 North American affiliates and 200 international associates. It counts among its clients Sony Entertainment, 20th Century Fox, MGM, Disney, Warner Brothers, Lucasfilm's Skywalker Division, and several recording labels such as Atlantic, Arista, Sony, and Capitol.

Such sources of "creative" content are the ideal fit for Onstream, because they are usually small, geographically dispersed shops that don't have access to corporate IT departments. But Castle insists that DMSP should have equal allure in the corporate world. Obviously, there are plenty of small businesses in the U.S., who—like postproduction outfits—don't have access to IT infrastructure. But if they have content and/or the desire to communicate with rich media, they are going to need DAM.

Castle believes that DMSP will even eventually catch on big among Fortune 100 companies, who traditionally already have IT infrastructure and personnel. "As time goes on, more companies will move to this paradigm," he says, referring to the paradigm in which media management is outsourced to software-as-a-service companies like his. "It just takes too long to integrate new software into legacy systems and infrastructures," he says. "You buy new software and by the time you get it integrated, a new version of the software is out already, and you have to start integrating all over again. You get caught up in a vicious cycle."

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