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Document Management: What to do with the Junk in the Back Room

Untitled Document Recycling paper and other office trash is environmentally responsible. Recycling office data is legally, ethically, and politically irresponsible. So, what to do with the reams of paper and the discarded electronics that accumulate in every office? Shred, baby, shred. Then recycle.

Why You Need a Document Destruction Policy
All businesses have documents with sensitive data, from employee records to credit card transactions to sales, marketing and product plans. Besides complying with federal and state laws mandating protection of confidential information such as Social Security numbers, background checks, health records, and credit card information, it only makes sense to protect all information assets.

A policy dictating how to protect information, including when and how to destroy materials, is more than just a good idea, it can protect companies against litigation, embarrassment, or loss of competitive advantage. Randomly destroying documents is a double edged sword. As long as records that are preserved they can be used in legal proceedings, but destroying them can be construed as obstruction of justice. By having and adhering to an information destruction policy, companies can demonstrate that they are acting in good faith. And, a policy helps keep companies information assets well organized.

Even small companies and individuals can benefit by conscientiously destroying credit card offers and receipts to prevent identity theft.

Management Means Getting Rid of the Old Stuff
Many document management companies offer secure shredding services that help businesses to discard responsibly old paper and electronic records with one-time clean up. Many secure shredding services offer both on-the-customer-site disposal and disposal at the service provider facilities.

With an information destruction policy in place, once the backlog of old materials is destroyed, newly-created trash can be disposed of on a schedule that will keep the work environment clean and the company protected from data risk.

Paper Document Shredding
Companies that casually dispose of their paper and electronic waste are responsible if those materials with protected information are discovered or are used by others. Regardless of whether a company does its own document management or outsources to a document management company, old paper records should be shredded before being recycled.

Hard Drive Document Shredding
Today, documents in most offices are created and stored electronically on laptop and desktop computers backed up on networked servers. When disposing of computers, servers and even mobile phones, it is not enough just to erase the files. Even after formatting, data on hard drives can be restored with off-the-shelf software. When retiring electronic assets, the safe thing to do is have memory components shredded.

Beyond Document Shredding
Even shredding hard drives into pieces as small as one inch by one inch does not remove all the bits and bytes; they still reside on the shredded media. For ultra-sensitive data, memory components should be degaussed before being donated or shredded.

Many document management companies will provide secure shredding and post-shredding recycling of paper and electronics, and they can issue certificates of destruction. Note that certificates of destruction do not obviate responsibility for safety of data, but obtaining them does show adherence to best practices.

National Association of Information Destruction

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