NSA 1-Hour Durability Rating: What It Means and Why You Should Care

June 27, 2018 at 10:33 am by SEM

In 2003, the National Security Agency (NSA) added durability testing to all shredders being considered for their cross-cut shredder Evaluated Products List (EPL). Before machines are tested, vendors are required to submit information on the maximum number of sheets per feed that a new model can handle continuously for an hour. The NSA then collates the estimated amount of paper into sets and feeds the shredder without a break for an hour. They only stop briefly to change bags or oil the machine as required. If the machine fails (for example, overheating), the shredder does not pass the test. Standard 20 lb. copier paper is used for the testing. Every model listed on the EPL passed this same testing procedure. So how does that help you as a high security shredder user? Let’s take an actual example.

One vendor has a mid range model listed in their literature as being able to take 13 sheets per feed. But when we look at the durability test rating, we see that it was fed 7 sheets per feed and shredded 15 reams (7,500 sheets) of paper in an hour. Here is what experience tells us: if the model is rated at 7 sheets per feed for an hour, it will likely only take a sheet or two more before it jams. So what happened to the 13 sheets per feed in the sales literature? That rating is probably based on a lighter and maybe even smaller paper than what the NSA uses in their testing. The bottom line is that the durability test results are the best barometer of how a high security shredder actually performs under pressure and represent the practical limits of operation.

So when you go to purchase a new NSA listed shredder, make sure you include the NSA durability test rating in the purchase request specifications. If anyone quotes a different model as an equal, you can easily verify by reviewing the EPL. If you rely on the sheets per feed rating from sales literature, you will likely be disappointed. The NSA instituted this policy to improve the equipment being used in the classified community. Take advantage of their testing and use it to get the best shredder for your needs.