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Finding a replacement for Version Cue - Evolphin Zoom an option

By itdude2 ·
We are a medium sized ad agency with over 50 designers and web developers. In the course of producing campaigns our art directors, designers and web developers collaborate to produce assets ranging from marketing brochure (InDesign) to artwork (Photoshop, Illustrator..) to web sites (html, flash etc) .

Over the years we have developed strategies for coping up with the asset volume by first throwing more storage at it - our storage was doubling every 18 months to several TBytes now.

In the last few years we have discovered, using network shares for ad-hoc storage of our assets was a problem for several reasons:

- Graphic designers could loose minutes to open large (multi GB) PSD/AI files over the network just to see if it was the most current version they wished to edit or contained the correct artwork
- Layout designers would place images inside their document, would invariably end up with placing the wrong version or have someone else delete/modify/move the placed file under them, creating missing links or worst weird document layout errors
- Creative designer loosing his work as they find their file over-written by another designer accidentally
- Storage explosion as the file revisions kept on exploding due to designers saving every revision as v1, v2 .. V10 on the network share
- Art directors when they asked team members to work on a project, required designers to spend a lot of time searching for assets in the network share by name or worst by opening and previewing file versions (_v1.psd, _v2.psd..) from remote network share. It could consume anywhere from several minutes to a few frustrating hours to locate the correct versions
- Freelancers outside our firewalls needed access to some of the artwork, opening up the network share with complex security rules made us vulnerable as frequent security holes were created by staff forgetting to setup permissions on shares correctly or lack of auditing of access to our shared assets

Our software developers have faired much better as they have deployed Perforce for their software versioning needs for several years. Trying to deploy software version control systems for our designers never worked as they find these tools too clunky for their right-brained visual was of working.

When Adobe released Version Cue we were all delighted that Adobe was finally paying attention to the needs of the designers. However that glee turned into despair as we deployed CS4 and ran into performance issues, freezes, application hangs over the network access, scalability problems. We went back to our network share since the last two years.

Last year we looked at a new solution called Evolphin Zoom. It was practically the only solution to work out of the box with CS5 tools. For us CS5 integration was important, but robustness under the hood, performance & scalability were paramount as we know first hand what happens when you have over 250K+ binary assets in a network share.

Many of our IT friends had invested in Digital Asset management (DAM) tools but scaling has always been an issue as the assets grew in size. Without paying heeds to the scaling issue, we have seen many feature rich system start to crawl under load to the point where the investment in the DAM solution has to be written off to go back to the vanilla network shares.

With Evolphin Zoom, we did a pilot project with ~ 100GB assets and found that the server barely registered much CPU usage as we uploaded asset versions.
Thankfully they did not go with a WebDAV always connected mode of operation that plagues drive based solutions. While mounting a drive to your network share may sound like a great idea but network file drivers generate too much traffic and are a performance bottleneck when you are working with large files. Many IT people forget the laws of physics have not changed - bandwidth is not infinite, you can't beat the local disk with OS caching files.

Anyways coming back to Zoom: it has solved the exclusive edit problems for us via its lock management, we can clearly see who is editing a file at any point. Assets are versioned just like our software developers do today. Project management features allow us to secure our assets with freelancers typically restricted to their own project, so we no longer have to worry about setting up special permissions every time a freelancer comes in.

Backups are simple too - we can use our existing backup tools without learning a new backup feature in yet another tool. Incremental backups require backing up a database folder that has the version data and other database records in it.

Another feature we find handy is the searching function, we can search through asset revisions in real time using metadata or annotations. In short it does solve brilliantly the problems a creative agency like ours faces when dealing with large number of growing assets. Their website: http://evolphin.com

This was our journey to finding an appropriate version control system for creative agencies. What other solutions have you had success with? Short of trying to build your own version control system, perhaps based on open source tools like SVN, GIT, Hg what other strategies do you use to cope up with growing digital asset versions in your agency?

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