When a data storage device such as a hard drive has reached the end of its lifespan, companies must wipe the data to prevent data breaches and satisfy compliance requirements. There are several methods for completing the task, but despite the various approaches, the outcome should always be the same—it should be impossible to recover any data from the device.
Three of the most common methods for data elimination are erasure, degaussing, and shredding. Here’s a closer look at each process to help you decide which is best for your company’s needs.
Contrary to what its name suggests, erasure doesn’t actually wipe data out, but overwrites all of a device’s storage using a non-sensitive type of data (i.e. a binary pattern). The process is performed using software which reads and writes commands on the device and prevents any data from being recovered.
Erasure can be used on both magnetic and flash storage media, such as small, portable USB drives. This method is widely preferred for devices that will be resold or re-purposed, as the storage device can be used again afterwards. Thus, erasure is also an eco-friendly solution that creates zero e-waste and is best-suited for companies seeking to resell or otherwise reuse their digital assets.
Degaussing is the process of sanitizing magnetic storage media, including hard disks and magnetic disks, through the use of a strong reverse magnetizing field. A device known as a degausser houses the powerful magnets, which neutralize the magnetic field orientation of the device. Thereafter, any stored data is rendered unreadable.
While degaussing is effective for many magnetic storage devices, it does have some limitations. For instance, it doesn’t work on flash storage media such as USB drives or memory cards. Additionally, as magnetic media evolves, some devices are being built with higher magnetic forces. Existing degaussers may not have enough force to thoroughly wipe the data from these devices. Finally, data cannot be stored on the device after the degaussing process, so the storage media is no longer usable.
Digital shredding is sometimes used to describe the process of wiping a part of the hard drive or overwriting it with random data (erasure). Physical shredding, on the other hand, refers to complete destruction. Like the options above, shredding can be performed at a facility or at the company’s location using mobile equipment to eliminate any chain of custody issues.
Shredding is performed similarly to how paper documents are destroyed. The hard drive is broken down into unusable pieces by an industrial shredder. Afterwards, a machine can separate the different materials, such as plastics and metals, so that they can be melted down and reused. This ensures data is entirely unrecoverable. For organizations with particularly sensitive data and no need to repurpose or resell digital assets, shredding is an option that could satisfy compliance requirements while minimizing the business’s carbon footprint.
No matter which method your company prefers, you can trust in Quantum’s meticulous data wiping and destruction services. We conform with NIST standards and are NAID AAA certified to provide you with the peace of mind in knowing your data is being destroyed thoroughly and safely. Find out more about our data wiping and destruction options here.