Shredding has long been a staple of most business accounting and HR departments. In recent months we have seen an increase in interest in shredding services in Burlington ON where we operate. There are many reasons why this is occurring, I think.
People have become more aware of the impact of identity theft due to media and web coverage of the problem. As more stories are told about the problems associated with identity theft more people are inclined to take whatever steps that they can to protect themselves. Shredding of paperwork is one of those steps.
Our shredding service is not designed to deal with large volume users but is targetted more to the small business and occasional personal account where there is a need to clean up their files. A few bankers boxes delivered, shredded and a certficate of destruction provided. Because our service is more personal in nature we have been able to accomodate people who want to see the documents shredded and who have remained on site while it is done. While not a common occurrence this need to be sure that the work is carried out is a natural consequence of the increased concern about what happens to confidential material.
In the commercial environment there is a slightly different issue that has to be addressed. In many instances the client contracting for shredding, whether in a service like ours or with an on premises shredding service, is concerned about how they are handling other people's information.
This information could be HR information from their employees. It could be accounting related material or tax files from an accountant. It could be sensitive R&D records. It might be quality control records which contain proprietary information. Of course health care records become important in that industry and in insurance as well.
Shredding is a necessary service in any business whether it is small or large. There are a few ways to acquire the capability.
Easiest and often the safest is to buy your own shredder. The issue with this is when quantities or the size of files start to grow you need to acquire a heavier duty shredder and put a system around it to ensure security. On the positive side this can often be the lowest cost solution and will permit the best control and surety of what is done with your records. Go for quality not price and buy the heaviest duty unit you can afford. We often hear from users who have become frustrated with box store shredders which can't handle the load.
You can take your files to a shredding service and have them destroyed. This is the service we have provided for users who have an intermittent need and who only need a limited quantity shredded. The benefit of this is that you only pay for what you need and there is no need to make a capital investment. Of course you have to deal with transporting the files.
The next option is to use a shredding service to provide on premise shredding for you or for a pick up and shred service to do the same. The scale and scope of these services vary widely depending upon your needs and how secure your requirements might be. Using a shredding service introduces a whole range of additional considerations. How much volume will you have. How frequently do you want the shredding performed. The longer the time between shreds the more at risk your operation absorbs. If the shredding is to be performed on premise, then you have to consider that a truck with a motorized shredder will have to run on your premises to do the work. For some organizations the environmental impact of this is not acceptable.
If you do permit your records to be moved by the shredding service to a centralized location you have to accept the risk of records going missing during transport and having lost control of your materials. The biggest risk here is most likely an accident spilling records from the truck, a long shot but one that could be disastrous if you data is very sensitive. I know of a hospital that has decided that this risk is much too high for them and they require on premise shredding to be performed either by a service or with their own equpment. You also don't know what is actually done with your records once they are out of your hands, unless you audit the service to be sure how they are handled. This adds additional cost or questions.
Of course there are things you need to do within your office to ensure that confidential material stays confidential before shredding.
Legislation in most jurisdictions restricts how personal information can be used and how access must be controlled. Ensuring your internal processes have been established to protect access and storage of paper records is an important consideration. This is one of the reasons why electronic filing systems are gaining in popularity since it is easier to secure them and to record who has accessed any information.
Privacy concerns are a real issue for every business and thinking ahead of time about how you will address them will pay dividends. The investment in time and in products or services does not have to be major but it does take consideration and training your employees to think about how they handle confidential materials. The negative impacts of a leak can be considerable and avoiding them is well worth the effort.
How is confidential paper handled in your office? How have you addressed the shredding need? Is your response to privacy concerns adequate?
Your thoughts are welcomed below....
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