How We Chose the Best Password ManagersDozens of password managers are available to help you manage passwords for your personal and business accounts. Every provider touts a variety of features and services, making it difficult to determine which one is the best fit for your needs. To make it easier to choose the right one, we evaluated password managers based on what's most important.
SecuritySecurity is the most important criteria when choosing a password manager because you'll be using the tool to store your account credentials. We looked for password managers with the highest level of encryption available, along with secure password generators and password reports to let you know if your passwords are too weak, have been reused on multiple sites or have been compromised. We also checked to see if each password manager works with biometric authentication, which adds an extra layer of security when logging in to your accounts.
Device CompatibilityCompatibility across a wide range of devices is important because many people use mobile devices and tablets to log in to their online accounts. We reviewed each password manager to determine if it's compatible with the most common operating systems, browsers, and mobile platforms.
Unlimited StorageStorage capacity is critical if you have many online accounts, so we prioritized services with unlimited password management. With so many people signing up for email, streaming services, online banking and other online services, it's easy for one person to have dozens of accounts to manage. A password manager with unlimited storage makes it possible to keep them all secure.
Added FeaturesExtra features can make it even easier to manage passwords and share credentials with trusted family members or colleagues. We looked for password managers that offer password audit tools and password sharing.
What Are Password Managers?
Password managers are tools used to store and manage your online credentials. A good password manager offers unlimited storage, making it possible to manage passwords for streaming services, shared productivity applications, online banking, records management, and many other types of accounts.
Password managers are especially helpful for small businesses, as they enable employees to use shared accounts without seeing the usernames and credentials. Business owners can rest a little easier knowing that an employee who leaves the company doesn’t have access to credentials that can be used to submit purchase orders or access financial documents.
A good password manager also enhances collaboration, especially among the employees in small businesses. Small firms may not have the funds available to purchase every employee a copy of an application or program. Password managers make it possible for multiple employees to use the same account, keeping costs as low as possible.
Weak passwords, such as passwords containing no special characters or passwords that are used for multiple sites, are easy to guess, making accounts with those passwords more susceptible to unauthorized access. Password managers make it possible to generate strong passwords that are difficult for others to guess, enhancing online security and keeping your data private.
Benefits of Password Managers
Small business owners can benefit from using a password manager in the following ways:
- Reduce your IT expenses. Data breaches tie up resources, prompting some business owners to hire additional IT staff. By keeping passwords secure, a password manager prevents unauthorized access to company accounts, freeing up your IT staff for other duties and eliminating the need to hire extra team members.
- Increase employee productivity. If employees waste a few minutes each day trying to remember passwords or calling IT for help with password resets, that’s several hours per year that could be put to a better use. A password manager eliminates the need to remember passwords for multiple websites.
- Give customers peace of mind. Business owners deal with confidential data every day. Customers want to know that firms are doing everything in their power to keep that data secure. If you use a customer relationship management system or similar type of software, a password manager can help protect against unauthorized access.
- Enhance collaboration. Password managers make it possible for employees to log in to websites using the same credentials. This makes it easier for employees to access the data they need to write reports, prepare presentations and complete other tasks requiring collaboration.
Must-Have Features in a Password Manager
When choosing a password manager, it’s important to look for four key features. The first is a high level of security, which relates to the level of encryption used to protect your data against unauthorized access. Many password managers use 256-bit AES encryption, making them effective for guarding against brute-force attacks, a type of attack that involves entering random passwords and hoping that one of them works.
The best password managers also use techniques known as salting and hashing to keep data secure. Hashing refers to scrambling of a password, while salting refers to adding extra data to the hashed password to make it even more difficult to guess. Device compatibility and unlimited storage are also important. Many people now use tablets and smartphones in addition to their desktop and laptop computers, creating a need to manage passwords across a wide range of devices. Unlimited storage is necessary because most people have dozens of passwords to store, for everything from online investing accounts to digital gaming accounts.
The final thing to look for in a password manager is the availability of added features. Great password managers offer special features like password sharing and password audit tools to make them even more useful.
The Cost of Password Managers
Password managers are relatively affordable, especially considering that they do the important job of protecting your online accounts against unauthorized access. Many companies offer free accounts for individual use. These free accounts typically have limited features, but they can be useful if you just want to store a few passwords and don’t mind not having access to premium features. Free accounts may also limit the number of devices that can be logged in at the same time, so that’s something you’ll want to consider if you’re trying to balance costs with functionality.
Paid versions are available in a wide range of prices, from less than $0.10 per user per month all the way up to $199.99 for a lifetime subscription. Some companies offer monthly billing, while others require you to pay for one year of service up front. This is another important consideration when choosing a password manager. If you’re signing up for a personal account, you may want the flexibility of being able to pay a small amount each month rather than a lump sum once per year. For business owners, paying annually is usually more convenient, as it eliminates the need to pay an extra invoice every month.