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Guide to Shredder Security Levels
For home or small business uses, most people don't really take the time to research paper shredders. They basically select a model based on price and size. While this approach may work some of the time, those shoppers rarely get the best shredder for their needs. Speaking of needs, those will vary greatly depending on the business and individual. Business owners will need to select a shredder that has the capability to handle their shredding volume, as well as a decent security level. Shredders for personal use will be lower volume shredders, but they will need to have some security level as well.
Security level is defined as a cutting format and size of the cutting output. Modern day shredders cut paper into thin strips or they "crosscut" and turn the paper into small diamond shaped squares that are also called confetti. The smaller the cut size is, the more secure the shredder is considered. For example, most strip shredders cut the paper into 1/4" or 1/8" inch strips. This is generally considered a security level 2 or 3. Crosscut shredders vary in cut size and can cut so small that the paper is basically reduced to super small particles. A crosscut shredder of that level would be considered a security level 5. The most secure security level is a 6 and this is a U.S. government or DOD level shredding device. A level 6 security shredder will basically shred paper to a pile of dust.
The average business can get by with a security level 3 or 4 shredder. Although businesses that shred customer data or highly sensitive personal data (like a CPA) would be better suited to a level 5. The downside to higher security level shredders is the fact that the shredder take longer to shred and will hold much less paper than a lower security model.
A level 2 shredder will work for personal documents, although a level 3 is a better choice. A diligent criminal could possibly reconstruct a piece of paper shredded by a level 2 shredder. From a consumer standpoint, take the time to see what security level the shredder is rated. A number of companies will market their shredders as "security models" or "crosscut" models, even though they are really rated as a level 1 or barely a level 2.
Using any level paper shredder is still better than none at all, but you are better served to do a bit of research. This will allow you to choose the best shredder model for your needs.