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Shredding versus wiping hard drives

It’s time for your company to upgrade its IT equipment, and a dilemma arises: you need to dispose of hard drives that were once used to store sensitive information, but first your company decision-makers need to find the right starting point.

Will a thorough data wipe suffice, or should the hard drives be shredded to maintain compliance with environmental and data privacy laws and regulations, particularly sweeping measure like the ones recently set forth by the European Union’s GDPR. You’re not alone in the battle to remain compliant with data erasure.

With so many data privacy and environmental policy issues arising as a booming tech industry constantly ushers out the old to make room for the new, it can be challenging to make sure that every last regulation is accounted for when you’re upgrading or replacing your own hard drives and IT equipment, since there’s no single checklist to reference.

The answer is actually a lot simpler than it seems. To ensure maximum data protection that encompasses all of the regulatory compliance standards related to data privacy, many of which carry crushing fines and penalties, wiping data from a hard drive is the safest, most effective and reliable form of data destruction, whereas shredding results in numerous implications that can negate that security.

Data wiping is greener and more efficient than shredding

Security is the most critical element of data destruction, and the reality is that shredding a hard drive does not guarantee that security. There are still numerous ways that data can remain vulnerable after a shred – more on that later.

As importantly, it’s not the most ecologically friendly method of disposal, either.

Shredded hard drives may be handled by a recycler that has a zero-landfill policy, but that doesn’t change the fact that yet more scrap electronic waste will end up going through the ringer.

Not only is it more difficult to guarantee that the scraps won’t ultimately be tossed into a landfill by an unscrupulous vendor, where the heavy metals begin to break down and contaminate the soil, water, and air, but it’s also not uncommon for scrap electronics to be sold to countries in Asia for recycling, where an overabundance of electronics to process and
recycle are causing severe levels of pollution in certain regions. Data centers are already hotbeds for climate change, but even retired equipment contributes to the problem.

On the domestic front as well, shredding carries a risk of fire that requires strict regulations for the processing facility, and certain states also require air quality permits to perform the shred because of the output from the machinery. It is not a green process.

Furthermore, the amount of energy required to shred, extract raw materials, and transport them is significant, demonstrating again that just because the materials aren’t going to end up in a landfill doesn’t mean the negative environmental impact is eliminated.

The organization behind the for ITAD vendors recognizes reusing hard drives as the most environmentally sound form of electronics recycling, which is why data destruction is best accomplished through data wiping.

Data wiping is highly efficient, fast, and the greenest method of recycling a hard drive, since the equipment can be refurbished and resold after the data erasure is completed. With the latest software technology that allows secure data wiping, there is no reason to destroy and dispose of a perfectly good piece of hardware with years of life left in it.

Shredded hard drives hold no guarantees for security

If you’re not intimately familiar with the rigorous standards of national and international data privacy policies and regulations like a data wiping specialist is, the chances are higher that certain best practices might get overlooked that could potentially cost your business hundreds of thousands of dollars in crippling penalties.

Data security is one of the most prescient topics in tech today, and too many companies have allowed major slip-ups and errors to impact millions of people and cost enormous sums of money to mitigate. Don’t be like some of the most prominent offenders, among them Equifax and NHS Surrey, plus a host of other major corporations that allowed mistakes to compromise the security of millions.

To make it simple, here’s a brief rundown of the best practices for securely wiping data from a hard drive and explanations of how shredding can negate them:

  1. A secure location for processing a hard drive is vital for maintaining safety and preventing theft or a breach. Unfortunately, shredding is frequently done in a shared loading dock area that is shared by other vendors, meaning more people can possibly access the equipment. On the other hand, data wiping doesn’t require that the hard drive even be removed from the machine it occupies. The process can be performed in-house, making it easy to require authorization for access prior to the wipe.
  2. Automation utilized in data wiping increases the accuracy and certainty of verification. During a data wipe, the software scans the hard drive’s serial number as part of the process, which is part of confirming, reporting, and archiving the finished wipe for record keeping and auditing purposes. During a hard drive shred, the serial number is manually recorded by the vendor, which opens up a world of potential for mistakes.
  3. Verification is possible on multiple levels after a hard drive wipe, whereas a shredded hard drive does not provide adequate or reliable evidence of the shred. For one, the scraps from a shred make it impossible to pick out one hard drive from another, so once a shred is performed, there is no way to match up a serial number with the actual device to prove the shred occurred. A hard drive that is intact after a wipe can be easily confirmed to have been successful. Reporting for the data erasure helps supplement that certainty, which high-quality, multi-pass data wiping will always provide.

Data wiping is the most modern, efficient, and effective for recycling old hard drives. The return on investment you can receive from routine ITAD services using a trusted data wiping company is the icing on the cake, but the peace of mind knowing you’re compliant with data protection and environmental regulations is priceless.