The one person with access to your business’ online accounts dies. Now what?

April 1st, 2014

It's not something that small business owners give thought to: But how are you affected if the one person with access to your business' most important online accounts – your company's social media accounts, online bank accounts and cloud-based payroll software – dies unexpectedly? Are you going to be able to access those accounts? You better, or else your business is likely to be in for some financial pain.

A big issue

The Wall Street Journal recently wrote a feature story on this seldom discussed but very important topic. Increasingly today, small businesses are embracing online, cloud-based accounts for everything from their banking to their payroll. And far too often, just one person can access those accounts, including their passwords. If that person should die, it might leave businesses with no way to access these accounts. That could mean that your business wouldn't be able to cut checks for its employees or pay its vendors.

False sense of security?

The Wall Street Journal story defines the problem as a matter of trust. To put it simply, small business owners put too much trust in the cloud. They mistakenly feel that data they put in the cloud will stay secure forever. This isn’t true, though. The cloud doesn’t offer absolute protection from hackers. And it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be able to always access your important business files, information and accounts. In the event you can’t access your online accounts because none of your living employees knows the passwords, having all your critical business matters stored online won’t be much help.

Solving the problem

The easiest fix is to make certain that more than one employee knows the passwords that go along with your online business accounts. You can also generate a list of these passwords and store it somewhere secure, such as safe. Secondly, be sure that your business’ online accounts aren’t registered to only a single employee. Some companies – such as Yahoo! – state that ownership of an account ends when the account holder dies. You don’t want to get into a tricky legal situation. Preferably, make sure that several employees – and, obviously, yourself – have legal access to your business’ key online accounts.