Before you begin to answer the question of how to shred your documents you need to ask yourself why you are shredding and what you are shredding. The answers to these two questions will go a long way in helping you choose the best way to shred.

Why should I shred?

There are many reasons why a business should shred. The first answer I normally hear is “its the law.” While it is true that privacy laws including HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FACTA (the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act) require businesses to properly dispose of customer information that is only part of the story.

Information disposed of in the trash is no longer considered protected by the Espionage Act. Simply put, if you throw your customer lists away, you can expect no legal protection if they end up at your competitors.

Recent history shows that companies who have disclosed security breaches promptly lost an average of 20% of their stock value. This is quite a price to pay for finding customer information in your dumpster.

What should I shred?

It is easy to track official business records. They are accounted for and disposed of on a schedule. But what about all the paper floating around an office or the records that individuals keep in their desks. These company memos and daily business records are rarely accounted for but are often the most damaging to your company. You need to consider what is on every desk, in every file drawer as well as what is in the company file storage area. The problem only multiplies for companies with multiple locations or employees who telecommute.

What criteria should I use?

  • Security. The first and most important factor for any shredding program is security. There must be a documented chain of custody for records from their creation to destruction. There must also be a verification system in place for the people handling the material.
  • Cost. The objective of all document destruction programs is to eliminate the problem of sensitive documents ending up in the trash. If your shredding is too expensive your locations might not shred everything the law and good business practice require.
  • Ease of use. You don’t want your employees wasting time sorting through paper deciding what should be shredded. Even worse is to have valuable employees wasting their time at the shredder.
  • Manageability. You need the ability to manage the document destruction program for the whole company and have certification that it is being handled properly. You also need to be able to quickly identify and plug any holes where records are not being shredded

What are my shedding options?

Now you know why you are shredding and what you are shredding you can answer you first question; what are my shredding options?

Buy a Shredder.

When most people think of shredding they imagine the cheap home shredder available at the local office supply store. They are cheap for a reason. Everything else about them is very expensive. Their slow speed and continuous maintenance lead most offices to quickly abandon them.

I am talking about shredders that are made for the volume an office produces. You can expect to pay at least $400 for a small office shredder and over $1,000 if you have a medium sized office.

Advantages. If you have office staff with extra time the only cost is the price of the shredder. The paper never leaves the custody of your employees.

Disadvantages. Even with a big shredder this is a tedious job that is often times ignored until the pile overwhelms the shredder. You need to keep a record of all shredding activity so you have documentation for FACTA and HIPAA compliance. Shredders do require maintenance and you must dispose of the shredded paper.

Mobile Shredding Service / On-Site Shredding.

If you took an industrial shredder and mounted it inside of a truck you would have a mobile shredder. These monsters chew up 2,000 pounds of paper an hour. A mobile shredding service will place locked bins inside your office and then empty them on a schedule. Since they bring the shredder to you, you can witness the shredding.

Advantages. You can witness the shredding for your own piece of mind. It takes a few minutes to shred what an office shredder would take hours to do. The service provides the documentation for compliance records

Disadvantages. These services are designed for medium and large offices and can be too expensive for small offices.

Plant Based Shredding Service / Off-Site Shredding .

The biggest of all the shredders are located in “shredding plants.” They can eat through 20,000 pounds of paper an hour. Like a mobile shredding service, locked bins are placed in your location but the contents are taken back to the plant and shredded.

Advantages. Since these shredders are so efficient this is the lowest cost alternative for bulk shredding. The service provides the documentation for legal compliance.

Disadvantages. This service is designed for large offices and can be too expensive for small offices. Unless you follow the truck to the plant you can not witness the shredding.

Express Shredding.

A hybrid of plant based shredding, Express Destruction uses FedEx to transport the material from your office to the shredding plant.

Advantages. The price is similar to plant based shredding but for smaller volumes of material. Employees aren’t burdened with the shredding and you receive documentation for legal compliance.

Disadvantages. This service is designed for smaller offices and is not a good solution for more than ten boxes of material. You cannot witness the shredding.