It's the age of information, and sensitive data is at a premium. Unfortunately, it's not enough to establish strong cybersecurity protocols. Tech savvy criminals are a concern, but there are still plenty of individuals willing to perpetrate crime the old-fashioned way, by going through your garbage. Document destruction is the surest way to protect your company's interests as well as those of your clients and employees. Fortunately, there are a range of services that can help you maintain both digital and physical security at your office.

Why Document Destruction is Important

Every day, your office trash can becomes the new home to valuable data. We may still casually refer to that receptacle as “File 13” or the “circular file,” but the value of the data discarded into the trash has increased dramatically over the years. Personal information and company financial information can be bought and sold in ways that would seem impossible just thirty years ago. For this reason, Forbes lists document destruction as the top common-sense step all companies can take to protect themselves, as well as their employees and clients.

Fortunately, a number of shredding services have popped up in order to meet the growing need, but you should know that they aren't necessarily created equally. When you're looking into using a shredding service, there are a number of factors you should consider, including:

  • What type of document destruction is used
  • What materials can be destroyed
  • Is the service on-site or off-site

Types of Shredding

Shredding paper seems like a fairly simple concept; however, there are a surprising number of different shredders available. Each is differentiated by the pattern of cuts they perform and the process of destruction. Fortunately, we can account for all of them by breaking them down into three levels of destruction: minor, moderate, and complete. The more complete the destruction, the more secure.

Minor Destruction: Only “strip-cut” shredders fit this category. They are the simplest form of paper shredder and function by cutting a document into long strips of paper. Even when thrown out, a determined person could easily piece these documents back together. As a result, you should avoid using this method in most cases.

Moderate Destruction: Confetti-cut, particle-cut, and pierce & tear shredders cut or rip your documents into much smaller pieces, making it significantly more difficult for someone to piece them back together. Rip & tear shredders do slightly more damage by not creating clean cuts. Moderate destruction is more than enough for most users.

Complete Destruction: Grinders, disintegrators, and granulators are the most effective options for destroying highly sensitive documents. In all three cases, the machines use slightly different mechanisms to cut and re-cut your documents until the pieces are small enough to fit through a fine mesh.

Diverse Materials

In addition to figuring out what type of shredding a service provider offers, you should ask what range of materials their shredders can handle. If your company doesn't use disks, company cards, or corrugated materials to store any data, then you can skip this step. However, if you do, you'll want to make sure that your service has the ability to destroy more than just paper.

On-Site vs. Off-Site Destruction

There are advantages to both on-site and off-site destruction. The trade-off comes down to higher cost versus lower security. Your business will have to consider this trade-off based on budgetary concerns and the sensitivity of the documents you regularly handle.

The more costly option is on-site destruction. These services directly deliver a specially-outfitted truck to your place of business. Your documents are immediately shredded within the truck itself, effectively limiting the number of people who have direct contact with your intact documents and preventing them from being intercepted by a third-party prior to destruction. As a result, on-site destruction is the most secure option for your business, as long as the service uses an adequate shredding technique.

Off-site destruction is still a feasible option for many companies despite the increase in risk. There is a slight chance that your documents may be intercepted during transit or even stolen prior to processing, so you should certainly look into a new provider's track record before enlisting their service. In addition, you should always ask the provider for a Certificate of Destruction, as you cannot physically watch them being destroyed. It may just be a slip of paper, but it is also a sign to the service provider that you are prepared to hold them accountable.

21st Century Business and Paper

Despite advancements in technology, paper remains an important means of tracking and preserving data in our world. Therefore, having the means to destroy data responsibly is key to maintaining ethical and secure business practices in the 21st century.