So you've decided it's too much time and trouble to do your own shredding. Here's what you should ask document destruction companies.
When we discussed some of the document destruction options available to small businesses, we touched on some of the commercial services available.
While we recommended making appropriate enquiries in order to be assured that the chosen provider follows good practices, we didn't mention what those enquiries should be.
Shred-it country manager Tom Bell says there are three key questions to ask.
1. Does the company provide you with documented proof that confidential information has been destroyed?
A certificate of destruction is just the starting point. You should seek documentation of the chain of custody from the time the material is picked up from your premises through to its destruction.
As we mentioned in the previous article, one of the advantages of on-site service is that you or one of your staff can physically oversee the process to make certain the papers are shredded on the spot and not just compacted for later processing.
Since writing 'How to dispose of documents securely', we learned that some mobile services (one example is iShred in Melbourne) also offer a 'bring your papers to us' service on certain days. Depending on the value you put on your own time, this can be a more affordable way of securely disposing of a few boxes of papers - especially as they don't need to leave your sight until they go into the machine, and even then you may be able to follow their progress on a video screen.
2. Does the company allow you to visit their sites and examine the security measures in place to ensure you are comfortable with how your information is being processed and protected?
Bell suggests destruction companies - especially those doing the destruction on their own premises - should welcome the opportunity to demonstrate their security standards.
This is more relevant where you're engaging someone to destroy your papers on a regular basis. If you go for annual or six-monthly clean-outs, it's probably simpler to use an on-site service and witness the process yourself.
3. What standards of professionalism and integrity does the company work to?
Destruction companies should be willing and able to prove that all of their staff that visit your premises or handle your materials have passed national police checks. Make sure you know whether your material will be shredded at your premises or theirs. One indication of professionalism is that the company's representatives carry ID cards and wear recognisable uniforms, Bell suggested.
"Ultimately, any security process is only as strong as its weakest link. The question of trust is one that should not be addressed as a perfunctory exercise," he said.
"Protecting the reputation of your company needs an effective, well-managed document destruction process. That can only be achieved through effective due diligence from all parties involved in the secure disposal of your confidential information."