Best Practices for Data Destruction
Protect Your Business and Your Privacy by Following the Best Data Destruction Practices
There’s a reason why you rarely see bulky file cabinets being used in offices these days. With the advent of computers, portable storage devices, and in recent years, cloud computing, there is no more reason to rely on those old school file storage implements continually.
Still, storing your data electronically does come with a certain amount of risk. If sophisticated technicians decide to target you and the data in your possession, they can find some way in if you are not careful enough.
You can never be too safe with your electronic data, which is why you must handle it properly, even if you no longer need it. Improper data disposal can leave individuals and businesses vulnerable to attackers.
That’s why you need to be aware of the data destruction methods available and also follow the best practices. Listed below are the methods and practices you need to know about.
The Different Data Destruction Methods
According to the Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), the data destruction methods fall into three categories.
The categories are clearing, purging, and destruction.
With clearing methods, the data is erased with the aid of different programs. Clearing methods target the data inside the storage device and destroy them. By opting to go with a clearing method, you can destroy the data contained within the storage unit while still making the device usable in the future.
Examples of clearing methods include:
- Deleting data
- Rewriting data
- Wiping data
- Reformatting the storage device
The purging methods employed to destroy data are even more effective. When you’re purging data, you use a physical or logical technique to render the storage device unusable essentially. Purging methods of destruction are great if your only concern is wiping the data from existence. Still, you will want to use something else if you also want to preserve the storage device for future applications.
Examples of purging methods include:
The destruction methods that can be used are permanent solutions that will help you feel more secure about the safety of sensitive information that could be pertaining to you or your business. You are now moving forward with destroying the storage device itself so that it can no longer be used in any way.
Examples of destruction methods include:
- Physical destruction
- Decommissioning data centers
The Best Data Destruction Practices
Now that you know about the different ways to destroy data, attention can now be shifted to the best practices that must be employed before, during, and after the processes mentioned above.
Determine How Long You Need to Hold Certain Types of Data
Businesses will come into possession of mountains of data over the course of its many years of operations. As the amount of data grows, businesses will have a harder time managing what they have at their disposal.
Having such a significant data surplus can be problematic when the time comes for disposal. Destroying so much information all at once can turn into an ordeal unto itself, thus requiring more resources.
It also becomes harder to sift through that much data thoroughly. There’s a non-zero chance that some crucial bits of information that are not supposed to be destroyed will end up getting lost in the shuffle, and that could be bad news for your business.
In order to prevent a situation in which your business has so much data that even processing all that information prior to destruction becomes difficult, you need to set specific guidelines. The guidelines can indicate how long certain files are to be kept within the databases.
Notably, you don’t have to set limits on all types of data currently in your company’s possession. You can earmark certain bits of data for preservation so that they are never at risk for being deleted or destroyed.
For everything else, the established guidelines will govern them and ensure that your databases never become too disorganized.
Educate Everyone in the Company about the Data Destruction Policies
After setting guidelines for when certain types of data are to be destroyed, you can start to focus on another important aspect of the process. Education is essential when it comes to destruction policies.
Considering the fact that different employees in your company will handle different types of data, it’s of the utmost importance that they know what to do at all times with the information in front of them. Yes, it’s always an option for them to ask around first before taking any action regarding data disposal, but that can effectively bog down company operations.
To keep things operating smoothly, it would be better if everyone already knew what to do with their data without having to check with anyone else in the company.
Discuss as many topics as possible during the teaching process. Include topics such as the basics of data disposal, to a specific method such as decommissioning data centers, and even other relevant matters, including e-cycling.
Do try to set realistic expectations, though. Mistakes are still likely going to be made on rare occasions. Nevertheless, if the teaching is done well, the errors pertaining to data retention and disposal can be significantly minimized.
Choose the Appropriate Method of Data Destruction
As noted previously, there is more than one way for individuals and businesses to destroy the data they have, but the abundance of options available does beg an obvious question.
Which data destruction method is best for you or your company’s needs?
Your answer to that question will depend on the amount of data you want to destroy, the kind of data you want to destroy, and the resources you currently have available.
For those who cannot afford to let go of their storage devices due to monetary concerns, the clearing methods of data disposal will likely be the best fit. Those methods may not be as secure as the other options, but they will also not require users to acquire new storage devices.
The purging and destruction methods are better suited to those who are concerned about completely wiping data away above everything else. All traces of sensitive data can be removed if you opt for any of the purging and destruction methods. Just make sure that you have replacement devices ready to handle your immediate data storage needs.
It is important that before you settle on a data disposal method to use, you reflect on these things because its effects are irreversible. Consult with all the relevant people you need to in order to make the right decision.
