Comparing Data Erasure Methods: Degaussing vs. Formatting vs. Shredding
Safeguarding data is paramount for private individuals as well as organizations in order to mitigate the risks of data breaches and to remain compliant with data protection laws and regulations present in many jurisdictions around the world.
Achieving secure data erasure requires professional solutions, however, which many ITAD companies provide via NSA-grade data destruction methods and techniques, including degaussing and shredding. Internally, many organizations may or may not use data formatting to minimize the risks of data breaches. Which method is best for your organization?
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for each and every organization in the United States, and indeed each of the three aforementioned data erasure methods has its own advantages and disadvantages that must be considered.
Degaussing for Data Erasure
Degaussing is one of the most common methods of data erasure. It involves the exposure of magnetic media such as hard disk drives (HDDs) to immensely powerful magnetic forces that scramble any data held on the device’s platter.
i. PROs of Degaussing
Hard drive degaussing is capable of thoroughly rendering data held on magnetic media completely irretrievable, making it highly secure and reliable in terms of data security. Moreover, degaussing is a relatively rapid procedure and can be used to process large quantities of IT assets, including most of the commonly used media found in data centers. Lastly, degaussing is relatively eco-friendly in that it does not mechanically destroy the asset but instead only destroys data held on the device.
ii. CONs of Degaussing
While degaussing is a highly effective method of data erasure for HDDs and other magnetic media, it is wholly ineffective at processing alternative forms of storage media such as SSD and flash technology. Many corporate devices such as laptops and tablets have no magnetic media and therefore must be processed using alternative methods of data erasure.
Data Formatting and Wiping
Many organizations maintain internal data security by formatting and/or wiping IT assets before redeployment to other employees or divisions. While formatting can be effective at safeguarding data, retrieval tools can often be used to restore sensitive data. Wiping typically involves applications or software-based programs that destroy any sensitive data held on a device, but likewise retrieval tools may be effective.
i. PROs and CONs of Data Formatting
Data formatting can be an effective means of rapidly processing and redeploying IT assets within an organization, provided that the software or application used to wipe the device’s drive is reliable and trustworthy.
In many cases, however, formatting and/or wiping a drive is not a guarantee of complete and thorough data destruction. This makes formatting and wiping potentially insecure methods of data destruction and they should only be used as interim solutions.
Data Shredding for Data Erasure
Perhaps the most secure and common method of professional data erasure is shredding. Large, purpose-built hard drive shredding equipment can be deployed on-premises or off-site to rapidly process large volumes of hard drives and other IT assets, mechanically shredding the asset into tiny pieces and thus rendering all sensitive data practically impossible to retrieve.
i. Benefits of Data Shredding
As a highly secure method of data erasure, hard drive shredding provides assurance that all data is thoroughly destroyed. Hard drive shredding renders IT assets into chunks 10mm in size (or smaller) and consequently can greatly minimize the risks of data breaches. It is also superbly effective for magnetic media as well as alternative forms of storage media, including SSDs and flash media.
ii. E-Waste Considerations for Data Shredding
Although highly effective at data erasure, hard drive shredding does pose a number of potential environmental hazards as it generates a substantial amount of e-waste. Organizations must weigh the environmental impact of shredding with their needs for data security, which is often an impossible compromise. Therefore, organizations must carefully select a certified recycler for e-waste that minimizes e-waste generation while simultaneously offering full and complete data security.
How to Select the Best Data Erasure Method(s)
Rarely is it ever efficient to select one data erasure method exclusively above all others, since there are myriad factors to consider. Firstly, consider the need for data security and the impact on the environment. Also consider the type of media (HDD, SSD) and whether the IT asset can be refurbished or not since physical hard drive destruction methods are incompatible with refurbishment. Lastly, consider having a thorough and up-to-date IT asset inventory to assist throughout the data destruction processes.
Wisetek is a global provider of secure ITAD services and a pioneer of the circular economy in ITAD. Our steadfast commitment to our Environmental Policy and a Sustainable Earth make us an ideal partner for secure data erasure that doesn’t compromise on sustainability since we adhere to a strict Zero-Landfill Policy to minimize needless e-waste.
Our certified recycling processes, refurbishment and remarketing also maximize ROI on IT assets and generate value for clients.
Selecting the Best Data Erasure Method(s) for Your Organization
Hard drive degaussing, data formatting and hard drive shredding all offer advantages and disadvantages with regards to the environment and data security. The exact needs of one organization may differ drastically from another.
A combination of all three data erasure methods often works best, so long as the organization is properly balancing its data security needs with environmental considerations. Consult with the ITAD experts at Wisetek to learn more about our tailored solutions for organizations.
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