According to the experts, staying safe on the internet requires complex, unique passwords that are changed frequently to decrease the chances that your online banking and other accounts will be compromised. If you’re online as much as we are, you probably have a lot of online accounts to worry about and keeping track of all of those passwords can be a chore (writing them all down on a piece of paper you keep at your desk next to your computer is not secure and is not a good idea). Enter the Ascendo DataVault Password Manager app – this universal app promises to keep your passwords and other private data such as credit card numbers, bank account numbers and other information, secure on your iPad or iPhone using the same encryption standard employed by the U.S. government.
Like other password manager apps we’ve seen in the App Store, Ascendo Datavault works with a desktop companion application, available for both the Mac and PC. The app works perfectly fine alone and the companion app is not needed, however it is useful to synchronize and back-up this important data so that in case something happens to your iPad, iPhone, or computer, you’ll still be able to access your passwords. We’d recommend using the designated companion app for Datavault or any other password app you’re considering. DataVault’s desktop applications are currently on sale at $9.95 for the Windows or Mac OS versions and each offers a 30-day trial so you can test them out before buying.
When you first open the DataVault app, you are asked to create a password. This password will be the gatekeeper between you and everyone else to keep your other passwords and private information safe, so make it a strong one that you will remember. You can also set a hint for the password to help prod your memory should you forget it.
After you create your master password, you can access the “vault” itself where you store your passwords and other information and you can choose a List or Tree view to browse through them. The app comes with a lot of sample entries for your reference and while we find these to be a little useful, we wish there was a way to delete them all without having to go into each one and delete it individually.
To create a new entry, you click on the plus button in the bottom left corner, which brings you to a blank entry screen. You can name the entry in the first empty dialogue at the top and then select a category and type. Next, you can enter the log-in and password or other private data you want to save.
But where are the handy fields already labeled “log-in” or “password”? They’re not there by default and this is what we like least about DataVault in comparison to other password manager apps we’ve used. The app does have plenty of templates so you don’t have to manually label fields each time you create a new entry, but you can only get to these through the Template button at the bottom of the screen after you’ve already created a new entry. We’d rather see the available templates integrated either before you create a new entry or at the top so it’s part of the actual entry creation process.
You could also avoid the completely-blank new entry screen by using the handy Duplicate button to instantly copy an existing entry or one of the provided samples and then simply edit the fields as required. However, this is still a work-around and we think the creation of a new entry could be more streamlined overall to better utilize the included templates.
One of the app’s more useful features is a password generator. Here, you can select different password elements and lengths and an indicator at the top will let you know if the password is weak, good, or strong. Tapping on a generated password will prompt a dialogue to save it to the clipboard so you can use it in an entry within DataVault or somewhere else.
Within entries you’ve already created, URLs and email addresses are actionable and tapping on them will bring up prompts to open Safari or Mail (tapping on phone numbers will open the Phone app on an iPhone). If you have a lot of entries, a search button in the top left corner of the main List or Tree view will bring up the keyboard so you can enter search criteria to narrow down the list of entries to find the one you need.
The Options menu is where you manage the app’s templates and settings and find help files. The level of customization offered when it comes to categories, entry types, and templates is great, particularly if you a lot of different types of private data you want to safeguard within the app for which there no existing templates or labels.
Also in the Options menu are the security settings where you define the maximum number of failed log-in attempts (after which all data within the app will be wiped) or after the app has been left open without activity and more.
We also tried out the companion app for the Macintosh OS as well and found syncing it via Wi-Fi (both the iPad and your Mac must be on the safe Wi-Fi network to do this) to be a breeze. We were disappointed to learn that it’s a little harder to transfer any data you have from another password manager application to the Mac desktop application since it only accepts a couple of import file types. One work-around is to use the Windows version of the desktop app since that version accepts a wider variety of import file types, including the native SplashID format we wanted to try. While we know it’s not always easy or feasible for companies to provide the same number of features in applications across a number of platforms at the same time, we’re always a little sad to see when a Mac version is short-changed compared to a Windows version.
Overall, we found DataVault to be fairly straightforward to use and full of all of the right features to help make securely storing passwords and other sensitive data easy. Aside from the template issue we mentioned earlier, we think it’s a very good solution to safeguard your private data on your iPad. As a universal app, those with both an iPhone and an iPad will be able to use DataVault easily on both devices, which only adds to the app’s value.
Ascendo does offer a lite version of the app so you can try it out for free first if you’d like – this version limits the number of entries that can be saved and will not sync with the desktop companion application but it will still give you a good feel for how the app works.