Published 16th of March 2020

Businesses often upgrade their IT systems in order to improve their cybersecurity and ensure that sensitive commercial data is protected.

An overlooked stage in this process, however, is protecting the data stored on old business hard drives and servers when these are discarded.

When old data storage equipment is sold or thrown away, there is a risk of it falling into the wrong hands- not only can this expose the important commercial information held by your business, but it can also lead to breaches in data protection regulations. This, in turn, can result in your business being hit with heavy fines.

Not everyone knows that even broken hard drives still contain data. In fact, data can survive on an unused hard drive for up to 20 years. With the right knowledge and skills, criminals can restore data storage equipment and recover sensitive commercial information. But how can businesses prevent this from happening?

There are certain steps you need to take to ensure that your business isn’t exposed when upgrading IT systems.

Don’t attempt a DIY job

A common mistake that businesses make when discarding their old data storage equipment is trying to erase the data or destroy the equipment themselves. Many businesses rely on erasing the data through simple formatting, yet the statistics suggest this isn’t a safe option: a study conducted by students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that 74% of hard drives bought online contained data that could easily be recovered and read, even after they had been re-formatted by their previous owners.

Some companies go beyond simply resetting their data storage devices when selling or discarding them. There are lots of stories about companies that attempt to destroy their own hard drives manually by various means, the majority of which leave sensitive commercial data accessible to criminals. Don’t attempt to destroy your hard drives with a magnet or manually disassemble and demolish the magnetic platter inside as this can be very dangerous and is unlikely to be successful.

Hard Drive Shredding

Hard drive shredding is an alternative to degaussing. This can be achieved by using shredding machines or hydraulic crushers. The main advantage of shredding is that it ensures the total destruction of the magnetic platter inside the hard drive. With no platter, there is no possibility of any data remaining on the drive. Hard drive shredding thus completely removes any chance that sensitive commercial data stored on the drive will be recovered. It is also the best option for sustainability-conscious firms. Unlike alternative methods of disposal, shredding a hard drive enables the materials inside it to be recycled.

Shredall can destroy hard drives on or off site, using cutting edge data destruction technology to permanently destroy decommissioned discs, servers and photocopiers, making it impossible to reconstruct and recover the data.

Key takeaways

  • Businesses need to protect their sensitive commercial data when selling or discarding old data storage devices.
  • Simply formatting a hard drive and deleting the data digitally does not render it unusable, leaving your business open to criminals who can recover and read corporate data
  • DIY methods for destroying hard drives are ineffective and can even be dangerous