Electronic records destruction a must, too

Electronic data technology has helped companies store information that would take up hundreds of offices full of paper files. Computers sort the data to make it easy to archive and easy to access. Yes, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate business technology in 2011.

Yet, electronic data storage also can present a dangerous problem — with much storage comes much potential for piracy. That makes eliminating data that’s no longer needed as important as storing the data in the first place.

Enter a line of business that was barely a blip on the radar 30 years ago: computer hard drive disposal. It’s a second cousin to the business of destroying paper records, which remains in high demand in the Grand Valley.

“We’re behind the scenes for the Grand Junction recycling center,” said Dag Adamson, president of LifeSpan Technology.

Adamson said his company helped the city set up a recycling center for hard drives. The company also works for such other large organizations as Community Hospital and Grand Junction Regional Airport.

While paper or aluminum cans can be bundled and recycled fairly easily, disposal of computer equipment can be more complicated. Hard drives can contain metals, plastics and hazardous materials. Disposal amounts to a hazardous waste refining operation, Adamson said.

To ensure that a company’s sensitive data can’t be stolen, companies such as Colorado Document Security in Palisade help eliminate a paper trail. The company destroys paper documents on site before hauling the material away from. Otherwise, mistakes can happen.

“A bank had the back of their (disposal) truck open up while they were hauling materials,” said Scott Fasken, vice president of Colorado Document Security and president-elect of the National Association for Information Destruction. “Not all things get to their intended site.”

While many local businesses have struggled during a soft economic period, Fasken’s company is growing. “I ran it alone the first three years. Then I hired a driver. Now we have three trucks and we’re looking at a fourth truck in 18 months.”

Fasken said his company does more than simply shred and haul paper. Some clients don’t realize the legal trouble they can experience if they don’t destroy records.

“We help clients understand their responsibilities,” he said. Fasken also helps companies develop written policies for records destruction.

Clients include auto body shops, oil and gas service companies, glass shops, banks and hospitals, Fasken said. Hospitals are particularly concerned about the theft of medical records. So are many other businesses.

LifeSpan Technology is a nationwide company that offers dropoff spots for hard computer recycling. It employs 60 people, four in Grand Junction. In addition to hard drive destruction, the company can sanitize, or overwrite, computer discs that contain information a company doesn’t want to share. “No can recover the data,” Adamson said.

The simple act of deleting information from a hard drive doesn’t completely erase the material or protect a business against theft. Said Fasken: “If you delete an item, you’re only eliminating the label or tag.”