By Phil Davis
Updated October 2016
What is a Digital Asset Inventory
Almost without realizing it, we have shifted toward an all-digital culture where things like family photos, home movies, and personal letters now exist only in digital form. Moreover a growing part of our digital life is stored in services like FaceBook, Flickr, YouTube, and Gmail.
All these digital records are characterized by descriptions, locations, URLs, passwords, registration details, and other identifiers. It is difficult enough to keep track of all this, but think what would happen if your computer crashed and you didn’t have a backup. Also, have you considered what will happen to your accounts and digital assets when you die? Whether you like it or not your digital assets have an afterlife.
A Digital Asset Inventory is simply a document that captures all this information. It can be a text document, spreadsheet, or a database, and it needs to be regularly updated and backed up. You can download and use a worksheet to record all of your digital assets. Then keep it in a safe place and share it with your power of attorney, executor, and other trusted people who would need to have this information.
Identify Your Digital Assets
The first step is to identify and inventory your digital assets — accounts, passwords, backup files, computer files, social media, email, online banking, etc.
Digital assets can be organized into categories such as:
- Electronic Devices: Mobile phones, computers, tablets, external hard drives, etc .
- Email Accounts: Account user names and passwords.
- Social Media Accounts: Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and others.
- Instant Messaging/Chat Accounts: Skype, Apple Messages, Google Hangouts, ICQ, Jabber, Yahoo Messenger, AOL Instant Messenger, etc.
- Multimedia Accounts: Instagram, Snapfish, Shutterfly, Flickr, Hulu, YouTube, Netflix, Apple iTunes, Pandora, Vimeo, etc.
- Publication Accounts: newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc.
- Cloud Storage Accounts: DropBox, Google Drive, Onebox, Box, and others.
- Databases: Photo libraries, Digital Organizers, Evernote, and other repositories.
- Archives & Backups: On-site backups; Crashplan, BackBlaze, Amazon S3, and other off-site services.
- Financial Accounts: Banks, credit unions, brokerage accounts, mutual funds, retirement savings accounts, credit card accounts, employee benefit accounts, PayPal, Social Security.
- Benefit Accounts: Airline miles, railroad miles, hotel rewards, retailer reward/loyalty programs
- Insurance Accounts: Life, Property, Health.
- On-line Merchant Accounts: Department stores, Amazon, etc.
- Online Businesses: Online stores, blogs, and websites, including PayPal, eBay and Etsy.
- Website Accounts: Domain names, hosting services, online business accounts, etc.
Collect all the information needed to access your accounts, then document it in a way that is secure but easily accessed and understood by your Digital Executor. Think about all your digital assets, both personal and professional, and think about what they might be worth, financially, and emotionally.
Create your Digital Asset Inventory
Your inventory should include all the information needed to describe your accounts, their location, login information, passwords, and all the other metadata that goes along with digital assets. Don’t forget photos, documents, and backups stored in the cloud or in off-site locations. Since this information changes often it is critical that you review and the inventory regularly.
Plan for Unexpected Events
Although your inventory will probably be invaluable to you in your daily life, you should plan for two types of unexpected events:
- The computer containing your inventory crashes, or your house burns down and any paper copies of your Inventory are lost. This shouldn’t be a big problem, if you have been diligent about maintaining backups
- You die and your heirs need access to your digital assets. It is a good idea to indentify someone that you trust to be your Digital Executor and let them know what you want done with your digital assets. For example you might want them to:
- Archive everything for your heirs.
- Provide access by specific individuals or groups to designated content.
- Delete some or all of your digital assets. Be specific about your wishes.
- If you want to let your executor decide what to do with your assets you should make the clear in the instructions.
You might want to archive your most important digital assets and then provide your executor with the information needed to access the archive. If you have been following the advice to establish and maintain good backups, then you already have a start on your archive.
If you use 1Password or some other password manager be sure to include the master password in the instructions. And don’t forget basic things like the password to your computer.