Paper Shredders

New features make operation foolproof.

ompared with all the high-technology office machines on the market paper shredders may be the easiest to operate because they lack most of the "bells and whistles" that often make office equipment troublesome and frustrating to use.

With hundreds of styles, models, capacities and features available, paper shredder purchases by the government make up about 15 percent of the $100 million a year shredder market. Models range from desk-side shredders for small jobs to large volume shredders that can handle hundreds to thousands of pounds of paper a day. Trends in today's market focus on customizing shredders to fit customers' needs.

Popular features include an electronic eye that automatically turns a shredder on and off, and, to prevent machine jams, a "bin full stop" function that turns a shredder off when the waste container is full. And depending on the security of the shredding job, units with casters are available so the shredder can be moved from one room to another to avoid moving sensitive documents.

Speed, capacity, throat width, shred size and type of shred should be considered when purchasing a shredder, as should the agency's security standards. The State Department, for example, uses the Intimus 0077se by Schleicher & Co., a high-security shredder that meets National Security Agency (NSA) shred size specifications of 1/32nd of an inch by half an inch, and cross cuts documents into unreadable bits at a speed of 60 feet per minute . Most shredders on the market today are capable of cutting in either the NSA or in strip cuts, one-quarter inch wide.

With prices ranging from $100 for a personal shredder to $10,000 for industrial sizes, shredders are available for any budget. Some agencies are choosing models with fewer electronics which cost 10 percent to 15 percent less. Watch out for these common purchaser mistakes: basing shredder choice on cost alone, underestimating the potential workload and buying a shredder too small for your organization's needs. While most shredders carry a 90-day to one-year warranty on parts and labor-and one to five years on cutters-evaluating the agency's shredding needs before purchasing will save a lot of headaches down the road.

-Deborah Acomb

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