The Importance of an Audit Trail in Digital Asset Management

If your organization is fully utilizing a digital asset management system, the number of images stored will grow significantly over time. So will the amount of activity. With so many records being added and accessed by users, it is critical to have the capability to understand the actions taken against assets within the system.

At first glance, this may not seem like an issue. After all, if your system is secure, why do you need to review specific actions? The reality is that adverse events can occur, and an audit trail can help uncover what happened. Sometimes it's just convenient to see how often an image was downloaded, or how many downloads have occured in general.

This article will help you understand what an audit trail is, the type of information that is included, and how to conduct a review of audit records.

What Is an Audit Trail?

Audit trails chronologically capture and log events that take place within a system. Within a digital asset management system, they provide evidence of actions taken against a asset, from the time that it is added until the time it is removed. When an asset was imported, which properties were modified, and more are all part of the activity logging.

Some industries are highly regulated and need audit trails to prove compliance with specific requirements. An audit trail can meet this need by proving all actions taken on a specific asset. It also provides internal accountability for actions taken by users that may or may not have met internal workflow standards.

The Importance of an Audit Trail

With a complete audit trail, you can keep an eye on different files and what users were doing with the records. It can help detect mistakes that may have occurred as well as unauthorized changes. 

You can also use an audit trail to track the path that a asset takes throughout your digital asset management system. For example, if a asset moves through a workflow, you can monitor the steps taken. This can help to identify potential issues.

An audit trail can monitor several key areas regarding your stored assets.

User Actions on assets

With so many assets contained within your system, users are constantly making changes. They may be modifying keywords or other properties of the asset. Even well-intentioned actions can undermine overall system usage in a large collection of images.

For example, let's say a user was repeatedly taking an incorrect action on a asset. An audit trail would identify every asset that the user touched so that the mistake could be corrected.

And while the hope is that every asset is located in its proper place, mistakes can happen, just like they can occur within a paper filing cabinet. An audit trail can track an image's path and be useful in tracking down mislabeled or misplaced images.

User Deletions of assets

The ability to delete images is always a concern within a digital asset management system. assets deleted intentionally or in error can represent a critical loss of data. It is therefore critical to manage the delete actions taken and ensure that they are being handled appropriately.

With so many actions taken against assets, an audit trail can easily identify where something went wrong with image deletions. It will show the user that deleted the image, as well as actions taken before and after.

Maintaining and Reviewing an Audit Trail

The audit trail should be maintained for the entire life of the record. You may need to maintain the records even longer if you ever need to go back through the history of what happened to a deleted image.

As a result, the audit log can become unwieldy over time. You should become familiar with the types of events you should routinely review to detect issues. You may be looking for:

  • Unusual activity
  • Unauthorized usage
  • Inconsistent activity by users
  • Productivity
  • Large-scale changes to information
  • Deleted images
  • Internal audit purposes

The review of your audit logs should be a regular part of your overall digital asset management system maintenance. Identify what you are hoping to glean from your logs. From there, you can determine how often the logs should be reviewed.

Of course, outside of your routine reviews, you may need to answer a specific "What happened?" scenario. When this comes up, you want to be familiar enough with your audit trail's capabilities so that you can answer that question. This could include using filters, date ranges, or other criteria.

Audit Trails: A Critical Feature of Your Digital Asset Management System

Now that you know more regarding what is an audit trail, you may see the necessary role it plays in digital asset management. Audit trails are important for both internal and external accountability.

DBGallery offers a complete audit trail log. To see it in action, see the full log in Tools | Audit Trail after logging into DBGallery.  When viewing a specific image there is a log of all events on that images in the Version Control history panel.

Related links for further reading on activity monitoring and audit trails: