Managed Print Services, or MPS, are just one of the many ways to outsource printing hardware and IT support. As a full-service solution, complete with installation, networking, and service/repair/maintenance, managed print solutions are not for everyone. Understanding the differences between MPS and competing print services will help you to make the right decision for your organization and your budget. In most cases, you’ll have options such as purchasing your own hardware and handling maintenance yourself, leasing through a hardware-only contract, or completely outsourcing your printing needs with a commercial print service. Each has its own pros and cons, and each will benefit a different type of business.

Managed Print Services

Managed print services are quite simply externally provided print services where a provider offers printing hardware alongside management and supplies. Here, the MPS provider will often recommend hardware to meet needs, provide document tracking and management software, offer maintenance, refill supplies and replace parts, and offer general servicing. The advantages here are that every aspect of printing is provided externally, so you don’t have to invest in any aspect upfront. At the same time, managed print solutions manage costs, where and how print solutions are being used, security, document privacy, and other factors, so that you can stay in control without dedicating a portion of your IT team to print. The disadvantages often lie in higher long-term costs over purchasing your own solutions. However, you may see savings in other ways which will alleviate that increase.

MPS are best suited for small-to-medium businesses with a high print demand, and therefore a high potential to save on costs. The lower your print demand, the less MPS will suit your needs.

Purchasing Printing Solutions

Many organizations choose to invest in printing hardware upfront and then either provide maintenance and servicing through either your own IT team or an external service provider. Here, you may save money over time through reduced cost of ownership but will have to pay more upfront. Because the cost of servicing, maintenance, supplies, and replacement are your responsibility in case something goes wrong (especially once the warranty expires), purchasing your own may not ultimately be cheaper, but will likely be. Here, you also have to invest resources in software, assessing your total needs, and installing equipment yourself, which can require significant funds.

Purchasing your own print solutions is ideal for small-to-large business, but most profitable for large organizations that can easily absorb the high costs of upfront investment and repairs/maintenance. Purchasing solutions is most profitable for high-print demand with most printers paying off over rental after 2-5 years.

Standard Lease or Rental

A standard lease or rental means leasing printer hardware, having it installed, and then paying a monthly fee for the hardware. Here, you will likely receive basic technical service but may also receive supplies depending on the lease. In some cases, you will be responsible for every part of service and repair. Here, your largest benefit is that you pay less for rental than with managed print services but will absorb more costs yourself. Like with MPS, you benefit from no upfront investment, but lose the benefit of software, hardware assessment, and cost management, and do not typically receive dedicated IP support of any kind.

Standard leasing is ideal for businesses with an existing IT team capable of handling print service and maintenance. It’s also ideal if you already have print and document management software in place, which you can use to track costs and control access.

Commercial Print Services

Commercial print services are fully outsourced print services, where you send print services directly to a third-party printer. This type of solution is not ideal for many businesses, simply because most want some form of in-office printing but may be ideal either in combination with owned hardware or for organizations which only require professional printing. Here, you will typically pay a higher rate per print page, but will not have any hardware, supply, or service costs. This does mean that high volume print costs will be significantly higher, so commercial print services are not recommended for high volume printers.

Commercial print services primarily work for organizations in need of occasional professional print services for brochures, magazines, flyers, and presentations but not those in need of regular office printers. You can choose to supplement small printers for everyday printing with commercial print services for high-end printing, so that you don’t have to invest in high-end hardware for occasional use.

Choosing the Best Option for Your Needs

In most cases, you can easily choose a print solution based on needs, level of expected or needed service, and total print volume. For example, if you only print in small volumes and can make do with one or two office printers shared by everyone, investing in your own hardware would likely be a good solution. If you primarily only need a printer a few times a year and need high-quality prints, third-party commercial print solutions are ideal. If you print at a high volume, need multiple printers in-house, and print at different quality levels, some form of leasing is likely ideal. Here, you’ll have to choose between a standard lease and managed print services based on your IT team, budget, required security, existing hardware and software, and ability to manage your printers. In most cases, managed print offers more in terms of service, cost and quality management, needs assessment, supplies, and full-service support. If you don’t need or cannot benefit from those “extras” then a traditional lease will likely suit your needs just as well.

Choosing print services often means assessing your needs, reviewing your local options, and reviewing options based on how they meet your needs within your budget. Here, Managed Print Services is often costlier than an alternative such as purchasing hardware but does offer numerous advantages in that you won’t have to invest in hardware and IT services upfront and you will have professional print service management for the duration of your contract. This can help you to increase security, improve print quality, and reduce print costs in other ways, which may pay off.