Data Retention as a Consultant

Another question to the consultants out there…. or anyone else who wants to chime in. How long should you remember things for clients? I get called up occassionally and asked “what is the ftp login for SiteX?” or “can you tell me how to log into the admin area at SiteY?” I have been smart and have kept most of this sort of information in an easily accessible part of my brain, and have kept ssh-keyed logins for most of the servers that I’ve worked on over the years, so most of the time I can give an answer relatively quickly.

How long should I do this though? Should I be doing this at all, other than out of good will and not being an asshole? I can see for a period after a project is over, but how long after that do you

  • answer questions because your clients can’t remember their passwords without charging
  • bother to keep any passwords or access to servers?


2 Comments on “Data Retention as a Consultant”

  1. Once you hand over the reigns to the client — along with all the documentation they should need, of course — your responsibility pretty much ends. It’s not your responsibility, unless they’re paying you a retainer, to remember things for them a couple of years down the road.
    That being said, if you do keep the information (and you should, for 5-7 years), you can bill an hour looking it up and sending it to them.

  2. As an addendum, Rob Cockeringham recently posted a very suitable “Things I figured out” recently in this regard:

    You have probably heard that happy customers are your businesses lifeblood, but I have embraced the concept that the real lifeblood of a business is your customer’s money. Sometimes the best advice you can give to a customer would really hurt your business, (i.e. this service is available online for 30% less) so you cannot give that customer this advice. In order to sleep at night, honest businessmen and women have to believe that their customers are looking out for themselves.