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Repercussions of sharing a log-in...

Hello all. So we're deep into loving Airtable but also deep into hating our ever-mounting monthly bill. Obviously strong functionality and continuous improvement come at a cost -- literally. But we have a few users that only need access for 10 or 20 minutes, once a week. So we're considering saving $$ by having them all share a log-in.

I'm curious -- other than losing the who did what in the audit trail, are there other negative repercussions? What happens if two are accessing the Base simultaneously with the same login? does it handle it gracefully? Poorly? Is it oblivious?

Thanks in advance.

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maguay's avatar
2 years ago

I'd love to know how prevalent sharing accounts is across companies; my guess would be it's more common than not. Our team has a few shared accounts for things that don't really require individual accounts, such as research tools. It's one of the only ways to share access, say, to a shared inbox or company social media account. And if your team uses a shared password system like a company 1Password account, it's incredibly easy to share accounts without putting the passwords at much risk of getting lost.

The biggest downside to sharing accounts is that you can't easily enable 2-factor authentication—which is a curious counterpart to apps that strongly push or require 2-factor auth, as it does increase user security but also enforces the 1-user-per-account rule. You could get around that by using a Twilio SMS number for 2fa codes, and pipe them into Slack, but virtual numbers don't always work for auth codes.

Also, you may have to login more. Some apps automatically log out other sessions when another browser logs in; that shouldn't happen with Airtable, but I have seen it happen with some other tools before, even if I'm using them in two different browsers on the same computer. If your team's remote in different cities/countries, you could even have accounts locked if the app "thinks" someone's hacking your account (something I've had happen with shared Twitter logins). Worst case, you'll have to wait for whoever's phone number/email address is attached to the app to get the security code to log back in (a trick here is to signup for shared accounts using a shared support email address so anyone on the team can get the verification codes).

On duplicating data: I just ran an entirely unscientific test, with Airtable's Mac app and Airtable.com open in Safari, both signed in with the same account. If I was editing something in the Mac app, the web app in Safari showed an avatar on that cell—just as it would if 2 people with unique accounts were editing that same item at that time. That would mean that the same thing should happen if two people were using one account from different locations—they should at least be able to see that someone is editing a cell at that time, and avoid adding data to the exact same field.

For Airtable specifically, one trick I've heard of using is to only pay for people who need to manage data in the database, and to share the database as view only with everyone else. Make enough unique views for each database that viewers are able to see what they need, and add forms for them to enter data. It wouldn't be the same as full access, but should work ok for people who need to lookup and submit data but don't need to manipulate it as much.

4 points
petersteinberg's avatar
@petersteinberg (replying to @maguay )
2 years ago

Thanks Matthew. I didn't even know Airtable shows you other editors live that way (Google Docs/Sheets style) -- with all my use of it I guess I've never crossed paths with another user.

1 point
maguay's avatar
@maguay (replying to @petersteinberg )
2 years ago

I actually didn't realize Airtable showed other editors, either, until I'd checked yesterday, so that's a nice find :)

Has your team ever had any other issues with sharing accounts?

1 point
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