Who will manage your Google accounts -Part 2
A few weeks ago, we went through the exercise of how to pre-plan your Google account’s management when there is the owner’s death. When Carley and I went through the steps of Google Inactive Account Manager, it all worked for her…..she was able to set up what would happen to her accounts, but I was left scratching my head wondering why I couldn’t see the same options that she had. Not being someone who wants to be defeated by Google’s Inactive Account Manager, I reached out to Sharon Hartung, Your Digital Undertaker®, for some answers.
It turns out that it was not me! It was the type of account I have with Google. Since my account is through my business, I do not have the same pre-planning options as Carley had with her personal Google account, explaining why she could set up her pre-planning tool and why I was left searching for answers.
When someone holds a business Google Account, you cannot set up what you would like to happen with your account upon your death as you can with a free account; this is because the business is actually the owner of these accounts. Instead, you will have to manage your Google Workspace account by adding and assigning users.
According to the Google Domains Help section these updates can be done in the admin console of the Google Workspace page. Depending on your organization’s setup, you may have many users already set up, only a few, or possibly none except for yourself. There is an option to update the “Admin Roles” where you can assign a role type for various users in your organization. For instance, a Super Admin would be able to add, delete, and update other user’s accounts for your organization; which is why it would be wise to have more than one “SuperUser” so that you do not have everyone locked out of the Google Workspace account if the only person who has access to these functions passes away.
I will admit, I did not have this setup, and I feel as though my current procedures would warrant a failing grade for this account. I was the only Super User for my organization, which would not be helpful to anyone upon my death. It would be bad enough that my family would be dealing with my affairs, but imagine if they were locked out of my business accounts as well. That would add a whole new layer of stress.
In my conversation with Sharon Hartung, Your Digital Undertaker® she had this advice “The context in which we use technology, how we set it up, what we use it for, what we pay attention to, what we pay for or don’t, how we intend it to serve our personal or business needs all affect the feature functions and implications of that use. And that’s while we are living. Add in estate requirements, our wishes, Terms of Service, a whole new territory of planning emerges and its gets complicated fast. When I meet with small business owners or present at their forums or groups, the first question I asked often ask from a business continuity perspective, is ‘how many of you lost access to your business social media when an employee left the company’, and there begins an interesting conversation about digital assets in the business continuity and estate planning context. To break it down for Google, Google’s Inactive Account Manager (as a pre-planning tool) works for personal / individual Google accounts. If your Google services or Gmail is provided by a business or hosted/administered Google business Service, Google Inactive Account Manager is not available. It is a simple test to figure it out, within one’s Google account, click on Google Inactive Account Manager from help or within your Google account settings. If it is available to you it will appear, and if not you will receive the following message: ‘The setting you are looking for is not available for your account.’ It does present an interesting set of questions, does the business or group or other account situations using a Google Business hosted or administered services, are things like employee guidelines updated to reflect the policy of what happens in this kind of situation. For example, if you didn’t set up your Google Gmail with Google directly as an individual and a business/group person or administrator sent you your initial credentials, then it is likely your Google Gmail (e-mail) is an administered/hosted service. Certainly we are well beyond a personal/individual use discussion as there are Business and IT policies, practices and business continuity needed to address IT practices and business’s ability to continue. The net for an individual using business or 3rd party hosted e-mail, that it is unlikely to nil that your heirs or fiduciaries will get access to your data upon incapacity and/or death. Who is hosting your e-mail and what does the Terms of Service or policy say about what happens on incapacity and/or death?”
My main takeaway from this pre-planning exercise is that business owners (whether you are a solopreneur or small business) NEED to have IT policies and procedures in place. It is not only about death but about any succession planning and IT frameworks. If an employee leaves your organization, will you lose access to all of their accounts? Would your current policies and procedures pass the test of time?