Hanging on to online passwords is hard enough when you're alive, so how can you ensure continued access to important business accounts when your not?
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A key aspect of today’s digital economy is businesses of all sizes running operations online. In small businesses, whether it’s accessing cloud technology, social media, e-commerce or financial transactions, the keys to these accounts often lie with the business owner, who stores passwords and logins in a place they deem secure.
This could range from a piece of paper in the bookcase, to an excel file on the computer.
However, there is one grim eventuality which is often not considered: what happens if that business owner suddenly passes away? If vital accounts that house customer data or legal documents are blocked off to anyone who doesn’t have access, the business itself could be at risk.
At least half of all business owners are expected to continue working beyond current retirement age, and yet few think about what will happen to their digital information when they pass. Business owners need to ensure that someone can carry on their business with ease, in the case of unexpected death. A digital estate plan should be created to ensure that everything is covered, while still maintaining the security of key information.
How you store passwords will dictate how easy or hard it is for others to retrieve them
These four tips should get you thinking of the best ways to secure the digital legacy of your business, should the worst happen:
Value your digital assets
Maintaining an inventory for all your digital assets is crucial. This is everything that is electronically stored; from email accounts, to internet banking, social media accounts, and paid-for domain addresses.
As your company increases in size, these will become increasingly harder to track. Larger companies have more employees, clients, suppliers, and vendors, and therefore a variety of technology, and accounts, to manage.
The easiest way to store important details is to catalogue passwords and usernames for online accounts, even down to WiFi configurations, and of course, making sure it stays up to date. Consider using a password manager, such as LastPass, as an easy and secure way to help you do this.
Create secure login details
If you’re starting to think about the digital legacy of your business, it might be worth checking the current state of your account login details. In a global study by LastPass, 91% of us are aware that reusing passwords across different accounts is risky, yet 61% continue to do so.
This increases your chances of getting hacked, and therefore puts your whole business at risk. Of course, it’s never easy to think of and remember so many different combinations of characters and numbers, so the easiest thing to do is to use a password generator, to create randomised sequences for each account.
Hackers love it when you reuse the same password
Don’t under-estimate social media
We all know the benefits of social media for business: drive customer engagement and loyalty with existing customers, attract new customers, and increase brand awareness with influencers, and amongst competitors.
Unfortunately, in the case of death, there’s currently no continuity across social platforms for what to do. Apart from Google’s Inactive Account Manager, and Facebook’s legacy contact feature, you’re largely left in the dark when it comes to your social media presence. If you’ve signed up for an account using a personal email, it will be even harder for others to gain access. Therefore, it’s vital that as a small business, that you have a recovery plan to suit your individual needs.
Passing on the information – don’t put it in a will
The average Brit holds 19 online accounts, so as a business you will undoubtedly hold many more. Keeping track of all these accounts can be hard enough, let alone finding and remembering the passwords. Naturally, you might think that the safest place for your passwords is in a will.
However, as soon as the owner is deceased, these become public record. Your accounts, and business, are therefore left vulnerable, open for anyone to access. New and existing usernames, emails and passwords need to be securely recorded, with access given to authorised parties in the event of the owner’s death.
As a business owner, you’ll probably be familiar with the concept of calculating risk, and not leaving things to chance. It’s important to apply this same attitude to the digital future of your business.
While it’s not always easy (or nice) to prepare for death, planning and foresight will ensure that the remaining management can continue the business with ease and minimal disruption. In order to prevent fiscal and emotional repercussions, pick your successor, and give them the tools to continue leading your business.