Dropbox is one of the first and even now among the biggest cloud storage solutions available. It is arguably the product that made the cloud storage concept popular.

It has many advantages → an excellent user interface, fast desktop apps that sync nearly instantly, robust security features, especially in their Premium and Enterprise Plans, and detailed activity logs.

However, is Dropbox an adequate tool for digital asset management (DAM)?

DAM is a principle companies use worldwide to manage a large number of digital assets across their organization. Purpose-built software solutions of varying complexity and price are available to enable companies to use DAM, and some of these features are now available in cloud storage solutions like Dropbox.

In this article, we'll explore Dropbox's capabilities and shortcomings, its overall suitability for DAM, what features are available in purpose-built DAM software, and which software is suitable for whom.

What is Dropbox and how does it work?

Launched in 2007, Dropbox is a cloud-based file storage and synchronization service. Dropbox creates a special folder on the user's computer that is automatically synced with their cloud storage. This provides the safety and portability of files on the cloud with the convenience of a folder on the hard disk.

Dropbox provides a free plan with 2GB of space and now offers Premium and Enterprise plans with more space and advanced features.

Features of Dropbox:

Some of the basic features of Dropbox include:

Synchronization - You can upload, work on, and save to Dropbox from any device through the browser interface or desktop / mobile app and automatically sync all changes.

Dropbox Apps and Integrations - Dropbox provides native apps for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, and Linux and additionally integrates into other services, including Google Workspace, Microsoft Office 365, Slack, Zoom, Canva, etc.

Security Features - Dropbox's Free plan provides Two-Factor Authentication, file recovery, and version history. Paid versions add password-protected sharing, compliance, and encryption features[1].

Works with any file - there isn't a restriction on what you can upload to Dropbox.

Secure Sharing - You can generate separate sharing links for viewing and editing files and remove access anytime.

Advanced Features of Dropbox:

Tagging - Dropbox allows users to manually tag files to enhance searchability.

Directly edit videos and PDFs - You can edit PDFs and to a limited extent, edit videos directly within Dropbox without needing separate software.

Upload and Manage Photos - You can automatically sync all your captured photos and videos directly into Dropbox from your mobile phone.

Commenting - As of 2024, you can comment within documents and leave comments on other files like videos and images through Dropbox. This helpful feature allows you to keep collaboration in one place. Still, it needs to go further for the modern high-speed collaborative workplace.
Dropbox Replay is a paid add-on, for which you need a paid Dropbox plan, which allows users to leave comments and feedback at specific timestamps of videos.

File Requests - Users can create a file request link for others to upload files to their Dropbox. This works even if the person providing the file does not have a Dropbox account, making it useful for collecting files from many people in one place.

Drawbacks and Limitations

However, when considered at scale, there are some drawbacks as well with their features:

Complex sharing mechanism - Links are generated for viewing and editing files separately and must be shared and managed independently. This can become cumbersome when managing hundreds and thousands of files. Secondly, there isn't an additional permission layer for files within a shared folder, which can result in too much or too little access for some collaborators. Lastly, shared files are automatically added to the recipients' Dropbox, counting against their storage allocation, and access can persist even if a sharing link is deleted [2].

Dropbox link sharing

Capabilities spread over multiple products -  Dropbox now includes additional products such as Dropbox Paper (documentation), Replay (Video Production), DocSend + Sign (contract management and signatures), and Capture (Video Recording). Putting all these products together and creating a highly productive environment with fast-growing teams can be challenging.

Advanced features locked in Paid Plans—Fast-moving teams need access to multiple features, necessitating upgrades. Higher-tier plans, of course, come with additional (sometimes significant) costs.

What is Digital Asset Management?

Digital Asset Management refers to the systems and associated tools that store, manage, and distribute an organization's digital content. These systems aim to centralize the organization's digital asset library, improve team collaboration, and streamline marketing and creative workflow.

DAM is used by companies worldwide that produce, manage, and deliver a large volume of digital assets to the Internet across multiple channels and platforms—websites, apps, social media, digital marketing, virtual events, etc. An organization system like DAM needs powerful software to fully empower teams, and such software provides many features that are only partially available in cloud storage like Dropbox.

Read more about the detailed benefits of Digital Asset Management here.

Who needs to use a DAM?

DAM isn't for everybody. If you have only a few files in your Media Library or work on a few at a time, you probably won't need DAM as you may not gain much from the incremental efficiency. However, if you have a lot of files and/or have a lot of files being actively worked on at a time, you probably need a DAM:

Anyone managing a lot of media files simultaneously - If you and your team are creating, collaborating on, and publishing hundreds or thousands of media files continuously, you almost certainly need a DAM. Keeping track of this activity and ensuring that the correct file reaches the right channel with all the right changes is beyond even the most sophisticated spreadsheet, project management tool, or template. The escalating complexity of a manual process will actually create more and more project management work, distracting you from your core creative activities.

