Monday, May 14, 2012

An Efficient Way to Manage All your Digital Assets : A Review of eMAM™

Managing information such as audio, video, graphics, images, and documents in all their forms can be tricky when your company has a broad array of materials. It can be complicated to find the asset once you save it, as well as distribute it when you need to. It can also be difficult to have space to store it all whether you transfer it to digital or not. If like many organizations, you have thousands of assets, you might have a mountain of a problem on your hands when trying to best leverage all your information.
If your organization needs a way to manage your vast digital assets, as well as digitize those assets, then you probably want to review eMAM™.

Data conversion and storage

Empress Media Asset Management, LLC, founded in 2006, provides migration of tape based media to digital, digital asset management, cloud based digital data storage and mobile integration of that data to customers via eMAM™. eMAM allows users to migrate data from tapes and hard drives into a digital library that can be shared, and maintained by the customer through access via the web or as software housed on their own servers.
The service also offers live feed access, which can be converted into a variety of formats for embedding, or access via a wide range of connections. eMAM provides software for digital asset management, and cloud management, for mobile access. They can also assist with content distribution, aiding the customer in sending the digital media to any location specified, as well as make it available for download.

Digitizing, storing and distributing data

Anyone in the field of data management knows that preservation and access are the most important aspects of any kind of data management. Paper crumbles over time. Tape breaks down into chemicals and celluloid. Even digital media is only as stable as the server it is housed on. In other words, issues with keeping all kinds of data healthy, abound. With the technological breakthroughs in recent years, the push to digitize information and media has been strong. A paperless society is at our fingertips and eMAM is leading the way. The technology not only allows data to be migrated to more current media, but digitization allows for easier search and access options though search technology and tagging.
As tapes and paper start to degrade, the information contained within becomes unreadable and useless. Only recently, Sony announced that it was discontinuing manufacture of VHS tapes, with cassette tapes following soon after. As the media is no longer produced, the machines used to access them are also no longer produced. Just finding a VCR or tape player might mean a trip to Goodwill, rather than Radio Shack. For businesses and organizations with large collections of tapes, and “old-fashioned” media,  if their machine breaks, or if the media degrades, retrieval of the information is usually out of reach. Digitization of the media, converting the tapes, and other aging media before it breaks down is the best way to preserve the information.
Digitization also solves the problem of shrinking storage space. Many libraries are starting to embrace the eBook phenomenon due to this issue. Academic libraries are beginning to favor electronic academic journals over print versions for easier searchability. The fact that it will always be available to whoever needs access doesn’t hurt either. Multiple shelves of tapes, books and papers take up enormous space, while servers take up less space and store more information that is easier to find.
The biggest problem with digitization of tape and paper media is the time that must be spent to do it. Tapes must be allowed to play in real time, papers must be scanned, and all of this requires the time to do it. Few people have that kind of time, and few businesses have the manpower, thus they must employ digitization services. This is where eMAM steps in to fill that need.

eMAM was created for enterprise

If your business has large amounts of data that needs to be digitized, as well as stored for easy access then eMAM is for you. This service would best be used by companies and information management organizations, such as libraries, museums and foundations looking to convert records to digital format. The service allows virtually any quantity of data to be stored.
Organizations are learning the value of digitizing their data. Paying rent for real-estate to store physical goods just doesn’t make sense when the business can rent the service and the space to store these items digitally less expensively. Even as formats change, converting between two digital files is much easier than going from analog (tapes and paper) to digital, due to the man hours needed to physically handle the analog media.
Once something is in digital format, or originally created in digital format, conversion is a matter of pointing a computer to the file and allowing a program to work on the conversion. Furthermore, digital media, especially housed in the cloud, does not face the same risk of destruction due to the elements or accidental fires or floods. If your organization deals in information that must be preserved, you  need this service.

