Common myths about document shredding (and the truth behind them)

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It has never been more important to have full control and understanding over the processing of your business documentation. Documents are an important part of how business operate – you need to have fast and easy access to all of the information you need to do your job. But it is also important not to simply keep a physical copy of every document you ever receive or print. Aside from the expense of storing a huge collection of documentation, having a large physical archive can present significant security risks.

It is necessary, then, to dispose of your documentation in a controlled and managed way. This needs to be safe from a security perspective but also environmentally friendly. The majority of businesses choose to periodically shred their documents – however, some are concerned that doing so is actually the wrong thing to do. This is typically due to myths and misconceptions about the practice, and how it relates to modern law and business practice.

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Here are some of the most commonly heard misconceptions on the issue of document shredding. We examine them and reveal the truth.

Myth: Shredding means losing information

Truth: Technology ensures you don’t need to lose anything

Businesses can be put off the idea of shredding their documents because they believe that doing so means losing access to that information. For example, they may have received only a paper copy of an invoice and feel the need to keep that physical copy on file. Inevitably there are some cases where this is true, but in the vast majority of examples it is actually possible to scan those documents and save them on your server (or to the cloud).

Advancing technology around document shredding mean that this is now easy and affordable – it’s something that any business can do easily.

Myth: Shredding is too time consuming for a small business

Truth: Shredding services are extremely fast and efficient

For small businesses it may look daunting to see their huge archive of physical documentation and imagine how time consuming it would be to sit at a shredder, slowly feeding in paper. This can lead to them putting it off entirely, and then the task becomes larger and larger until it would simply take too long to have anyone do it.

For those businesses it is good news that you can outsource to fast and efficient shredding services. This quickly gets the job done and can provide your company with real peace of mind this process has been carried out correctly.

Myth: Throwing documents away is fine

Truth: Disposed of intact documents is very risky

There are still organisations that believe that it is not necessary to shred documentation – that paper can simply be put into a rubbish bag and thrown away. The logic here is that the documents will simply end up in a landfill.

However, it is important to note that criminals will go to extreme lengths to get hold of data perceived to be valuable. It is common for criminals to steal bags of paper documents found in rubbish piles.

Myth: If security is good, shredding isn’t required

Truth: Shredding is the only way to feel completely secure

A good reason to get into the right practice of shredding documents is that it helps to keep private data secure – it stops potentially valuable information from falling into the wrong hands. However, many organisations want to believe that their security is very good and that their team is completely trustworthy.

While we would all like this to be true, it can never be guaranteed. As new regulations such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) have come into force, it has never been more important to be taking full care of personal data. Shredding physical documents ensure that this data can’t be misused.

Myth: Recycling is better than shredding

Truth: Recycling and shredding are not mutually exclusive

Many businesses that are environmentally conscious think: shouldn’t paper simply be recycled? The answer is yes, but that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be shredded first. You can have the documents shredded and then recycled to ensure that you are doing the right things from an environmental perspective, but also keeping your data secure.

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Mike James is a UK-based writer for a few small companies and organisations, as well as numerous print and online magazines. Specialising in technology developments and business matters, Mike is best known for articles based around how best to integrate the two - particularly concerning cyber security, where he has been published in some of the leading authorities online.