Server Fault is a question and answer site for system and network administrators. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

What is the process that you guys follow to maintain authentication details like login ids and passwords? There will be definitely some shared passwords. So, the target is to minimize the impact when someone is leaving the company.

By "shared password", I mean, the account, which is shared among multiple people in the company.

The issues that the process should address are: -

  1. Affected areas. Quickly find the resources to which the leaving user was having access to.

  2. Forgetting password. What happens if a user forgets an authentication details? How does he get it? I think he shouldn't ask a team mate. I mean no-verbal communication.

  3. Find dependencies of a resource. Suppose I am changing the password for a mail account, which is getting used by some automated scripts to send mails. Here, the scripts are dependent on the mail account, so changing the password of the mail account means we have to change the password in the script too. So, how do find all the dependencies of a resource?

I'd prefer a process which addresses these issues. But you can also recommend products which are open source and not hosted. I have gone through PassPack, but they don't solve #4.

There is a similar question here. But that does not exactly answer my question.

share|improve this question

migrated from Oct 27 '09 at 23:05

This question came from our site for professional and enthusiast programmers.

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Centralized accounts

Centralized account management would be the first step to go for. One place for credentials and one place only - or at least only one master record being replicated to other systems so there's only one place to make changes including disabling accounts.

A routine to follow when someone is leaving needs to be put in place. This can be highly manual to begin with but still needs to be written and then adhered to throughout the entire company.

System owners

Whoever is responsible for a specific system, and all systems must have an owner and an administrator, needs to adhere to the written policy eg when someone is leaving and do the needed cleanup if any in their system(s).

No shared accounts

I'd simply ban shared accounts - everything should be personal including router/switch logins and other appliances where people for some reason don't think this is possible. It is, always been.

Randomize or remove local administrative account passwords for computers, don't use them for anything.

Resource/service accounts should be regenerated when changes are needed, or upgrade to systems that can manage service account passwords automatically in the background (eg using Windows 2008 R2 for Windows systems). If a dependency cannot be found I'd blame it on a lack of documentation or a system that assumes too much oldschool thinking like hard-coding passwords in scripts. Throw those solutions away promptly.

Yes, it might be hard or impossible to do, but always strive towards Utopia - being half-way there, everything sails much smoother already ^^

There're many concepts and software solutions around Identity Life-cycle Management which many companies provide - Microsoft included. But for 50 people most would be on-paper policies imo and a strict pragmatic approach to IT systems - reduce the number of systems, adhere to the DRY (Don't Repeat Yourself) principle and only purchase systems that integrate well with the existing platform(s).

share|improve this answer
"No shared accounts" is not always possible. For example, we are having many SaaS accounts such as, etc. There we have to share account details! – Sabya Oct 28 '09 at 13:48
You mean you can't create more accounts on surveymonkey and link them together? Then I'd call the service flawed - but then I'm notoriously picky about this and as you say, in practicality, it's not always possibly. But I shiver nevertheless ^^ Perhaps you can appoint a single person to handle this and then redo or transfer it when needed (leaving, home sick and so on)? – Oskar Duveborn Oct 28 '09 at 20:28
If there's only a single account (yes I know this is way too common) try to "hide" the login credentials from the users - like linking to a web site service from the intranet with a pre-prepped url or local page that posts the correct details to the external service without the user being involved. At least managing the credentials are pulled from the users and made transparent, though it's still hard or impossible to trace who's made changes (if the service allows). – Oskar Duveborn Oct 28 '09 at 20:43

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.