The secure shredding of important and confidential documents has certainly come into focus in recent years, as a number of security breaches have been reported in the media, where documents containing confidential data, that should have been securely destroyed, have been found intact and accessed. The risks are massive, with not only the reputation of a business at stake but also the personal data of employees, customers and clients. The damage in losses and in compensation could potentially amount to millions!
Therefore, every company, every business, no matter how large or small should be aware of the dangers of misplacing or not securely destroying confidential documents and data. It is a good idea to have a checklist to work through to ensure that all of the bases are covered.
Identify documents and data that need to be shredded
The first stage might sound simple enough but is crucial nonetheless. Every business enterprise will be different, from a small ‘one man band’ to a massive company with many hundreds or thousands of employees. There are some basic principles that will remain the same – there will be data, either customer based or employee based (and in some cases both) that needs to be stored and then, at some point, disposed of safely. In some business sectors, there will be information that needs to be (legally) kept for a minimum period of time and therefore the volume of date that builds up can be quite significant – which will lead us on to our next stage.
Choosing a location to store data once it has been deemed ready for shredding
It is probably wise to (if you have the available space) to allocate a room or an area that will be home to materials and data that need shredding. The archive room will likely be full to overflowing, so once documents have been deemed clear for shredding, it will probably be some relief to clear a bit of space here – although of course, you now need a bit of space somewhere else! It is wise to choose an area that is secure and probably an area that ideally doesn’t receive a lot of ‘through traffic’. It is reported that many security breaches actually come from within, so it’s really not a good idea to have a lot of confidential information on show or where it could easily fall under prying eyes.
If you are going to do the shredding yourself, you will of course need enough space to do it in. If you are having your confidential data collected by an outside contractor to be shredded off site, you may be able to manage with something a little smaller – but of course this will all depend on the volume of data to be shredded.
What equipment will you need?
If you are hiring an outside shredding contractor, then you are unlikely to need any shredding equipment at all, but you may still need to either hire or purchase some secure storage items, such as sacks/bags and bins or lockable consoles. An external shredding company may even provide some of these items as part of their service. If you are attempting to conduct your own shredding, which probably isn’t advisable these days, then you will need enough room to contain a shredder. Unless you are a tiny company, then an office shredder isn’t going to get you very far and even then, it may not be secure enough to destroy data totally. There are of course larger shredders you can buy, but as the machines get better (in terms of security levels) the prices get higher and they will also take up more space.
Shredding – On site? Off Site?
The shredding itself is of course crucially important and if you are hiring an outside contractor, your biggest decision will be whether to shred onsite or offsite. If the contractor has an exemplary reputation, then for some it might be more convenient to quickly get the materials out of the building, so that normal routines can continue. However, most good shredding contractors will offer an on-site shredding service, which is still very quick and efficient but it also means that if you prefer you can actually watch the materials going into the shredding machine – which of course adds an extra layer of security to the whole process.
Disposing of Shredded Material
This is one area, where without doubt, it’s better to leave it to a professional company. Knowing that your documents have been securely shredded and then securely disposed of – either recycled or perhaps in some cases incinerated can give you the confidence that you have met all of your confidential data issues with responsibility. Lightly office shredding documents and then throwing them in a nearby bin (hoping that they will be collected and never seen), is really not the way to go here and is likely to lead to a whole lot of trouble.
What is meant by certification? Well, if you have hired a reputable (and this is a good way to know they are reputable) contractor, they will offer you and provide you with what is known as a certificate of destruction, which provides you with written, documented proof that you have complied with any relevant legislation in having confidential data destroyed securely. Always ask the contractor before you engage in a business contract, if they provide a certificate of destruction on completion of the relevant work.