Be as Thorough as Possible with Your Data Destruction
Once you have settled on the data elimination method you want to use, the next thing you need to do is to follow through on the process correctly. That means being as thorough as you possibly can be when it comes time to destroy the data.
Being thorough in this scenario requires you to include all copies of data entries that are to be deleted. Scour your databases for the bits of information to be deleted and make sure that there are no copies that are left behind.
It’s also a good idea to check if any physical items are containing the data you want to destroy. Obviously, those need to be addressed during the destruction process too.
Any storage devices that you previously used to hold the data to be destroyed must also be processed. Tech experts may still be able to extract valuable information from them, thus necessitating their proper disposal.
Some of the data you are looking to delete may also exist in the databases of partner companies and vendors that you worked with in the past. Get in touch with them, too, and, if possible, ask them to participate in the data elimination process.
You can never be too thorough with regards to protecting your privacy and your business. Avoid neglecting an important bit of information that could end up compromising your security later on.
Keep Track of the Data Destruction Process
Regardless of whether you decided that decommissioning data centers is the way to go or simple erasure is what you need, you cannot overlook the importance of monitoring the process.
Even if you outlined how the process should go, there’s still a chance for miscommunications to take place, thus resulting in important data being left unaddressed. Suddenly, a big hole may open up in your security because something that was supposed to be deleted was instead left exposed to potential attackers.
There may also be times when the destruction process has to be halted for one reason or another. If you weren’t keeping track of its progress, some important items set for destruction might not be processed, and that is unacceptable. You can prevent that problem by keeping tabs on the process as it is being completed.
Rely on the Pros
Tasks such as decommissioning data centers and degaussing are not simple ones that anyone can learn to do with a bit of research and training. These are highly technical processes that must be handled with the utmost care in order to be executed properly.
Anything less than that and you are risking a potential security breach.
You could very well have people on the payroll who already have experience handling tasks related to data disposal, but that is not true of every company. The good news for those companies who do not have the personnel needed to handle data elimination tasks is that there are businesses to hire that specialize in it.
Handling the data destruction process on your own is an option, but considering how much of your workforce you may need to devote to that task, you can easily argue that paying a third party company would be a wiser use of your available resources.
Plus, bringing a third party company on board means that you can ask for a certificate of destruction. That document will come in handy if you find something problematic about the way the company handled the destruction process. It’s additional protection that is always good to have. CJD E-Cycling offers on-site data destruction or services offered at their secure recycling facility.
Strongly Consider Decommissioning Data Centers if You Have a Larger Company
It’s only natural for some business owners to be hesitant to shut down their currently in-use data centers.
As highlighted by this article from Network World, all kinds of preparations need to be made ahead of decommissioning data centers. It’s also the kind of work that can force a company to spread its workforce too thin if it opts not to bring in a third party business.
On top of that, decommissioning data centers can be highly disruptive to company operations. In highly competitive industries, shutting down your business even just for a little while could wind up being very costly in the long run.
Even given the potential drawbacks that come with decommissioning data centers, it is still a move that companies need to consider if they want to protect themselves seriously. Data centers feature many moving parts, and if even just a few of them fall into the wrong hands, your company could be put into a tight spot.
Ask a third party company to handle the decommissioning to ease the workforce burden on your company.
Short-term, the decision to move forward with decommissioning data centers can be taxing on your company, but guaranteeing your long-term security is well worth that.
Don’t Forget about E-Cycling
Since the focus of this article is on destroying data and the devices designed to store all that information, it’s only natural to discuss the matter of waste and the importance of e-cycling. CJD E-Cycling has a handy list of accepted recycling items by group: electronics, metals, construction, and textiles, along with a list of non-accepted items.
For those unfamiliar with the term, e-cycling refers to repurposing old electronic equipment instead of just throwing them away.
Given that some destruction methods involve destroying the storage devices along with the data, e-cycling may not be an option in those scenarios. However, if e-cycling is possible, you should practice it.
Along with helping you save money, participating in e-cycling can also be beneficial in a more meaningful way. E-cycling can cut down on the amount of waste put out into the planet, and that is a huge plus.
The importance of electronic data in this day and age cannot be overstated. For many companies, the customer data they have can be considered their most valuable assets.
As important as it is for businesses to acquire as much data as possible, it is similarly important for them to dispose of that information properly when they no longer need it. With methods such as erasing data, degaussing, and decommissioning data centers among those ones available, companies have no reason to handle the destruction process poorly.
Properly disposing of data is not just important for maintenance, but to protect individuals and businesses.
If your company has yet to sign up for professional data destruction services, now is the time to change that.