Like most people these days I have hundreds of passwords for all sorts of things. Managing and remembering all of these passwords can be a major pain.
This is where password managing tools come into play.
Rather than attempt to review the hundreds of password keeping tools there are 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 password tool is best for you.
The first thing you should do is a stocktake of what devices you use on a regular basis.
For example, I use an iPhone, a desktop PC and a laptop as my primary devices. There are lots more but these are where my life and critical data resides.
So for me any password manager I choose must function seamlessly and simply across all those platforms.
Within the PC I use Firefox as my default browser, Chrome as my Google Apps browser and Internet Explorer as a backup. So any tool I use on the PC and laptop has to work within those environments as well.
On my iPhone I use Safari and Chrome. So, once again the tool must work in all of those.
Your password management tool is only as good as its weakest link. If something you use everyday lives outside of it then you may as well not have it. Either that or be prepared to change your ways to suit the platforms and programs your tool does support.
For me the next most important aspect of these tools was how I got my data into them from all these disparate sources.
One system I tried came with a Mac and/or PC viewer so you can synchronize your password database to the cloud. That I liked. Unfortunately the desktop program was only a viewer, I couldn’t add or update any information with it. That all had to happen my iPhone. For me that is a major pain because the iPhone keyboard annoys the hell out of me and entering large amounts of data with it is a deal breaker.
So make sure your tool of choice allows bulk data entry and easy data entry on your platform of choice. Don’t be fooled, getting all your data into the system in the first place won’t be a quick or simple job.
You should make a list of essential and desirable features that your password manager should have and prioritise them.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
Auto logout if unused for a period of time
Self destruct in the event of too many password attempts being made to access the tool itself.
Where does your data live? On the cloud or on your devices? Who can (potentially) see it?
Free trial available – it is a must that you can try before you buy for this type of product
Trial version easily upgrades to full version (NOTE: Some Apple apps don’t do this for reasons I frankly find misleading).
Acceptable annual or lifetime cost
Good reviews from users like you (match reviews to your stock-take of requirements)
It comes 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 live in 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?
What are the failsafe to getting your data back 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?
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.