This is one of the questions that begins nearly every conversation I have with a new client. How do I choose the right copier for my organization’s needs? It doesn’t matter if you own a small business, manage a department in a mid- to large-sized company, or run a church or school office. You still need a copier, printer or all-in-one machine that will do everything you need it to do at a price you can afford.
The first place I always start is by asking, “What needs do you have that aren’t currently being fulfilled by your printers and copiers?” So, you should start there, too.
- Create a list of must-haves, as well as printer options you’d like to have.
In most cases, you’re probably ready for functionality you didn’t have before, like scanning, stapling or three-hole punching. But maybe you aren’t sure of all the amazing things today’s advanced printing technology can do. Be sure to ask! Some options that were add-ons several years ago now come standard, which is always an added bonus.
The next thing to consider when you’re picking out a new printer is black-and-white copies vs. color copies.
- Determine how often you’d like to make color copies.
This whole issue has changed dramatically over the past decade. Just a few short years ago, 90% of what I sold was B&W printers. Today, it’s just the opposite. Color printing has become more and more affordable. I can find a table-top or multi-function printer with color that will fit just about anyone’s budget. If you’ve been outsourcing your color printing, this may be the perfect opportunity to bring it in house.
And speaking of budget, what’s yours? That is the next issue you need to consider when trying to pick the best printer for your organization.
- Define your budget parameters.
Most people typically have a budget in mind for leasing or owning a printer, as well as expenditures on parts, supplies and service.
Finally, you’ve got to think about printer speed. This is THE defining aspect of copiers and printers today.
- Figure out how often you will use your copier and how many copies/prints you want make at one time.
Sharp has 15 different models currently, running the gamut between 20 pages per minute and 110 pages per minute (i.e., production print equipment capable of 70,000 to 200,000 copies per month). Color is slightly slower.
Basically, if you run a lot of copies every day, you don’t want a slow printer. People who are used to 90 pages per minute will not want to go down to 60 pages per minute. It’s a balance between the cost of the printer and the value of your time and productivity.
Of course, you don’t want to forget about service. It’s critical to getting the most out of your printer.
- Assess the kind of printer service and maintenance you want.
In this area, you always get what you pay for. Make sure you choose a copier and printer company that has well-trained techs and top-notch service standards.
Other options you can consider include managed print services, which will ensure maximum efficiency on all levels across your entire fleet of printers.
So, if you’re part of a business, church or school in Northeast or Northwest Ohio – including Canton, Akron, Toledo and surrounding areas – and looking for a new copier or all-in-one printer, give me a call. I’ll be happy to walk through this entire process with you. Together, I’m sure we can find the exact right printer for you.
I hate it when I download an app to my smartphone, and it drains my battery life, needs updates every other day and causes operating system problems. It’s the same thing when it comes to good printer management software for your office.
As I finish up this five part series on the topic of how to track printer and copier use, my final word is that you want an app that’s not resource intensive.
Of course, the first thing you probably think of when I mention resources is cost. A couple months ago, when I blogged about the benefits of a print manager app, my first suggestion was find one that’s free. No monetary resources needed! Again, many printer and copier dealers will offer an app at no cost to you, so why pay for it?
But, beyond money, you should also be looking for print tracking software that:
- Runs as a Windows service on a Windows-based machine or network. In other words, it should run silently in the background, taking up virtually no system resources.
- Scans only once per hour. This is a feature you should be able to set per your preferences.
- Scans a Class C network in 15 seconds and then goes back to sleep. Again, it runs quickly, efficiently and doesn’t bog down your network or PC.
- Sends data automatically via encryption over the Internet. That way you don’t need to use up any of your time checking or reviewing data. Your copier or printer dealer should send you a simple report as often as you want it.
The advantage of a print management app is its simplicity. For no cost and virtually no system resources, it will give you an accurate snapshot of how much your printer fleet is costing you based on print volume. The data can be viewed at the corporate level or broken down by department or even individual printer or copier.
If you’re a “bean counter” or IT manager, this is beautiful! If you’re not currently using this type of app, what are you waiting for?
In part one and two of this blog series, I provided an overview of the benefits of using print management software and what types of system requirements might be necessary. Today, I want hit the highlights of how to install a print management app.
But, let me first share this caveat. There are many printer manager programs out there, and I don’t work with all of them, of course. So, what I’ll share is the installation process for the app we trust and use most at Copeco. It will undoubtedly have a number of similarities with other printer manager apps, but your copier and printer dealer will know the best option for you.
Normally, installation of a print management app will first require adding a small piece of software to your network called a DCA (data collection agent). This is the heart of a good printer manager program. The DCA is responsible for polling your networked printers and copiers several times a day. It will gather statistics and current conditions of your equipment, including:
- Meter readings
- Toner levels
- Service needs
- General status
After each poll, the DCA will create a small text file with the information and transmit it to your dealer’s Web server via secure connection. Your dealer should, at that time, drop the data into a database, format it and send it to you in an understandable, actionable report.
Most of the time, the printer management app install takes about 20 minutes and can be done onsite or remotely via webinar. The nice part is that you can do the install when it’s most convenient for you.
And, this is the part my customers like best (aside from good data about their printers): most apps don’t require a reboot or interrupt any other services. Once installed, it’s a set-it-and-forget-it software that runs silently and in the background. I’ve never had any issues with our app crashing or interfering with other software.
