Technology changes very quickly today; at this point, the technology refresh curve for most companies is three to four years. That means that hardware -- PCs and laptops specifically -- are upgraded every few years. But what happens to all of the data on the hard drives when the hardware is upgraded? This should be of particular importance to IT executives because they could have a potential liability on their hands. Remember, data is never really erased when you delete it. In the hands of an expert, data on a hard disk can easily be recovered.
The Internet, news and blogs are filled with stories of companies and individuals that have retired hard drives only to find the information come back to haunt them. Some companies are required to retain and ensure access to information for years. Companies operating in highly regulated industries are required to provide reasonable protection of sensitive data, such as health care organizations working according to HIPAA regulations.
There are many cost-effective solutions for destroying data on a hard drive. Hard drive shredding is a cottage industry that has emerged just for this reason, in fact. Companies will come to your site with a mechanical shredder mounted on the back of a truck. The company records the hard drive's serial number, shreds the drive, and gives you a certificate stating that it was destroyed, by whom, and on what date.
There are also many free and commercial off the shelf (COTS) software packages that allow users to electronically shred files on their hard drives. File Shredder is an application released under the GNU license that allows the user to permanently remove files from a hard drive. Best of all, it's free.
Secure Clean is a commercially available product that is reasonably priced, easy to use, and designed to permanently remove files. Secure Clean includes free upgrades, a cleaner scheduler, and the ability to wipe Google, MSN and Windows Explorer search items.
I am often embarrassed as an IT professional when I hear that data was not taken off a discarded hard drive. With the technology that exists today, there is no reason, even from a financial perspective, that information is not destroyed prior to retiring a hard drive.