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What Are the Main Types of Metadata


Digital asset management (DAM) ensures that a user can perform certain operations on data files. These operations range from media files such as video and audio to content data. There are several operations involved in Digital asset management such as file (or content) creation, indexing, workflow, version control, and access control. All of these operations ensure that the digital asset is manageable.

Metadata tagging is an essential component in digital asset management and the identification and allocation of data. By tagging or naming the data, users such as cybersecurity companies, virtual private network servers, and web developers can identify the data, locate it, and authenticate it.

There are essentially three main types of metadata that we will cover below in this extensive guide. It is vital to understand each type of metadata and how it functions to make files or other data more identifiable.

1. Structural Metadata

Structural metadata indicates how a digital asset will be organized. An example of organized data would be something similar to lines, paragraphs, pages, and chapters in a book. Structural metadata also indicates whether the data is part of an individual collection or multiple collections. The structured data is presented in a digital format and organized in the following ways:

  • Page numbers
  • Sections
  • Chapters
  • Indexes
  • Table of contents

Structural metadata documents the connections between two digital assets. For instance, developers or servers can utilize data to indicate the dimensions, elements, size, or quality of a certain type of file. The file can a document file, a media file, a folder, or any other type of data. Structural metadata can determine if the file is original or if the file has been edited or altered in any way.

2. Administrative Metadata

Administrative metadata is the technical source of any digital asset. The metadata may refer to the file type or how, when, and where the digital asset was created. Administrative metadata also outlines administrative or usage rights and who ‘owns’ the creation or concept of the data (intellectual property). Thus, the information includes the owner, creator, data allocation, ownership or lease duration and license agreement.

Given the information above, most users break metadata down into three subtypes:

  1. Technical. Decodes and renders files
  2. Preservation. Long-term management and digital asset archiving
  3. Rights. Intellectual property and usage rights

An example of administrative metadata would be a creative common license. A creative common license may include the following metadata:

  • Who created the asset
  • Which individual or entity owns the license
  • The conditions of licensure
  • The intended purpose of the digital asset
  • The duration of the license, allocation, or ownership

3. Descriptive Metadata

Descriptive metadata helps users discover and identify different types of assets through a given set of keywords. Some example may include:

  • File extension
  • File title
  • Author
  • Content keywords or phrases
  • Date or date range of creation
  • File type

Descriptive data can include administrative data or structural data, as well as any other type of data that someone can use to find or identify single or multiple digital assets. Descriptive data can be the most usable type of data because there are several ways to describe a file, folder, media, or other digital assets. For this reason, developers and creators are careful about how they word an asset’s filename or internal content.

How Important is Metadata for Digital Assets?

Metadata plays an integral role in ensuring the survival of digital resources long after those resources have been created. Both the preservation and discovery of data long-term is why metadata must exist with the creation of every digital asset. Well-structured metadata allows users to access information and data from a wide range of sources. This is especially important in the age of cloud platforms where multiple users gain access to the same digital assets.

As new technology becomes available, new metadata elements and structures have been created to accommodate complex information systems. The formats are no longer as simplified as they used. However, the three main categories must remain intact to serve different purposes.

Finally, metadata is important because it serves as a basis for effective encryption, decryption, and authentication between users.

How to Protect Metadata with a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Few people understand the connection between metadata and security threats. Hackers, criminals, government agencies, Internet providers, and spammers, however, see and exploit that connection every day.

Let’s go one step further. All the above entities — including government agencies — not only exploit metadata but store it for future exploitation. The only way to eliminate the threat of any individual or organization gaining access to metadata by integrating a virtual private network (VPN).

Users who value their privacy need a virtual private network (VPN) to mask their online activity. How does a VPN protect users?

How does a VPN work?

A VPN shields a user’s activity by virtually ‘relocating’ the user to a different Internet Protocol (IP) address. A VPN further protects a user by creating a tunnel for data to transfer from sender to recipient without being detected.

By utilizing a VPN, a user can make their data inaccessible to criminals, government agencies, or entities. The data that is inaccessible also includes the metadata within any digital asset. All files, folders, networks, and metadata is completely protected.

Tips for Choosing the Right VPN

Any user that prioritizes the protection of their digital asset’s metadata needs to consider what features a VPN does or does not offer before choosing a provider.

  • Web logs. Does the VPN retain web logs? Does it log and keep records of user activity. Every VPN has a different policy regarding logs.
  • Data storage. Does the VPN store data? If so, it can also be assumed that the data contains metadata.
  • Third-party access. Yes, even VPNs can be guilty of sharing user data or account information with other parties. Therefore, users need to do their research and find a VPN that has a reputation for keeping account holder’s information private.
  • Servers. How many servers does the VPN provide? How many countries does the VPN operate securely in? Does the VPN have the ability to protect data from exceptionally skilled hackers, government agencies, and Internet providers in these countries?

Understanding the relationship between metadata and network security can help users employ the best strategies for protecting their data and their companies. Virtual private networks play an important part in making sure that metadata is secure on any platform for any user.

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