Which Security Level is right for you?

Level 1 Strip Cut ShredSecurity Level 1: This is the fattest strip cut you can find. Level 1 is found most commonly in industrial shredders. Because the paper is being shredded into such large peices, the throughput on a level 1 shredder is extremely high. Regrettably mobile shredding companies, who prioritize throughput over security, use level 1 shredding the most frequently. However it does meet the extremely loose HIPAA and FACTAA laws.

Level 2 Cross Cut ShredSecurity Level 2: This is a middle area just a slightly smaller strip cut. It happens to be the most popular strip cut cutting head available. However in certain circumstances, specifically with certain industrial conveyor shredders, level 2 can be a large chunky cross cut. The shred residue ends up looking approximately the size of a business card. It’s not so bad – but nothing you would want to put your credit card statements through.

Level 3 Cross Cut ShredSecurity Level 3: This security level would make up the majority of all commercial and business shredders sold. It’s a cross cut in the traditional sense. Each individual peice of residue is typically about the size of a paperclip. Level 3 is the perfect compromise between throughput and security. This shred residue is also the first one that satisfies the new requirements for shredding checks and financial documents.

Level 4 Cross Cut Shred

Security Level 4: This is a very unusual cut size. It doesn’t satisfy any more requirements than level 3, however because it’s a slightly smaller cross cut, it has a lower throughput. So you’ve got a slower shredder with a smaller shred that nobody requires you to have. Level 4 is so uncommon that the shredders are typically a 6-8 week special order.

Level 5 ShredSecurity Level 5: Many years ago, level 5 was considered top secret. Government contractors and government agencies were required to have these shredders. The residue is similar to grated parmesan cheese. In 2003 the NSA decided to make the top secret shredding requirement a little more stringent though, and everyone was given a five year grace period to upgrade to the newly created level 6/P-7 shredders. That grace period has long since expired. Level 5 is now an abandoned security level. It’s not unusual to see a few level 5’s out in the field. Although legally those shredders should have been upgraded by now, a few have fallen through the cracks.

High Security Level 6Security Level 6/P-7: If you do classified work for the government, or within the government, this is the type of shred residue required. It looks like confetti. The National Security Agency dictates that any company or agency that handles classified, secret, or top secret information, must have an NSA approved level 6/P-7 shredder. They aren’t terribly practical, since staples and paperclips are forbidden. They’re also quite expensive – thousands of dollars for shredders that only take six sheets at a time. But level 6/P-7 is your only option for destruction of classified information.


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