This question is probably quite subjective, but it's one that I'd like to know what others are doing.

In most organizations there comes a time when a team member is out of the office on vacation, sick, holiday, whatever. In some cases, their coworkers may need to access files stored on their machine (or in their My Documents which may/may not be on the network) or in their email.

How does your organization handle these cases? Do you:

  1. Allow departments to share login information with each other. This would allow team members to access what they need when they need it.
  2. Create a common email address or distribution group for critical email and enforce that users use the out of office assistant and direct customers to that address. All critical files would then be stored in network shares or a ticket would need to be placed with IT.
  3. Something else

Thanks in advance!


The way we handle it (and I think it is the most secure) is that a Security Exception is filed and an administrator for whichever system the information is on retrieves the required information.

  • So how is the Security Exception filed? – Jason N. Gaylord Sep 1 '09 at 15:34
  • Web based form. – EBGreen Sep 1 '09 at 17:32

At work, all code is stored on the development server. Every member of the dev team has sudo access to become root and access each others files. Theres also a work-wide shared document directory that we all have access to. Nothing of any importance should be stored on local machines.

Relying on a mechanism like sudo leaves a really nice audit trail. You never want to directly password share, because in addition to a huge privacy violation you also have the situation arise where you can not be sure who was actually logged in as the user at the time of any incident in the future.

  • I'm thinking of traditional files. We use a combination of SVN and Team System, but I'm thinking of Word, Acrobat, and emails. – Jason N. Gaylord Sep 1 '09 at 18:24
  • I'd look in to a document management system. EGroupware has one where you can upload these documents and tie them to the related projects, but it's more of a pain than its worth. Other than that I'd just try to keep them alll on a internal file share (SMB or NFS). As an added bonus, it makes backups a lot easier to deal with too. Email is a tough one, but setting up an internal Wiki or similar where all information should be stored might be a good solution. Email as a database goes against most productivity guides anyways, but its a hard habit to break. – semi Sep 1 '09 at 19:31

For the case you mentioned, the department manager would have to file a request to gain access. Depending on the situation, we may access the data for them, grant the manager access, or give another user access to the data.

Never do we have a policy where sharing usernames and passwords is acceptable.


You should think about setting up procedures for accessing files on your staff's personal folders (either shared or local) in situations of urgency. Every data on work property belongs to your work, but there needs to be a process of WHO has rights to see these data in situations that call for access when the person is not available.

  • Even an email would work as an 'access granted' from the person allowing this. – l0c0b0x Sep 1 '09 at 15:49
  • We have procedures in place for accessing network data and for what is and is not allowed. – Jason N. Gaylord Sep 1 '09 at 16:08

Normally, things should be organized such that information required by the team is accessible to them.

That means putting information about bugs into a bug tracker, putting customer communication into a trouble ticket system or similar, putting documentation into a shared folder, intranet wiki or similar etc.

If that is done, there should be no need to access someone else's files. There may be a need in special cases, but at least in my (small) company it's never happened to me.

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