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Five things to consider when buying a business password manager

Password manager
(Image credit: Image Credit: Christiaan Colen / Flickr)

Effective password management is more critical than ever for businesses. This is because of increasing cybercrime and our reliance on software for critical business operations. The best password management software will ensure your organization’s credentials remain secure and your information private. 

This article lists five things all businesses should look for in the best password managers that will help ensure your adoption of password management software is a success.

Cross-platform compatibility

One of the first things to consider when buying a password manager in a business context is cross-platform compatibility. Few businesses use one operating system exclusively, so purchasing a password management solution that only supports macOS but not Windows (or vice versa) is likely to lead to significant complications.

This is because employees using a non-compatible device will be essentially locked out from the service, and will have no way of securely accessing credentials. If this leads to employees sending passwords over unsecured channels (such as email or SMS), it has defeated the purpose of investing in a password manager in the first place.

We recommend choosing a password manager that provides native applications for macOS, iOS, Android, and Windows. While it is less important, we also recommend choosing a password manager with browser extensions for all the major browsers, such as Safari, Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox. These extensions make it easier to log into accounts on the internet and generate or save passwords when logging into a new service.

Interoperability with existing software infrastructure

Another important factor to consider in an enterprise credential manager is interoperability. This means that the software will work alongside your existing digital infrastructure and software services. 

For example, the best password managers will autofill credentials on both web browsers and desktop applications. This ensures a seamless digital experience and limits the number of times employees will need to access passwords and other credentials manually. 

Larger organizations should also consider how a password manager might coexist alongside other identity and access management (IAM) services such as single sign-on or multi-factor authentication. Ensuring your IAM ecosystem is intuitive to use for employees is crucial and should guide your decision-making when buying a password manager.

Administrator controls

Some password management platforms provide more advanced administrator controls and analytics than others. For business leaders, the ability to audit the platform’s use and detect suspicious or irregular behavior is crucial. So crucial is the integrity of your credential management systems that you should ensure your provider gives you the most in-depth and detailed information possible. 

Even from an ease-of-use standpoint, understanding how employees use the platform will help IT administrators optimize the platform and the allocation of permissions. It will also increase the chances of successfully introducing the software into your organizational processes and culture. 

We recommend choosing a password management solution that provides auditing, control of user settings, and other useful analytics.

Security policies

Password management is fundamentally about security, so it will be no surprise to hear that one of the most critical considerations in any decision to buy a password manager should be the level of security provided.

Fortunately, most enterprise-oriented password managers provide advanced encryption. You should accept no less than end-to-end encryption, which is the only way to ensure your data’s absolute security. 

End-to-end encryption is also sometimes referred to as zero-knowledge architecture, and it means that not even the provider can access your organization’s credentials. Although the provider designs the back-end infrastructure, it has zero knowledge of the data managed on its platforms. 

Some other security features you should keep an eye out for include secure password sharing and roles-based permissions. Secure password sharing enables users to send encrypted passwords and notes to other users, while roles-based permissions ensure employees only have access to the passwords required for their role. In medium and large-sized enterprises, this provides security within the organization, which is crucial in and of itself.

Customer support

The importance of good customer support is so often underrated that we made sure to include it in this list. This is for the simple fact that if something goes wrong with your password manager, all your accounts could be at risk, potentially compromising your most sensitive data. If there’s an issue, you need to know you can rely on customer support to provide fast and successful troubleshooting. 

The best password managers will include 24/7 customer support for enterprises, and some will even include a dedicated case manager. We recommend choosing a provider that, at a minimum, provides business-hours phone support. 

The top providers will also include comprehensive help centers on their websites, where business leaders and employees can access how-to guides, video tutorials, and community forums. 

Top-quality customer support might not seem to be the most important factor when first purchasing a password manager. However, when you consider how vital the software is to your business’s overarching digital infrastructure and the potential costs to your business if your credentials were compromised, it’s clear that it pays to choose a provider with comprehensive customer support.

Conclusion

The five factors we’ve discussed in this article separate the good password managers from the great ones. If you’re looking at investing in a credential manager for your business, we believe these features are the place to start. 

If you want to begin exploring specific providers in detail, we recommend starting with our password manager buying guide. It explores and discusses in detail the best password manager software of 2020.