You have many collaborators and approvers - If you have files created by a large team of people, approved by a large management team, and then sent for publication to other teams, you almost certainly need a DAM. Tracking which team is working on which asset, who is supposed to approve which asset, and which assets should be published by which team on what channel will undoubtedly become a full-time task!

You need detailed feedback - Even if you don't have many collaborators, if your feedback and comments are extensive and require follow-up discussions, you should consider a DAM to keep things unified.

Advantages of a DAM

We'll now explore some of the unique features and advantages of specialized DAM software, especially those that set it apart from multipurpose cloud storage like Dropbox.

Advanced Organizational Capabilities with tags and metadata

Arguably, one of the most significant weaknesses of multipurpose storage is the lack of custom tags and metadata. Custom tags and metadata allow you to create your own organizational scheme and organize thousands of files across dozens of categories and parameters. Imagine if you needed to find all "Christmas" photos in your storage → To do this, you need to ensure that the file name has "Christmas" in it ("Xmas" will not do!). Eventually, as your asset library grows, using only the file name for search will become unwieldy.

Descriptive metadata tagging

That's where tags and metadata come in - specialized DAM software allows you to add tags and metadata to all your assets to suit the needs of your business. If you want to tag "Christmas" files, you can. If you want to tag "employee" photos, you can do so. Whatever you wish! This enables you to search for files in many different ways, which is extremely valuable when you have a library of thousands of files in size.

At scale, with thousands of files, manual tagging isn't enough and runs into the same manual overhead problem of maintaining a file name convention. Modern DAM softwares have automated AI-based tagging capabilities that can recognize the contents of images and videos and tag them accordingly. So, all those "Christmas" photos in your storage could be tagged automatically instead of you going through all your files tagging "Christmas" repeatedly.

Tags and metadata go hand in hand with a powerful search capability. It allows you to quickly combine different search parameters and metadata fields and find precisely what you need.

At scale, you often have to search for files on very fuzzy input, like all "red" files or all images with "shoes." AI-powered visual search is now a reality with DAM software, allowing you to search by image or text for the closest visual match.

Powerful Sharing

DAM software is purpose-built for speedy collaboration and reflects the needs of the modern distributed workforce. A DAM will allow you to a) share files and folders with entire teams rather than just individuals and b) maintain granular control over what people and teams can edit, modify, and delete in your DAM storage.

Richer Feedback Mechanism and Version Control

Richer feedback mechanisms DAM software enables more focused collaboration by bringing all feedback inline for an asset, allowing reviewers to place comments in specific places on an image or a particular video timestamp, and, lastly, allowing the creator to lock an asset in "draft mode" so that they can modify it in response to feedback before re-releasing it.

Intuitive Version Management When used correctly, DAM software can allow you to eliminate "V2," "V3," etc. file naming conventions! As media assets are updated, they automatically ensure that the rest of your team has access to the latest version.

Asset Delivery

If you invest in powerful DAM software, you ideally want it to be the single master repository of all your marketing, website, app, and media assets.

This breaks down when you must transfer digital assets to technology teams to deliver to your website or app or when marketing teams need to re-upload files into a marketing automation tool. This moves the asset from the DAM onto another storage, like AWS S3 or Wordpress for website/app delivery or another software purpose-built for that need.

All your good work managing your digital assets on the DAM can be nullified in such cases as there is no storage that is a single source of truth. A powerful DAM software will allow you to share assets in a read-only format, with ready-to-use URLs for your technology team to insert directly into your website without transferring elsewhere.

Disadvantages of using Dropbox as a DAM

Yes, you could use Dropbox as a DAM. Still, as we've seen earlier in this article, several features are available in specialized DAM software, making them more suitable than Dropbox. Where Dropbox may especially fall short of serving as a full-fledged DAM are:

Challenges with organizing a large asset repository

Dropbox ships with only limited manual tagging capabilities—good enough if each user on your team needs to organize their own few dozen files, but it falls short when your media library is thousands of files in size and hundreds of them are "in flight" at any one time between creation, review, revision, and delivery.

As your media library grows, you must build your own organization-specific data scheme. The data scheme for a shoe business will look very different from that for a jewelry line. For this, you need to be able to define custom metadata and tags and populate them at scale with automation.

All of these require purpose-built DAM software, whereas using the same feature in Dropbox will help you some but not all the way.

