Maintaining your digital legacy: how to prepare digital assets for the unexpected

Businesses often recognise the creation of a ‘succession plan’ as the process of planning for the day an owner chooses to step down from their role. While many businesses spend the bulk of their time planning for growth, little have given enough thought to preparing for the unexpected.

A recent survey by Saga revealed that 87% of Britons have not planned their digital legacy.

Death and taxes may be inevitable, but we’re rarely ever sure when the former will happen. Astute business owners understand that preparation is the only way to avoid causing chaos for family members and associates should the worst happen.

The magnitude of data associated with businesses only compounds the problem, with the complexities of a company’s digital life creating a catalyst for action.

Sensitive information such as healthcare policies, legal documents, supply chain companies and customer data can be locked away from anyone trying to gain access following an unplanned change in ownership.

> See also: If the password is dead, what's next? Why it's all in the tap

The recent consumerisation of IT has led to a number communication tools and online document storage facilities and has reinvented how date is accessed.

From businesses who store bitcoins to those who dabble with social media and cloud-based storage, it’s essential for all to preserve their digital and intellectual property for the long term – or risk the downfall of everything they have worked hard to build.

To ensure business continuity after death, Joe Siegrist, VP and GM of LastPass has the following tips for business owners to prepare for their digital afterlife:

A digital estate plan is essential

To ensure that your digital assets remain with the business and that somebody has the proper permissions to access what you leave behind, businesses should create a digital estate plan.

This is a single online document in which a company uploads all business directives as well as wills and trusts together with instructions on how to proceed. A trusted individual should be nominated to be the digital air. It’s important not to write passwords and answers into a business owner’s actual will, because it will become a public document after death.

Don’t make social media your weakest link

At best, it is often impossible for another person to get hold of social media passwords without the direct consent of whoever is storing it. At worst, personal accounts associated with the company could be removed if social network owners learn that a person has passed away.

Google’s Inactive Account Manager app deletes information after a certain amount of time but this only applies to websites such as YouTube and Gmail. Facebook offers a legacy contact feature which allows people to appoint another contact for ownership of the account when they die.

Unfortunately, a lot of websites have failed to do this and there is little continuity between what social networks offer. This makes it really important for businesses to build a recovery plan to suit their individual needs.

Carry out an inventory of online accounts

Regularly updating a digital inventory for business-associated online assets such as financial accounts, email accounts, website domain log-ins and customer relations databases is the only way to ensure the secure storage of your intangible personal property.

> See also: It's official, we're doomed: the 25 most popular passwords of 2015 revealed

This is obviously a simpler process for smaller businesses than medium-sized enterprises who manage clients, vendors and suppliers but both should be prepared. Itemising usernames and passwords from WiFi to payroll is essential. A password manager is a hassle-free way to keep on top of these:

If the information is stored in this way and securely logged, there will be a smooth transition for someone who needs to pick up where the business owner has left off. It’s worth looking for one which includes a ‘sharing centre’ as passwords can be easily handed down. It’s also possible to have emergency access permissions in place.

Perhaps there are three things we can be sure of: death, taxes, and the evolution of technology. Digital asset planning will only increase in importance. Businesses tend to avoid risk with the day-to-day running of operations, but would unwittingly leave their digital future to chance.

The important thing is not just who will take over, but how they will do it: planning and foresight are the two key elements for creating a water-tight continuity plan for the business, all while minimising emotional and financial consequences for the company and family members.

Sourced from Joe Siegrist, CEO, LastPass

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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