by Steve Brown
For information security, a paper shredder may be exactly what your home or office needs to keep your personal and business documents secure. Shredding documents, and even media like CDs, can eliminate sources of sensitive information and keep them out of the wrong hands. This paper shredder buying guide will help you determine how to buy a paper shredder that is right for your information security strategy.
Shredder capacity: Paper shredders come with all sorts of descriptions of their capacity, such as light-duty, heavy-duty, or continuous-use. Keep in mind that these descriptions differ between manufacturers, so you may just want to use them as a descriptive rule of thumb when selecting a paper shredder.
Power: The horsepower rating for paper shredder motors can indicate capacity and durability, though not all paper shredders will give this rating. Horsepower ratings on paper shredders will range from a fraction of a horsepower up to 2 HP. More power typically means your paper shredder can shred more pages at once.
Workload: Often, a shredder will offer guidelines for its suggested use, such as how many pages it can shred at a time or the recommended daily shredder workload. These ratings are good points for comparing the capacities of paper shredders.
Paper shredding methods: The final paper shredding results vary between paper shredders and are sometimes listed in their product descriptions. Paper shredders generally feature one of a these shred types:
Strip-cut: This is the simplest type of shred. The sheets of paper will be cut into several long strips, generally about 1/8 inch across. Strip-cut paper shredders work well for shredding low-security documents.
Cross-cut or confetti-cut: These shreds will cut the paper into small rectangles, typically around 1/8 inches square. Cross-cut paper shredders provide additional security with smaller pieces.
Micro-cut or high-security shredding: Shredders such as these will cut the paper into extremely small pieces, sometimes as small as 3 millimeters by 8 millimeters across, for the highest level of security.
Other paper shredder features: You can expect nearly any shredder to feature an auto function, which will start the shredder motor when it senses paper or other media being inserted. Most shredders also have a reverse setting, which is useful for clearing out paper jams. In addition to the basics, a paper shredder may come with more advanced features:
Auto-feeder: Shredders with an auto-feeder will let you place up to 100 sheets in a tray to be shredded automatically.
CD/DVD/Floppy Disc slot: While some paper shredders can take non-paper media in their primary shredder slot, others will have a slot specifically for shredding things like CDs, DVDs, floppy discs, and other heavier media.
Paper jam indicator: Typically an LED indicator, this feature lets you know that the paper shredder has a paper jam that needs to be addressed.
Overheat indicator: This also typically comes as an LED indicator to let you know that the motor is being overworked. You can then put off shredding until the motor has cooled off.
Touch sensor: A few shredders include a sensor that will stop the motor if it senses anything touching the paper entry area. This is a safety feature that prevents accidental cuts.