You wouldn’t keep your savings or emergency money in cash under your mattress, yet many of us do the digital equivalent. Everything from our email passwords to the details of online bank-, investment- and stock trading accounts, are stored on computers, half-remembered, or jotted down on our phones or openly-available notebooks.
Thirty-seven percent of married couples don’t know how to access their spouse’s financial accounts if they suddenly passed away*, and the percentage of people who regularly find themselves swearing at their computer while trying to recall the name of their first grade math teacher, or the answer to another obscure security question, is surely far higher. Thankfully, this technological problem now has a technological solution which is more efficient and safer than writing all your passwords on Post Its– a DAM (digital asset management) system. So what does it do, and what should you do with the rest of your digital possessions?
Keep it together
Online DAM services like LifeSite are designed to help you organize your digital existence, providing an intuitive, flexible way to store everything from passwords to important end-of-life documents and medical records in one place with high-level encryption and security, accessible by you from any device. Whether you’re at the doctor’s office and missing a document, stuck at an airport, fleeing a natural disaster, or just can’t remember your Amazon password, services like LifeSite can be lifesavers. LifeSite is also a convenient way of digitizing and storing physical documents, via the app’s built-in scanner.
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Learn how to share…
Even if you’re good at keeping track of your digital details, services like LifeSite have another use – they let you securely share information and assets with others, such as your spouse. This is useful now when dealing with joint finances or managing children’s medical needs, but it can become essential in the event of an untimely death. The growth of robo advisors and cryptocurrencies are just two examples of the ways people now have significant amounts of “money” that is largely virtual and may be inaccessible to someone (such as a bereaved spouse or child) without the appropriate passwords and multi-stage encryption information.
… But not everything
When you share information on a DAM, you can see when your designated “collaborators” have accessed the data, and you can also choose to keep some things private: if you want your spouse to be able to access important information about your life insurance policy, but would prefer they didn’t log into the email address you use for discussing poker night, you can make it so with a couple of mouse clicks. However you end up using a service like LifeSite, you’ll probably come to think of it as a digital asset itself. The average person now has 130 password-protected accounts: it may be time for us to deal with this DAM problem.
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The rule of three
In contrast to logins and documents, digital music, photos, and correspondence usually aren’t considered digital “assets,” but they still need to be looked after as carefully as your bank details. To do this, follow the 3-2-1 rule of backing up, which means having three copies of important data and media, two of which are local but on different devices (such as a laptop and external hard drive, both in your home), one of which is offsite, perhaps at a relative’s house or in the form of cloud storage. In general, your local backup will meet your needs if your computer goes down, but you should have another copy in a different location in case of fire, flood or robbery at your home.
However many hard drives you have, remember that they, like everything else on earth, will eventually die, only faster than you expect. Twenty percent of hard drives fail within four years, and the median expiration date is six years, so label your drives with the date of purchase, and be sure to back up the contents onto new drives from time to time. Also remember that hard drives respond poorly to being dropped, bumped and having milk spilled on them by curious children (which is another reason to have offsite copies of your data.). In general, when thinking about backups, heed this cautionary tale: Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola had a laptop stolen which contained 15 years of his work and photos: he’d backed it up, but the backup drive was stolen along with the computer. As the saying goes, when it comes to backups “one is none, two is one”, and what you really need is three.
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Michael Davis is a freelance writer and editor who has covered everything from fashion and music to parenting, work, and finance. He has been a chef, restaurateur and record label owner.
*Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC conducted this original research in July 2018 for educational/informational purposes only. It involved a 30-question, online survey administered to a sample size of N=500 adults ages 26 to 54 who are married or living with a partner and have dependent children under the age of 16. The average age was 39 years old.