Portfolio Server 10 review
It’s a fact of life: just as a business grows so, as a consequence, does its collection of digital resources. Company artwork, document templates, sales brochures: finding exactly what’s required to complete a task can make the average working day a pretty daunting, if not frustrating, one. Couple that with the fact that very often those resources are spread across multiple media – CDs, DVDs, USB flash storage, and so on – and it all makes for a lot of time spent playing hunt-the-pixels.
There usually comes a point, then, when some bright spark or other suggests that all those files need a centralised home: a server (with multiple backups, including an off-site one, we hope). There is, however, more to asset management than shovelling everything onto a server, or NAS drive, and hoping for the best – that’s where Portfolio Server steps in.
If you count its original incarnation as Aldus Fetch, Extensis Portfolio has chalked up fifteen years of digital asset management, so this is a product that has attained maturity, and more. However, Extensis hasn’t been resting on its laurels, as version 10 demonstrates.
We were pleased to note Directory Services (LDAP) integration has been added in the Professional and Enterprise versions. This saves administrators of larger sites the hassle of creating yet another set of accounts with yet more credentials: users can now log in with their normal network credentials. You can, of course, still opt to create accounts on an ad hoc basis, with separate credentials for security reasons, should you wish. Indeed, for users of the three-client Studio version, this is the only available option.
You can get that all-important update to the client’s artwork to them fast with NetPublish, available as an additional module to Portfolio Server Enterprise and Professional
Setting up Portfolio Server is a matter of double-clicking the appropriate installer icon and following the onscreen instructions before, in the Server application, setting up users with the appropriate level of access (Reader, Editor, Publisher or Catalog Administrator). On our small-scale test network, a full server plus two-client installation took under half an hour, including configuring the users.
Your files can sit on any standard NAS device or RAID system – there’s no need for an operating system to be present, as there is for the server and client software. Portfolio accesses and extracts metadata from a range of file types, including EXIF, QuickTime and Microsoft Office, making it available for use by its proprietary database. Power users who have the Enterprise version can also set up an external SQL database for ultimate flexibility.
There were several features in this new version that we were eager to try. First was the ability to preview movies in a variety of formats (flv, m4v, mov and mp4 among them), pretty much essential for an art department with responsibility for web content as well as traditional print or PDF catalogues.
For those willing to make the extra investment in the Professional or Enterprise version, Portfolio Server is also capable of bulk file conversions, though most – apart from TIFF or JPEG – require the optional NetMediaMax module. NetMediaMax adds an eye-watering £4,267 plus VAT, so this option isn’t going to be for every user.
Where Portfolio Server scores over using a NAS device or file server through Mac OS X’s Finder with Spotlight is in its sheer flexibility. Changes made in the client – a new collection of images, say, or the addition of keywords to make finding groups of files easier – are quickly propagated to other users. You don’t even need to launch the client software to find and insert your media: the Express Palette takes care of that. Those who already use Portfolio Server should think seriously about making the upgrade to this new version. If you work with digital media, and don’t already use Portfolio Server… you really should.