Published 12th of October 2016
Avoid falling short of the law by shredding your sensitive data
Did you know that there’s a correct way to dispose of your confidential waste? One that doesn’t involve simply scrunching your paper into a ball, or ripping it into a couple of (legible) pieces and throwing it into the bin.
If you’re guilty of this, or know people in your workplace that are, then pay note; it’s actually the law to properly rid of anything containing ‘sensitive information’, whether that’s invoices, customer receipts, business financials, insurance policies, contracts or documents containing PIN numbers or passwords. Failure to do so is in breach of the Data Protection Act (1998), and can lead to penalties of up to £50,000.
What’s more, failure to comply is also bad news for business; you’re increasing the chances of confidential information falling into the wrong hands, and potentially putting yourself at risk of theft or fraud. It’s scary to think that the estimated annual cost of fraud in the UK is £193 billion - with business fraud accounting for around £144 billion of that!
In today’s digital age, confidential information is stored on our computers, laptops, hard drives and servers too, which makes it equally as important to dispose of these WEEE (waste electrical and electronics equipment) in the right way.
The good news is that there are a number of things businesses can do to ensure their sensitive data stays safe, and is disposed of correctly with then the time comes.
Be savvy with your storage
If you’ve got piles of paperwork strewn across your office then it’s time for a tidy up. It may take a while to do but it will be time well spent - ‘clear space clear mind’ as the famous saying goes! Plus you’ll be less likely to lose important documents when they’re organised and neatly filed away. If you’ve got the room and are looking to keep things in-house then I’d recommend investing in some lockable filing cabinets, otherwise you could look into off-site storage solutions.
Self storage is one option, where you’re given a key to a rented room (available in a range of sizes). This is ideal for businesses that are looking to manage excess stock, but for paperwork alone you may want to consider off-site document storage solutions, where you’re charged only for the space you need. Paperwork will be kept with similar items in high-security facilities, which are fully-monitored and fire and flood resistant, with fire and burglar alarms liked to police and fire stations. Sensitive documents that need to be kept for longer may be stored in a highly secure vault for maximum protection.
Need to know where that document is?
Trying to find a document among piles of messy, disorganised paper is like trying to find a needle in a haystack! Not only will you waste a lot of time, but you’ll also end up frustrated. With self storage, you’re the only one with the key, which means that you can venture in and out as you please (generally within office hours, although some are open 24/7). However, the onus is on you to keep your paperwork organised, and to locate and retrieve anything you may need at short notice.
Document storage companies work differently, as only DBS-checked staff are authorised to enter the facilities. However, the process of retrieving your items is hassle-free; you can usually put in a request online, and the firm will deliver it to you. They will also come and collect it once you’re ready to put it back into storage, or will dispose of it if it’s no longer needed.
Some document storage companies may also offer scanning and digitisation services, helping you to transition to a paperless office in the future, should you wish. If your business isn’t ready to take that step yet, scanning and digitisation can be done in conjunction with the storage hard copies; if you need something you can access the online version within a matter of seconds.
Ready to get rid?
At the very least, waste should be shredded - although be warned that most bog standard office machines cut in vertical strips, which could be reassembled with a bit of patience. For higher security, invest in one which ‘cross cuts’ your documents, minimising the chances of reconstruction. It’s also advisable to shred on a regular basis; doing so once or twice a month will not only help you keep organised but may free up valuable office or storage space.
The problem with shredders, though, is that they are noisy, and can only handle a couple of sheets of paper at any one time. Plus they’re susceptible to over-heating, paper jams and need to be emptied regularly. Professional data destruction firms make this job seem like a breeze, and can also handle staples, elastic bands of paper clips that would normally need to be removed before being run through a portable shredder.
If you’re thinking of outsourcing your shredding, then make sure to check the company out first. Look whether they’ve got all the relevant industry accreditations they need (to ensure they’re safe and compliant), and check to see if they’ve got a good reputation, perhaps by viewing online reviews or testimonials.
Professional shredding companies can also help with any corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies your business may have by recycling all of your paper waste. Bi-produced paper material can be turned into a range of tissue related products, including newspapers, magazines, cardboard, hand towels, loft insulation and animal bedding.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment items can be shredded - and sometimes recycled too - as well as many other products including ID cards, uniforms and X-rays. Hard drives and magnetic media need to go through an additional process before they are destroyed, in order to properly wipe any information they have on them. This process is known as degaussing, and consists of passing the item through a powerful magnetic field, which rearranges the magnetic particles, rendering it it completely unusable