Without automated AI tags or metadata, you're constrained to search in Dropbox exclusively with file names and manual tags. Searching using file names and a few manually added tags only quickly loses efficiency when dealing with an extensive database of media assets unless you have very long and complicated file names or you invest effort in adding dozens of tags manually.

Dropbox's paid plan now allows you to search by image. However, filters are limited to tags, people, and recent files.

DAM software brings all this together - fast search with autocomplete, best-visual-match to your search term or image, and the ability to chain multiple parameters and filters to search as broad or as specific as you need.

Inadequate sharing capabilities

Dropbox requires separate links for sharing and editing and a complex, albeit powerful, method to revoke access. Overall, Dropbox's sharing abilities are both powerful and risky for fast-growing teams:

  • If you share a folder with edit access, users can create additional sharing links to re-share the folder independently of the access you provided. This provides agility but also creates access control issues. More complex controls are available in the Paid and Enterprise plans and need administrator support and intervention.
  • Dropbox provides basic link access statistics but lacks detailed analytics and reporting on file sharing and access, which can be important for businesses to monitor engagement and usage.

No media processing or optimization capabilities

However well you manage your files on Dropbox, you eventually have to transfer assets to your technology team for delivery to your website/app. Your assets must be re-uploaded to delivery storage like Amazon AWS or Wordpress CMS. This introduces additional management complexity to your asset lifecycle, making tracking and managing website performance and experience harder, and you lose overall ownership of the asset lifecycle.

Should Designers choose Dropbox or a DAM?

Most designers would have stored their files in Dropbox or most certainly uploaded files to a client's Dropbox. That said, A DAM is extremely useful for designers and can offer a massive boost to productivity, allowing them to focus on core design work instead of coordination.

  • Designers often work on multiple assets at a time, receiving numerous asynchronous comments from other team members on each asset. They then have to make updates and modifications to each asset. It very quickly becomes hard to track all the changes needed, and errors can happen. A DAM keeps all the comments and feedback in one place and ensures nothing is missed.
  • A DAM has automatic version control that ensures that all stakeholders always view an asset's latest version and remove the repetitive work of re-sharing updated assets after every change.
  • Sometimes, a change is needed on a design immediately and should be possible without needing to work on it in your preferred design software and re-upload to the DAM repository. Many DAM software today come with built-in editors for minor changes.

While some of these capabilities are available in Dropbox, they generally are not available to the richness and power available in a purpose-built DAM. Second, unlocking these features may need plan upgrades.

Should Creative Heads and Marketing Leaders choose Dropbox or a DAM?

The benefits to Creative and Marketing Leaders are substantial, enough to say they are the primary beneficiaries of a DAM.

Maintaining excellent design quality, maintaining or even improving turnaround times, and scaling your design operations all at once can be a Herculean task. DAM can be invaluable in such a situation.

  • DAM helps ensure that teams and external partners share assets quickly, safely, and error-free. You get more granular and safe ways of sharing files and folders than cloud storage, like Dropbox. It also gives you richer analytics to review usage and curb access as needed.
  • DAM provides marketing leaders with detailed analytics on time spent on assets, reuse, duplication, and overall team productivity. Marketing leaders can optimize where effort is spent, improve approval and feedback cycles, better anticipate growth, and hire on time.
  • A marketing leader's significant goal is to ensure that assets are not published off-brand or not up to the quality expectations. DAM keeps all feedback and approvals in one place. More precise sharing mechanisms reduce the chance of people having inappropriate access and mistaken edits or plagiarism occurring.
  • The ability to categorize assets with tags and metadata and quickly find and reuse assets saves you and your team a lot of time and effort recreating assets.
  • Collections—dynamic folders that collect the latest versions of specific files from different root folders in your storage are a unique feature of DAM and perfect for onboarding external partners and agencies. You can collate and share necessary branding files in a virtual folder without having to duplicate them every time.
  • A DAM software with built-in media delivery removes messy manual hand-offs between teams, asset duplication, and content sprawl across the organization. Marketing leaders regain total ownership of the entire asset lifecycle from creation through approval, publication, and final delivery.

ImageKit DAM: A Powerful DAM for fast-growing teams

We built ImageKit to serve the needs of fast-growing teams and unlock higher levels of collaboration and productivity by specifically addressing some of the shortcomings of multipurpose cloud software like Dropbox.

Better asset organization

As your organization grows, you must define a unique data scheme and organize your data accordingly, including your visual media. ImageKit fills this gap with AI Tags and Custom Metadata.

ImageKit allows you to add metadata fields to suit the needs of your unique business - and search by these metadata fields. If you have a coffee business and need to categorize your images by coffee estate, you can do that. If you have an art gallery and need to categorize images by art school, artist, and creation year, you can do all that. Add the metadata fields you need and the data you need for each field.

