Every business deals with sensitive information on a daily basis. There are actually three federal laws that require businesses and medical practices to shred the documents and other media containing such information once it no longer needs to be stored. As a result, almost every company has at least one shredding machine in-house, but you might be surprised to learn that it's not actually saving you as much money as you might think. In fact, if you break down how much you're currently spending on in-house paper shredding, you will almost certainly find that using a shredding service promises better security at a lower cost.

Evaluating Current Costs

Given that a basic, cross-cut paper shredder can be purchased for under $40 at many major retailers, it can be tempting to pick one up, and just ask your employees to shred unnecessary documents as needed. It seems like a pretty simple solution, but to truly understand how much this practice costs your company, you need to account for the employees' time in addition to the up-front cost of the shredder. Let's consider an example.

In a perfect scenario, a task as simple as paper shredding would be performed by a minimum wage laborer, and there would be no complications with the machine itself. In this example, we will imagine that this employee only spends twenty minutes every day shredding the entire office's disposed documents. This is what it looks like over a month-long period, without considering the initial cost of the shredder or any maintenance/replacements.

  • Minimum Wage Employee: $12.00 per hour in California
  • Average Work Days in a Month: 21
  • Average Time Spent on Shredding: 20 min per day
  • 21 x 20 = 420 min 420 min = 7 hours 7 x $12 = $84

So, in a perfect universe, it would only cost you $84 per month. Unfortunately, the universe isn't perfect. One bad paper jam could double or triple the amount of time your assigned employee spends shredding. If you've ever used an in-office paper shredder, you know that happens more often than you would like. Worse yet, if you need to replace your paper shredder, it will further increase your costs.

Even professional office shredders can only accept around fifty pages at a time and will be stopped in their tracks by something as small as a paper clip. With reality in mind, the cost of a paper shredding service is often practical, as the service guarantees that the task is performed while minimizing fluctuations at about the same cost.

On-site Document Destruction

These are often the most convenient services for businesses with the added benefit of increased security. On-site document destruction services will bring a specially-outfitted truck to your office's location and shred everything as you watch, guaranteeing that none of your company's most sensitive information has a chance to fall into the wrong hands. However, their convenience and security does come at a slightly higher cost than other options, mainly due to physically coming to your location. If you opt for an on-site service, your quote will be calculated based on your location, the amount of shredding, and the types of media you need shredded. Keep in mind that most on-site trucks can only handle 300 pounds and not all are equipped to deal with discs, hard-drives, or other electronic data storage devices.

For on-site shredding, there is often a minimum cost to ensure that it is worth the company's time to drive out to your location. It typically ranges from $75 to $150, but it is factored into the cost of destroying your documents. For on-site document destruction, your documents will typically be measured in terms of boxes or bins. Larger items, such as hard drives will be counted individually, with the cost of their destruction slightly decreasing with each additional hard drive. The average cost for hard drive destruction is $1 a piece.

A price comparison formulated by looking at a number of different competitors reveals that clients can typically expect to pay between $10-$15 per box or $85-$150 per bin. Potential clients should note that some of these service providers do reduce the cost per bin after the first, as they often do with the disposal of electronic equipment. Therefore, if one of your neighboring offices also requires document destruction, it could be in your best interest to collectively dispose of your sensitive documents.

Off-site Document Destruction

These services are typically a bit cheaper given that they are able to shred client documents en masse back at their own facilities. However, they do have the potential for increased security risks. For that reason, the National Association of Information Destruction suggests performing an audit prior to enlisting their services.

During your audit, make sure that the truck is properly secured and ask what protocols they have in place to prevent someone from accessing the truck's contents. At the facility, ask to see how the documents are stored prior to shredding. Make sure they are locked away and ask about the vetting process for employees. Watch for what employees do with any loose papers. If a paper shredding company denies an audit, then find a service provider who is confident enough in their process to allow one. Audits should be performed both pre-contract and periodically throughout the contract period.

In terms of the cost, the average off-site service charges around 10% less per container, which can make a major difference to businesses that produce a large volume of documents that contain sensitive information. This cost is also usually calculated by the bin with the exception of electronic data storage.

Choosing What is Right for Your Business

At the end of the day, if you're measuring the documents you need to have destroyed in terms of boxes and bins, then choosing a paper shredding service is almost certainly the most cost-effective way to safely and legally dispose of sensitive information. Even if your company doesn't produce bins of documents, yet you find yourself dreading fighting yet another paper jam, it may be time to discuss the option with other local business owners for everyone's benefit.