Every company generates reams of records and documents that accumulate over time. This is perfectly normal and in many ways completely unavoidable. After all, you need to maintain employment records, financial documents, and in many cases, customer details for the sake of legal compliance and business functionality.
Imagine if you simply threw away your employee’s tax and payroll information each year, only to be hit by an IRS audit that demands them. The auditors wouldn’t be very amused if you claimed that you were just trying to free up space.
The fact that you need to keep documents and secure them is a basic part of business administration that most companies learn very quickly. What some however do forget is how and when to destroy documents that they legally can eliminate.
This is one of the more common business security loopholes in the world and sadly, it’s extremely easy to avoid. Whenever you no longer need old documents and can get rid of them, thorough destruction is a good idea, and there are specific rules for doing it in the safest way possible. Here are several things to keep in mind:
Legal Paper Shredding
Part of doing business means dealing with many different types of sensitive information. Of course, storing data electronically can be risky, but so can keeping paper files.
Company forms, transactions, contracts and other legal documents contain private information – from payroll and credit card records to client lists and employment information. If these documents are still in your possession, but are no longer useful, then it’s important to have them shredded.
Un-needed documents should be destroyed
Even businesses that are absolutely meticulous about long-term record keeping eventually have to destroy some of it. This applies especially to inevitable physical paper records and information. There’s essentially almost no way around the need for document destruction. This is a good thing, because records with sensitive information that just take up space can only be a security liability unless they simply cease to exist so thoroughly that no information can be reconstructed from them.
This is often even a legal requirement for documentation that can legally be destroyed and contains the following kinds of information:
- Income and expense data
- Employee health information
- Tax information
- Confidential client information
- Intellectual property documentation
- Social security numbers, names or other personal identifiers of clients and employees
- Credit card numbers
These kinds of documents and many others are not something you want to dispose of in a way that lets anyone else read them later.
Keep legal ramifications in mind
Secure document destruction is sometimes legally required for certain kinds of data and for certain corporate contexts. In others however, it’s strictly forbidden until a certain amount of time has passed. For tax and payroll information, you should preserve documents for at least four years in case of an audit. For employment records, the Small Business Administration often recommends storing them for at least 3 to 5 years depending on which type of records they are.
Then of course there are your customer records. For the sake of customer service and for having physical evidence in case of a civil legal dispute with a client or customer, these should be kept for as long as you have a relationship with that client.
For all of these documents, you will eventually however have to eventually use legal paper shredding on them in most cases. When this becomes necessary, secure destruction is vital for keeping you safe from direct legal consequences or in some cases, lawsuits due to negligence accusations.
Destroying documents safely
The first step to truly secure document destruction is finding a trustworthy, professional service that can handle this job at scale with full legal compliance with confidentiality rules. You can of course destroy your own documents too, but what if you eventually have to deal with thousands of them?
Conducting legal paper shredding thoroughly is about more than just shredding paper for the recycling bins and calling it a day. It also often requires complex chemical processes, specialized equipment and even incineration. Most companies don’t have the in-house facilities for this, and especially if we’re talking about huge volumes of sensitive paperwork.
A professional document destruction service will however have exactly this kind of document destruction capacity at scale, and they will be absolutely thorough in making sure nothing usable remains. Services such as IntelliShred can manage your secure document elimination needs conveniently, quickly and most importantly, with security firmly in mind.
There are special laws in place which protect an employee’s right to privacy. If their personal information is not kept safe, your business could be liable if anything should happen to it. Shredding important employee documents helps protect their information and reduces your risk of receiving fines for mishandling customer information. Penalties can be severe for businesses that fail to comply with these regulations.
Make sure your business is compliant with the following regulations:
Once sorted, shredding physical documents is the best way to ensure that they’re destroyed correctly. A data breach can put your organization at risk as well as tarnish your reputation, especially with legal paper shredding.
Saving the Environment
It’s not just illegal to throw away documents with sensitive information, there is also a significant environmental impact. Simply recycling your documents is not enough – shredding is a better, more environmentally sound way to ensure that sensitive information does not just get shuffled around and distributed by your recycling vendor. Shredding companies have the ability to cut paper down to a size where it is unrecognizable and they can send higher volumes of it to be recycled more easily.
A professional shredding company can help you stay in compliance with legal paper shredding. Avoid legal trouble, help save the environment and obtain peace of mind that you’ve done everything you can to protect the valuable information you store.
If you need shredding services in NJ, IntelliShred provides NAID certified shredding, and offers daily, weekly and monthly service packages. Learn more about how we can help you protect your business, contact us today!