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November 14, 2022

Where should you store your metadata?

When you’re working in a structured content environment, one of the biggest decisions you have to make is where and how you store your metadata. The approach you take has implications for how you’ll use, manage, and preserve your metadata over time.

To determine that approach, it’s important to consider the ways you can apply metadata to your content. Metadata can live in either the content repository or in the content files themselves.

The following considerations can help you determine where to store each piece of metadata you need to track:

  • Categorization. Multiple pieces of metadata can be used in conjunction with each other to create an overall system of categorization for your content. Your repository may include a metadata layer to help you develop that categorization. To take advantage of that layer, the repository may be a good place to store your metadata.
  • Publishing. What function does metadata serve in your published content? Does it need to be present in your web-based output files to facilitate faceted search, filtering, or both? If so, you may need to store it in the files (or find a way to push it into the files during publishing if you stored it in the repository).
  • Customization. Do you have custom metadata, or will you need it in the future? Your repository may have limits on creating and storing custom metadata inside the system. You may also face limits on validating the system metadata against a custom content structure. Therefore, it may be better to store custom metadata in the files, especially the more customization you have.
  • Maintenance. Many systems options automate the creation and maintenance of administrative metadata through their workflows. For example, authoring and review workflows can capture who wrote, reviewed, and approved the content at what date and time. Using the repository to store and manage this metadata minimizes work for content creators, who would have to capture this information manually if it were stored in the files.
  • Export. Many organizations change technologies for content creation over time, so it’s important to find out what happens when you export the content from your repository. How is the metadata preserved during export? To safeguard against losing important metadata information when you migrate out of the system, consider storing that metadata inside the files.

It’s rare that a single approach—storage in the files or in the repository—will work for all of your metadata. Most organizations take a hybrid approach and store some pieces of metadata in each location based on need.

Are you trying to decide where to store your metadata? That can be a tough decision, so contact us for help evaluating your options.