Sometimes, you want to add descriptor words to your assets, which may not neatly fit into predefined metadata fields. Tagging exists for just this situation. You can add tags to your assets for additional organization and searchability. In addition, ImageKit allows you to auto-tag assets with AI, instantly adding additional layers of searchable information to every asset.

Organizing and tagging your assets with lots of metadata and tags will be of little use if you are limited by how you can search for your assets. Basic text search on just a few parameters is a thing of the past with ImageKit's multimodal search:

  • ImageKit search can now intelligently autocomplete your search query with the most likely file, shaving more seconds off your search time.
  • When you want to broaden your search, you can use text or images, and ImageKit will find the closest visual match by understanding the contents of an image.
  • If you need to search for specific assets, you can combine multiple parameters—file names, tags, AI tags, metadata, EXIF data, data and author data, and many more—to find the exact file out of thousands.

Granular Sharing Capabilities

As we covered earlier, cloud storage tools like Dropbox have added some powerful sharing capabilities over time, but sometimes don't go far enough. Without a sharing paradigm purpose-built for fast-growing teams, you can sometimes add complexity without enhancing collaboration. At ImageKit, we built our sharing capabilities specifically for distributed internal and external teams.

  • With ImageKit's Access Control Lists, you can share assets at an individual or team level. If a team composition changes, update the team list in ImageKit and access to given/withdrawn accordingly. This directly addresses one of the biggest challenges in access control: ensuring that everyone on the same team has the same (and) right level of access, especially when team composition changes frequently.
  • Contributor Permissions: When multiple teams work on a single project, you want teams to be able to add files to a folder, modify and delete their own files, and not modify other contributors' files. That's precisely what we've built with contributor access. Add people and teams as Contributors to a folder - they can add, modify, and delete just their files in the folder without access to other contributors' files. This is a step up from multipurpose cloud storage, where once someone has "edit" access to a folder, they have essentially unfettered access.
  • Collections: Collections are dynamic virtual folders that collect assets from disparate locations in your DAM. Now, you don't need to duplicate a master file into multiple folders to share with teams. Just add the file to a Collection and share the collection. People with access to the collection have access to only the underlying files and not the original folder where the files are stored. When the project is done, "delete" the collection and you revoke access without touching the underlying files.
  • Public Links:  We recognize that marketing teams work with many external partners, and you should not need to add any of these partners to your DAM to work together. Some partners are pure consumers of your digital assets, which is what public links were built for. You can share assets, folders, or collections with people in a read-only / download-only format. Recipients don't need to be on your DAM to use public links. Public links also can be given an expiration date or be password-protected.

Audit Logs and Asset History

In addition to building on the capabilities offered by multipurpose cloud storage, ImageKit also provides benefits only found in the most powerful DAM software: Audit Logs and Asset History.

With teams collaborating at scale, DAM administrators also need powerful monitoring tools. Audit Logs provide details of all DAM activities, such as uploads, deletes, asset versions and movements, updates to asset organization or access controls, and more. You can also dive deep with log filters and asset-level change history to ensure smooth collaboration.

ImageKit Media Delivery: Cross-functional productivity and control

This capability was once available in Dropbox but has since been withdrawn, making it one of the crucial advantages of using ImageKit.

Why does Media Delivery matter? You've spent time and man-hours building your DAM into a single digital asset source of truth. The moment assets are moved into another storage for delivery, that organization and oversight are lost. Files can and will be renamed, metadata stripped, and analytics on the lifecycle of your asset broken.

When you use ImageKit for media delivery, you simplify your workflow:

  • Once an asset is ready, you can provide the ready-to-use URL to your tech team to embed into your website or app.
  • ImageKit's unified image and video delivery API and CDN are built directly into the DAM. All assets are optimized and resized automatically in real time and don't need additional processing by your tech team.

This gives you so many advantages:

  • There is no need to make additional variants for different screen sizes and connection speeds.
  • There is no need to duplicate assets into cloud storage or CMS.
  • Direct usage analytics for your media - see which media assets on your website are the most engaging
  • Direct control of asset quality and, thereby, website performance and experience.


Although Dropbox is a free and easy-to-use service used by nearly a billion people, it has some structural limitations regarding functionality, sharing, productivity, and data organization.

Conversely, DAM can help you store, organize, collaborate on, and distribute digital assets centralized and securely.

If you are a fast-growing business and are reaching the limits of what Dropbox can support, try a DAM. ImageKit is a DAM built for fast-growing teams. It can help you upload, store, manage, collaborate, and deliver your media assets across multiple channels and improve your content distribution performance.

If you want to try out ImageKit for yourself, you can sign up for a free account today.