Banks and other businesses, like government agencies, have paper documents with social security numbers and other highly sensitive information on them. So, when it comes time to dispose of those documents, they shred them first. Some outsource the shredding to paper shredding companies. Others have their documents incinerated. But what do you do when the documents you need to get rid of are stored on your computer’s hard drive?

Well, for individuals who plan to recycle or re-use their hard drives, one option would be to download free hard drive erasing software, such as Freeraser, KillDisk or SDelete. If you’re leery of downloading freeware from the Internet – as you should be – then you can buy software like WipeDrive for as little as $20. But that’s for individuals or small-businesses with fewer than 10 employees. But what if your small business has 20, 30 or 50 employees?  Is erasing computer hard drives really the best use of your IT team’s time? Probably not.

Fortunately, it’s not necessary for small-business leaders to spend time wiping clean every hard drive on every desktop or laptop computer that they plan to recycle or discard. Just as you can shred paper documents before throwing them in a recycle bin or dumpster, you can also shred or, more accurately, have shredded, any hard drive that you no longer plan to use for your business.

If you’re going to do that, then you probably should check, double check and triple check to make sure that all relevant or mission-critical information has been transferred and stored elsewhere. The same thing applies to small-business leaders who decide to completely erase their computers’ hard drives. Once that data is gone, it’s gone forever.

Hard drive shredding must be catching on because there are a few companies already offering these services. Data Killers, for example, offers hard drive shredding, hard drive erasing and degaussing (another way to wipe clean a hard drive that renders the hard drive unusable) services, on site and off site, for corporations and government agencies. Federal Document Shredding also provides on-site shredding for small and large businesses, government agencies and health care facilities. The company is HIPAA compliant and even offers x-ray destruction services. PC Recycler, Inc. offers its services not only to corporations and government agencies but also to individuals in the Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. areas. For only $10, an individual could bring the hard drive from his PC to one of PC Recycler’s “shredding events” and watch as the hard drive is torn into tiny bits. As with Data Killers, PC Recycler offers on-site and off-site shredding services to businesses.

It’s more than a little daunting to think about where your last computer went and who’s using it, especially if all you did was reformat your hard drive before donating your computer to Goodwill or selling it to a pawn shop. Individuals and small-business owners who want to ensure the data on their hard drives are forever inaccessible, could use software like WipeDisk or Freeraser to wipe their hard drives themselves if they don’t want to hire a shredding service. But for leaders in larger businesses, hiring a service like Data Killers or PC Recycler to come in and do the wiping or shredding for them really is money well spent.

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