I hate to say it, but shredding has gaps (pardon the pun). While most ITAD providers hail the superiority of shredding data-bearing devices, we see it as a game of smoke and mirrors. Let’s look at what could go wrong with shredding as a data destruction method.
The old switcheroo
Most obvious problem with shredding assets is that all shredded hard drives look the same. And, whether by accident or intentional, your super-critical data could be misplaced or left out of that batch of scrap metal. Unless you have the time to hand-feed those drives yourself, you really can’t prove that your data was destroyed.
While you might think this switch-up is unlikely, there is a solution that is better. Wiping data keeps everything intact, so, if there is ever a question about the data, you only need plug in the drive to see it’s a clean slate. Is it worth the risk to have the potential of your drives not getting the service you are paying for?
Another reason given to make shredding seem like the best solution is the cost factor. It’s true that wiping data takes specialized software and is a longer process than shredding, but there is more to this story.
Shredding machines are not cheap. So, tit-for-tat, the cost of software is a straw-man argument. Not to mention the noise pollution and OSHA considerations shredding institutions have to account for. In the grand scheme, the cost to manage one method over another is moot. As for the time spent, any ITAD company worth its weight will build this into their overall processing costs—and should be transparent with that ledger.
But when ITAD companies tout the expense of wiping over shredding, they do themselves a disservice. Handling IT assets is not inexpensive no matter what method you use, so it brings into question how the shredding service is paying for all its big equipment and insurance. Sadly, the costs are subsidized by the exportation of e-waste—and maybe it’s your un-shredded hard drive from before.
The loss of value
It’s a fact that a shredded hard drive is worth next to nothing. Only in bulk are shredded hard drives even able to bring in commodity revenue. On the other hand, a wiped hard drive still has intrinsic value that can be recouped through third-party sales. Reuse is always a better option than recycling.
When a hard drive is shredded, the magnets, steel, aluminum, and plastic are all mixed together. This makes the pile of scrap much more difficult to separate (remember the hidden costs shredders don’t tell you about?), which—in turn—makes the value of that heap drop even more.
Beyond that, this idea that shredding is somehow less expensive than wiping doesn’t take into account the profit sharing that can come from the resale of intact hard drives. Whether to your own employees, in the case of an Employee Purchase Program, or to the greater public through ecommerce, the potential to recoup some of the higher costs to wiping is something you can control—unlike exporting e-waste for profit.
Treating IT like trash
How careful were you with the disposable cup you got your coffee in today? Did you carefully track it and handle it with a presence of mind that could allow it to be resold to another coffee drinker later? This may sound silly, but the reality is that when an ITAD company takes in what it knows will be shredded, the perception of those assets diminishes. This is why hard drives can get lost or wind up in an employee’s backpack. After all, it’s garbage, right? They won’t miss it.
Compare that thinking to a company looking to make the most resale value of a wiped device—knowing that the device is discoverable after being wiped. Tracking, wiping, and even careful processing are part-and-parcel to the intake and treatment of those devices.
e-Waste is a trillion-dollar-a-year industry that is shrouded in the guise of being inexpensive and foolproof. With the potential of getting a piece of that trillion, do you think shredding recyclers don’t “lose” assets from time to time? Think again.
Wiping data off of devices keeps the device in perfect working order, allows you to track the device and prove its data erasure, is a realistically priced procedure, retains the full market value of your IT asset, and creates a company-wide pursuit of excellence.
So, if you are looking for a truly superior method of data erasure, do your research. Find an ITAD partner who uses a NIST 800-88 certified erasure protocol, and who tracks your devices with the intent to retain value. Or, work with an e-Stewards certified recycler if you’re dead-set on shredding. At least that way you have a Basel-Convention level of governance overseeing your e-waste.
Go to our Data Sanitization page to see how we handle data sustainably, or contact us to get a quote on your IT Asset Disposition needs.
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