What can eMAM do for me?

eMAM will take your tapes, hard drives, media files, or even a live feed and transcode them into digital format and archive them on their servers. From there, the user can select how the media will be stored and distributed. The user can edit and manage the media within the server via secure access, and from there decide how the data will be arranged. eMAM allows for the data to be distributed via optical media, such as CD/DVD discs, embedding via the web and mobile access.
Customers have the option of licensing the software for management and access as well. This is useful especially for corporations that might have several people working on data maintenance for the company and need to collaborate on how that data appears and is used by their company. The service can also install its workflows module on your company’s systems as well.

The Basics: What does it look like?

The user can access the eMAM service via online portal, via eMAM Vault, or eMAM Enterprise. Every  interface is fairly monochrome and uncomplicated. Users can use it to search, edit and arrange their media fairly easily. Media can be tagged for easy search options, and the search feature allows for many different ways of searching, such as by content or date. Web browser access allows for content preview, including video in mobile browsers. The user can also arrange media in categories using a descending file system of their own making.
For groups with multiple users, the account holder can arrange user groups and access permissions, along with tracking and history. This feature is good for giving the user some idea of how the data is being processed and used. Users who are familiar with Windows filing systems and system windows should find the Director access program has a familiar feel.
Depending on whether you need a full on system, easy access, or a place to simply store your data will depend on what system you choose. The online system offers the ability to upload data in almost any type of format, and send content to many different devices such as Smartphones and tablets. You can brand and customize your experience in a multitude of ways. The eMAM Vault is a turnkey hard ware and software solution which offers media and entertainment companies or even churches and other non profits the ability to store large amounts of data for easy access and delivery. The enterprise solution offers everything you’ll need now and later for organizing all of your assets, as well as allowing you to share and send them to multiple places and you have the option to get the software, modular customized features that you can license or the entire system.

Pros and Cons

There’s very little to find at fault with a service that offers to digitize your media that would otherwise consume the time of a full time employee and make it available across platforms and on mobile devices as well. The ability to change and edit your metadata for searching and filing, to preview proxy files of your data, and arrange it as you need it is another plus. Cloud storage and access is a feature that will become standard in many services, making your data safe on remote servers, but also easily accessible from just about anywhere from many devices.
The only two downsides to eMAM™ is the lack of information about pricing, which is likely to be a bit high as are prices for most digital conversion services, and the lack of information on the website about certain types of digital conversions. However, when you consider the high cost of doing this in-house, the price isn’t that bad. (Not to mention the cost of real-estate to continue to store space clogging media that may become inaccessible through time.)
I talked via email with the COO, Mr. David S. Miller, who reports that prices vary depending on the services needed with the smallest offering well under 100,000 dollars and the software itself being around 50,000 dollars.. He also reports that certain print media, like newspapers, and film media such as microfilm can be converted to PDF, which removes a downside because many companies dating back into the 1950’s, libraries and archives, store information on microfilm, and conversion of this type of media would be extremely useful to these information organizations. Having that information digitized and searchable would be a great asset and offering this service makes it a great deal at almost any price as this information is invaluable.

Will it fit your budget?

The question you really need to ask yourself is this:  If I lose my documents and other data what are my assets worth? Certainly, this is not a service for a super small business, but for most midsized to large businesses with a lot of data to convert and store, the cost will be more than worth it. Consider the cost of converting data in-house, as well as the cost of storage. Not to mention, what it may be worth to your organization to be able to access information more easily. The main reason you have information is to use it, if it can’t be accessed and used, it’s worthless. eMAM offers a free trial of its web access and services, so that you can decide how useful it might be to your particular business.

Is it for you?

Depending on the nature of your data, and the need to preserve and access it, this service may be exactly what you need. To a business attempting to digitize their own media, especially tapes, be prepared to spend money on hardware and software for conversion, blank data discs or servers for storage and access, not to mention personnel time to have someone physically perform the conversion. For most organizations, completing this job will become the sole job description of a dedicated employee who will require a salary and benefits. In the long run, this service is likely the more cost effective option. eMAM also offers an enterprise solution that can be deployed to your server environment for added security behind your firewall.

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