Business technology

Password management tools

- November 1, 2013 2 MIN READ

Like most people these days I have dozens of passwords for all sorts of things. Managing and remembering all of these passwords can be a major pain, but it doesn’t have to be.

This is where password management tools come into play.

Rather than attempt to review the hundreds of password tools out there (search Google or any app store and you’ll see what I mean), I am going to provide you with some advice on how to assess which tool is best for you.

The first thing you should do is a stock-take of what devices you use on a regular basis. Any password manager you choose must function seamlessly and simply across each platform. It must also work in the different browsers you use for each device.

How you input your data into your password management tool from all these disparate sources is another consideration. Getting all your data into the system in the first place won’t be a quick or simple job, but finding a tool that allows for bulk data entry can make it easier. (Note: Your password management tool is only as effective as its weakest link. If something you use every day lives outside of it then you may as well not have one. Either that or be prepared to change your ways to suit the platforms and programs your tool does support.)

Make a list of essential and desirable features that your password manager should have and prioritise them. These might include the ability to:

  • Auto logout if unused for a period of time
  • Self-destruct when too many password attempts are made to access the tool itself
  • Access a free trial – it is a must that you can try before you buy for this type of product
  • Easily upgrade from the trial to the full version (Note: Some Apple apps don’t do this for reasons I frankly find misleading).

Also look out for:

  • Acceptable annual or lifetime cost
  • Good reviews from users like you (match reviews to your requirements)
  • It can be used on the next platform you are considering i.e. you may be on an Android device today but are you considering moving to Apple?
  • Does the price include all platforms you use or do you have to pay for each one?
  • Can you get your money back if it doesn’t work?
  • Can you get your data out if you choose to stop using the tool? How easy it that?
  • How can you retrieve your data if it is corrupted or lost somehow? How do you backup this critical data?
  • Does it integrate with any of your devices’ built-in security features?
  • Does it prompt you to change and upgrade your passwords on a regular basis? Can these prompts be adjusted for criticality and annoyance/pestering?
  • Are there any other security features included such as “remote erase” of your whole device?

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There is quite some risk and time involved in putting all your critical data into an application that has not yet proven itself to you. If you choose to use a password management tool, read the reviews, heed the warnings and take note of the ratings provided by previous users.

Of course, you don’t have to put all your data into one of these tools right away and immediately erase it from everywhere else.

Try it on a subset of your needs across all platforms and devices until you are happy with it and then migrate completely to the new tool.

Do you struggle to manage or remember your passwords? What password management tools or techniques do you use to keep track of them?

Read Heather Smith’s tips on creating a secure, memorable password.