I recently had an appointment with my accountant. As the managing partner of a firm with 25 employees, he relayed a real life story that is probably a commonplace event for many companies that deal with sensitive data.
A couple of weeks ago he was walking on Main Street. He happened to see a piece of paper on the ground and noticed it had his letterhead on it. He reached down and to his surprise it was a page from a very important client’s tax return.
How in the world did that piece of paper end up on Main Street?
My accountant indicated that they use a “shred service”. They store the documents in containers scattered throughout the office. Every two weeks the “shred truck” comes by and shreds the documents. Earlier that morning, the “shred truck” performed their bi-weekly service. Obviously, during the transfer of the documents from the container to the shredder, some of the paper must have gotten away from the “shred technician” and blew away.
Now, one piece of paper may not seem that important but this was a very important client and if they knew that their data was floating down Main Street for anyone to see…they wouldn’t be a client for too much longer.
Since this was not the first time something like this happened, my accountant decided to take a deep look into the process. He first reviewed the cost of the shred service. He then asked his staff about the overall confidence that they had
with the handling of the documents and ultimate destruction by the Shred
Service. To his surprise, he came to the unfortunate realization that the cost
was extreme and no one had “full” confidence that the documents were being
destroyed in a safe manner.
Better Control for Less Cost.
My accountant decided that it was time to take control of the firm’s information
privacy and data destruction. The need to protect the privacy of his client’s
information was simply too important. He ended up implementing an “in-house”
document destruction program. He purchased two high volume, high quality, cross cut paper shredders and strategically located them within his office. He
educated his employees on the importance of information security and demanded that his employees follow the plan and use the shredders. The best news of allmwas the fact that his firm made a very cost effective decision. The monthly cost of the shred service was so great that the break-even for the purchase of the two shredders was achieved in just nine months.
YES…it’s easier to have a shred service pick up the paper and shred it “at-site” but do you really know for certain that all of the documents are shredded? And YES, it seems less costly to pay for a service once a month rather than make a capital expenditure. However, in the end, when you calculate the potential loss of a client due to a privacy breach because you don’t have complete control, an “in-house” document destruction program with a high quality, high volume shredder not only allows you to have complete control of the privacy of your customer’s information but it’s also far less costly… and for an Accountant whose function is to watch expenses…that just makes good business sense.