If you’d like to know how much you’re spending on printing – and your business is located in Canton, North Canton, Green, Akron, Toledo area, Dover New Philadelphia or anywhere else in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania – contact us for more information.
In my last post about cutting costs related to your printers and copiers, I discussed the benefits of good print management software that will give you a macro view (total print volume across your company) and a micro view (print volume, toner level, error codes, etc. from each device in the network). If you aren’t sure why any of this matters, first read my post about how print audits improve efficiency of document production.
But, if you’re convinced that it’s time to get down to business and reduce expenses related to printing and copying, then let’s take the next step: system requirements for a printer manager app.
What You Need to Install Printing Management Software
Most apps that track and analyze printers and print volumes must be installed on a Windows-based server or PC, not a Mac. Now, some of you may be tempted to check out right now, but there’s good news. Most companies run a mixed environment, and good software will track a Mac. In fact, it should not make any difference what type or brand of printer or copier is driving the printing, as long as the device is connected to your network.
I always recommend installing print tracking software on servers because they stand the test of time in comparison to individual workstations and are powered 24/7. Plus, when the software is installed on a PC, it can be affected if the hard drive is reformatted, replaced or crashed. However, if you don’t have a server, a Windows PC will get the job done.
With the free software Copeco offers to its customer base in Canton, Akron, Toledo, and surrounding areas in Ohio, the server or PC must have the Microsoft .NET framework installed, be able to communicate with all printers and copiers on the network and pass secure Web traffic on port 443 (a.k.a. https). Local printers (those tethered to a single PC) must have a local agent installed at the host PC.
In my experience, about one out of every five businesses doesn’t have Microsoft .NET installed. That brings us to a fork in the road. Our software won’t run without it, so it must be installed, either by me or the customer. But, if you’re keeping up with Windows updates, this should not be a problem.
Another bit of good news: system requirements for most print management apps don’t change as often as some things do in the digital world. So, once you’ve got it, the software will do its job for years to come.
If you’re an office manager, you may wonder why it seems like you’re ordering toner cartridges and copy paper all the time. Manufacturers promise a certain page yield from each toner cartridge they make, but few ever produce the expected amount. That’s because an average of five-percent document coverage is tough to achieve.
If you’re in IT, managing the output and efficiency of multifunction printers may not be high on your list of priorities, but, chances are, you need to attend to it. A print audit is the perfect solution in both cases.
A thorough copier and printer usage audit will provide you with objective data and results and should involve the following steps:
- Development of a floor plan that pinpoints the location of each laser printer, copier, multifunction device, inkjet and fax machine. This is the macro view that takes the total health of the printing environment into account.
- Fast, easy (and often remote) installation of a safe, lightweight printer audit software on a server or workstation. The software should poll your copier and printer fleet regularly; I recommend hourly queries. This is the micro view that checks for meter readings, toner levels, service conditions, warnings or alerts, and maintenance intervals.
- Secure transfer of the query data to a database for analysis.
- Continual feed of evaluated data into a secure, web-based interface that gives you single place where you can view all your printers, regardless of manufacturer. (If you’re in IT, you’ll appreciate the coolness factor of this.)
- Creation of a go-forward plan that may include reconfiguring of printing resources. With just several weeks of reporting, a good printer audit can help you quantify your machine volumes by month and year. Based on the copier model, you can determine cost of operation.
After your print audit, you may decide that managed print services can help you lower costs and improve document production efficiency. An MPS agreement gets you more than just a good deal on toner. You get total care of your entire printer and copier fleet with a reasonable, cost-per-print plan. That’s great news if you’re on a cost-cutting mission.
Many companies try to manage their laser printer fleet using the piecemeal approach. One person purchases toner cartridges, and another orders spare parts. When a printer breaks down, IT experts go out and do first-level triage – when they have time. If IT can’t fix it, sometimes the company just replaces the printer altogether. Sound familiar?
While this method may get the job done, it lacks efficiency. And, there’s a cost involved, both in lost time and revenues. If your office is running 10,000 black-and-white laser-printed pages per month (the equivalent of a couple cases of paper), you should consider managed print services.
Currently an IT buzzword, managed print services, or MPS, involves end-to-end management of network printing devices. CBS Interactive’s ZDNet offers this helpful definition of MPS: “a strategy designed to help manage the volume of documents flowing through the organization and minimize the costs associated with printing, sharing and updating them.” In other words, an MPS provider like Copeco will take everything that has to do with putting toner on a page and place it under a cost-per-page agreement, similar to what you may have with your copiers, fax machines and/or multi-function devices. When it’s time for a new cartridge, your MPS provider ships it. When a printer breaks down, they fix it – faster, more accurately and for far less than you could on your own.
Another perk: no more disappointment when toner doesn’t last as long as you think it should. With MPS, you get a guaranteed cost per page, period. Plus, a qualified MPS provider will offer you a complete audit of your laser printer infrastructure to eliminate redundancy and improve use of your current devices.
So, if you’ve got 10 or more laser printers (or even five with a heavy print volume), Copeco, an Ohio-based managed print services provider, can help. Visit our website for more information or contact us about laser printer repair and printer fleet management.