Selection Criteria for The Right Document Shredder

Data protection is an important topic for all companies, at the latest due to the DSGVO and the penalties it threatens. Digitally, data is protected with passwords and access rights. In folders, documents and records can be secured by lockable cabinets. But what if the documents are to be disposed of? This is where the document shredder comes into play!

Selection criteria for the right document shredder

The first and most important selection criterion for a document shredder is the decision between strip or particle cut. If a document is shredded in strip cut, the paper is divided lengthwise into thin strips.

With cross-cut or particle cut, on the other hand, these strips are cut again crosswise, resulting in significantly smaller particles. Shredders with a particle cut are therefore safer and available in higher protection classes, but they are also a little more expensive than devices that work with a strip cut.

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The cutting performance is somewhat higher with devices that use strip cutting. The goal in document destruction is to exclude reconstruction of the data. The smaller and finer the particles, the lower the probability that your documents can be reconstructed.

What can go into the document shredder?

In many offices, document shredders are primarily used to destroy paper documents. But what if data carriers or chip cards need to be destroyed – and with a certain level of security? For this purpose, there are special devices that can safely destroy other items besides paper. The data sheet with the separate markings clarifies which items may be inserted into a shredder.

The security levels at a glance

As mentioned earlier, one of the definitive advantages of a paper shredder is the reliable destruction of various data. It is obvious that confidential documents such as patents need to be protected more strictly than, for example, brochures that are merely to be invalidated. For this reason, there are various security levels that specify very precisely the maximum size of the particles or strips. Strip-cut shredders are usually assigned to security classes P1 and P2, while particle-cut shredders are assigned to security classes P3 to P7. With the entry into force of the DSGVO, the DIN standard 66399 applies in Germany for security levels in document shredding.

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Security level P-1:

The maximum permitted strip width here is 12 mm or 2000mm². This security level is suitable for general documents that are to be rendered illegible or invalidated, such as catalogs or brochures.

Security level P-2:

The maximum width of the strips is 6 mm and the maximum area of the individual parts is 800 mm². Shredders in this security class are suitable for internal documents that are to be rendered illegible or invalidated, such as documents for internal company communications.

Security level P-3:

From this security level upwards, document shredders generally work with particle cutting, and the maximum strip width here is only 2 mm. The particles of security level P3 have a maximum size of 320 mm² and are suitable for all sensitive and personal data that require increased protection. These are, for example, sales evaluations and tax documents.

Security level P-4:

The maximum particle size here is 160 mm² and is suitable for destroying documents containing particularly sensitive and confidential data as well as personal data. This includes, for example, medical reports and patient files, payrolls, personnel files, employment contracts and many more.

Security level P-5:

The maximum particle size here is 30 mm². All data that must be kept secret and is of existential importance to a person, institution or company must be destroyed at this security level. This includes, for example, competitive analyses and process documents.

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Security level P-6:

The particles have a maximum size of 10 mm². This security level is used for information that must be kept secret, such as patents or design documents.

Security level P-7:

The particles in the highest security level P7 may be a maximum of 5 mm² in size. Also, no upward tolerances are permitted here. All top-secret data under the highest security precautions fall into this security level, such as intelligence or military reports.
Incidentally, since the DSGVO came into force, at least security levels P3 or P4 are required for personal data. Business cards also count here.

Help with the purchase decision

Shredders come in a wide variety of colors and shapes. We have now clarified the various security classes and the different items that come into question for shredding. In addition to these features, however, document shredders also differ in other aspects, which we will discuss in more detail below:

  • The collection volume: this is specified in liters and describes the volume of the collection container.
  • The cutting capacity: This indicates how many sheets the shredder can destroy at once. This is measured on A4 paper with 70g/sqm, which is lighter than standard paper with 80g/sqm.
  • Autostart/ Autostop: The Autostart is actuated by the shredded material and causes the shredder to run as long as there is shredded material. The Autostop ensures that the cutter continues to operate until it has completely passed the document.
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Also to be noted is that the higher the security level, the more expensive the shredders become. So, where a lot of personal data needs to be processed and destroyed, there should definitely be one or more P3 or P4 security level shredders. Whether to purchase one unit or multiple shredders depends on how often and how many people will be using it.

Important questions before buying

How often are files shredded? Here, the operating time plays a major role, as this indicates after how many minutes of continuous operation the device must take a break. In addition, for large departments, it makes sense to purchase several units instead of one large one. Another important point here is the length of the cooling time, as this indicates how long the device must pause after continuous operation.

What kind of files are generated and how protective is the data on them? The list of security levels above explains which files fall under which security level. The choice of the device should also be adapted to this. A security level that is “too high” means additional financial costs that can be avoided by purchasing a shredder that is adapted to the data.

How often do documents need to be shredded? The noise level generated when using a document shredder is definitely a factor that should be considered more closely when making a purchase decision, especially if the device is being purchased for an open-plan office and documents need to be shredded more frequently.

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BONUS: Tips and tricks on paper jams and care

How do I care for a paper shredder with particle cut? Unlike strip-cut shredders, particle-cut shredders require regular oiling. Special oils or oil paper are available for this purpose.

What to do in case of paper jam?

  1. Unplug the device.
  2. If necessary: empty the waste garbage can first. 3.
  3. Put the shredder in reverse, plug it in and start it.
  4. If the shredder now clogs again, simply change direction and start again.
  5. Repeat these steps until the paper jam is cleared.

The most common reason for a paper jam is too much paper in the feeder. The cutting capacity is a good guide to the number of sheets that can be fed into the shredder at one time.

In most cases, a paper jam can be cleared in this way. If this is still not possible, the next step is to carefully remove pieces of paper from the cutter. The shredder must be unplugged in any case!