One of the new features we introduced in VitalSite 6.5 is a completely revamped administration for public files (public files are files available to visitors who are not logged in to VitalSite, such as images your administrators use in the content of your web pages). This change brings to the VitalSite content management system (CMS) many of the capabilities typically found in digital asset management (DAM) solutions.
At the core of this is a move away from storing public files in the file system in favor of storing them in the database and caching them to the file system when they are requested by a site visitor (for example, the first time a visitor views a provider page containing the image of their doctor). This change to hosting files in the database allows us to push public file management in a number of new directions, including:
- Scheduled publications and archiving
- File previews
- File versions
- Administration permissions
- Public file search
- Workflow – drafts & approvals
These are all great new capabilities on their own, but there’s one more change we made that has profound implications: we extended taxonomy to public files.
In the past, public files were organized using a standard folder structure: you created folders on the server describing the content, and uploaded your files there. This is the way people have worked for years, so it’s familiar. But it also introduced some unnecessary constraints. Perhaps most notable was the fact that a file could only reside in one folder. If you used the same image in two different sections of your site, you had to choose one folder to store it in (and remember which), or you created duplicate files and dealt with the resulting headache of managing duplicate content.
Taxonomy provides a better solution. With the extension of taxonomy to public files, you have the opportunity to create a rich metadata tagging environment for public files that is typically only found in dedicated DAM tools. In addition to the standard file type and module facets created by default for you, you can create new facets with rich terms descriptive of file contents, color schemes, review dates, and more. The sky really is the limit.
Once you’ve defined the facets and terms you want to use, you can browse your collection of assets by filtering by facets… even multiple facets simultaneously.
If you’re used to the old way of doing things, fear not: You can always create a facet, call it “Folders” and use terms reminiscent of folder names to tag your assets. Just remember that doing so utilizes only a fragment of the potential available to you with VitalSite’s new Public Files features.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that even if a public file isn’t linked to or embedded in a VitalSite page, it’s still always publicly available (assuming it is published). Fortunately, you can use taxonomy and VitalSite’s Secure Files module to create restricted catalogs of your sensitive digital assets as well. These are assets that will never be visible to general public site visitors, but which you may make available to privileged site visitors who log in to a secure section of your site… say for a Board Extranet.
Have ideas for extending and enhancing the use of VitalSite’s asset management functionality? We want to hear them! Send us a comment!