Comparing Data Erasure Methods: Degaussing vs. Formatting vs. Shredding
Secure data erasure is necessary for any organisation in today’s day and age due to the proliferation of costly and frequent data breaches as well as to remain compliant with data protection regulations such the GDPR.
The main data destruction methods most commonly used today by ITAD companies include hard drive degaussing, data formatting, and hard drive shredding. All three can achieve a similar goal, but each method has advantages and disadvantages.
Choosing the most appropriate data destruction method is therefore essential as there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every organisation. Indeed, the preferred data erasure method should consider factors such as environmental impact and data security needs.
The Power of Degaussing for Data Erasure
Hard drive degaussing is a process whereby hard disk drives (HDDs) and other magnetic media are passed through a device containing extremely powerful magnetic forces that ‘scramble’ and disrupt data held on the device. Degaussing is highly effective for irreversible data removal and can be an economical alternative to physical data destruction.
Benefits of Degaussing
Degaussing has a number of key benefits over alternative methods of data erasure, including the ability to render data practically impossible to retrieve, the ability to rapidly process large volumes of HDDs and other magnetic media commonly used in data centres, and producing eco-friendly data erasure insofar as not generating excessive e-waste.
Limitations of Degaussing
In many cases, degaussing is impractical or impossible for data erasure. SSD technology and flash media devices do not use platters and are thus unaffected by degaussing. As more and more organisations use SSD-equipped laptops, tablets, and other devices, these will need to be processed with alternative methods.
Understanding Data Formatting for Erasure
Data formatting is commonly used internally within organisations as one of their secure data erasure techniques. Most commonly used via data formatting software or applications, formatting can securely destroy sensitive data although it has many potential flaws.
Pros and Cons of Formatting
Some of the key advantages of data formatting include the ability to rapidly process and redeploy IT assets within an organisation, and it’s also useful so long as the software/app is tried and tested.
The major flaw of data formatting, in many cases, is that the device may not be completely formatted, which can lead to data recovery using specialised tools and thus cause a data breach. Data formatting, while useful as an interim data erasure method, should not be relied upon alone.
Secure Data Erasure Through Shredding
One of the most thorough and definitive methods of data erasure, hard drive shredding involves physically destroying (shredding) IT assets into tiny pieces. Shredding is highly effective at preventing data recovery but also has some drawbacks.
Advantages of Shredding
Hard drive shredding is perhaps the most effective method of secure data erasure and mitigating the risk of data breaches, as it renders data practically impossible to retrieve. Moreover, shredding is effective on all types of media, including HDDs and SSDs alike.
Considerations and Environmental Impact
In terms of drawbacks, shredding can have negative repercussions on the environment as it generates substantial e-waste. Organisations must balance their needs for security with the environmental impact of shredding. Electronics recycling is a big industry, but it is also burdened by the massive quantities of e-waste being generated. For this reason, it is critical to partner with an ITAD company that minimises e-waste.
Factors to Consider When Choosing an Erasure Method
Some of the most important factors to consider when choosing a secure data erasure method include: data security needs of the organisation, type of IT asset (e.g. HDD or SSD for hard drive destruction), the consequences for the environment (i.e. e-waste), and whether the organisation wishes to have IT assets redeployed internally or refurbished or remarketed if not.
It is not always necessary to choose one method over another exclusively, but instead organisations often may benefit by choosing a combination of shredding, degaussing, and/or data formatting.
Wisetek (and Wisetek UK) is a leading global provider of secure and eco-friendly ITAD services due to our strong commitment to minimising e-waste through our Environmental Policy and our Zero-Landfill Policy. Moreover, we have committed to a Sustainable Earth by seeking alternatives to landfill disposal of e-waste. We provide on-premises secure data destruction through hard drive shredding as well as certified recycling of e-waste, refurbishment and remarketing services, IT solutions and much more.
Which Data Erasure Method is Best for Your Organisation?
Data formatting, hard drive degaussing, and hard drive shredding all come with advantages and disadvantages and there is no one single method that works best for every organisation under every circumstance.
Generally, organisations can benefit from performing internal data formatting on devices as an interim, but all organisations should remain compliant with data disposal and data protection laws by ensuring data is rendered completely irretrievable. Choose Wisetek for professional hard drive destruction and certified recycling that reduces the environmental impact of e-waste generation.
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