Damage Control: The Science of Safe Data Destruction

Crushing the Problem

If organizations are worried about recycling their machines or disk drives, a physical assault on the hardware may be best. Disk drive destruction equipment isn't new, but it is becoming more portable, as with the Hard Drive Crusher from eDR Solutions in Greenville, S.C. The size of a cappuccino maker, the HDC spits out a chunk of recyclable aluminum at the end of a 45-second process.

One company that chose the Hard Drive Crusher was Goodwill Southern California (GSC), which operates 46 retail stores, 39 attended donation centers, three campuses and 18 workforce/training centers in the counties of Los Angeles. The organization was worried about liabilities associated with the information stored in thousands of PCs donated to the charity each month. Goodwill wanted an environmentally friendly solution that also guaranteed data destruction.

"We were looking for a solution that would physically destroy the hard drive and also that could be operated by a person with disabilities," explains Geraldo Castro, GSC's director of facilities and environmental services. Also beneficial is the fact that the HDC won't operate without the safety features being engaged.

Goodwill is also realizing benefits from computer recycling. It covers the cost of providing jobs for 30 people with disabilities within the Southern California operation, which generates more than $50 million in sales from all its activities. Its PC "de-manufacturing" line now recycles 30,000 pounds of hardware (roughly 6,500 PCs) a month, and plans are under way to hire 12 more people for a second line.

Castro says he is stepping up marketing to Southern California companies as well. Several large firms have sent many units to the charity. "We can issue a certificate of destruction that we will destroy any hard drive we get. That reassures our donors and encourages them to donate more," he notes.

The bad news for businesses is that the carefree days of simply jettisoning old PCs or "erasing" drives are long gone. The good news is the growing number of affordable disposal options available to midmarket companies.

John Sterlicchi is a freelance writer in Clearwater, Fla. Write to him at editor@ciodecisions.com.

This was first published in October 2006

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