If the only person with access to your business’ online accounts dies, are you in trouble?

Small business owners have got a lot to think about. Should they hire more staff? Should they open a new location? Does their business offer services or products that aren’t generating enough income? But here’s something that far too many business owners don’t think about: What happens if the one person who has access to all your small business’ online accounts – everything from your business’ online bank accounts to its social media sites to its cloud-based payroll software – suddenly dies? Will you be able to access these important accounts?

A big issue

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted this issue on its Web site. It might not seem like a problem that your business will suffer. But if your business does have online accounts to which only one person has access, you could be tempting fate. If that person dies, are you able to access your online bank account so that you can pay your vendors or cut a rent check to your landlord? How about your payroll software? Are you able to cut checks to your employees, all of whom want to get paid on their regular payday? And then there’s Twitter and Facebook. If your business relies on these tools to talk with customers, you’ll need to know the passwords that give you access.

The cloud isn’t fail-proof

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


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