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Understanding the Security Levels of GSA Shredders

Jul 2, 2008
Anyone who operates a business knows that the office is incomplete without the inclusion of GSA shredders. Paper shredders are designed to increase the security of a business by making it difficult for people to steal information from the documents that you throw away. However, there are different levels of shredders to choose from, some of which are better than others at reducing the problems of business information theft and individual identity theft. Of course, as the security level of shredders goes up, the price of these machines often goes up as well. As a result, you may not seek to purchase the highest level of security in a shredder. A better understanding of the security levels of GSA shredders can make it much easier to make the right choice in terms of both safety and cost.

There are six different security levels for GSA shredders. These levels are based on two different factors. The first is whether the shredder cuts in a strip-shredding fashion or in a cross-cutting fashion. It is generally agreed that anything intended to be kept secret must be cut in a cross-cutting fashion rather than a strip-cutting procedure because it's fairly easy to piece together the shreds of a strip-shred document. The first two levels of security are not cross-cutting machines and are therefore considered low in their ability to keep documents safe from harm. The top four levels of GSA shredders are all cross-cutting machines. The difference between them is in how thinly they cut the papers.

Because of the fact that level one and level two GSA shredders only do strip-shredding, they are not considered good machines for the average business or individual. However, they do have their place. They can be used to shred documents that are private but are not likely to bring harm to a company if discovered. For example, internal memos that are better kept hidden because of company politics aren't going to cause serious financial harm to a business if discovered. These are safe for shredding in low-security shredders by those businesses seeking to save a buck on this type of purchase.

The variations between level three, four, five and six GSA shredders are minimal on the surface but may be important for those businesses that have a significant number of documents with private and financial information that should not be released. A level six shredder is considered a high-security shredder for the likes of the CIA and isn't necessary for the average business. A level three shredder is sufficient for small businesses but may not be right for larger companies. As a result, most people looking into purchasing shredders are going to be looking at either level four or level five security for this type of machine.

It is not uncommon for people to skimp on the cost. Everyone wants to save money wherever they can and no one can fault someone else for that. However, it's worthwhile to invest in a higher-security shredder for a business. And some would say that the proliferation of identity theft makes this kind of investment smart even for the individual. The thing that needs to be kept in mind is that the money and time lost as a result of stolen documents and stolen identities is significantly larger than the small amount extra that would be paid for the purchase of a better shredder. Shredders aren't something that must be invested in regularly; they're pieces of equipment that are typically only bought every few years. It makes financial sense to keep private information secure by spending the extra money that it would cost to get a good one from the start.
About the Author
Andy West is a writer for iShopShredders.com which offers a wide selection of GSA shredders and other business shredders.
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