Thousands of organizations maintain printers that are well-past their prime, pushing on in the hopes of reducing eventual replacement costs for as long as possible. This is especially true in traditionally low-budget areas such as education and public sector but extends to some of the largest organizations on the globe.
While new printer hardware is costly, not upgrading could cost you more in terms of expensive supplies, frequent breakdown and maintenance, reduced employee productivity, and increased carbon footprint.
At the same time, upgrading your printer fleet presents a huge opportunity to optimize, improve, and reduce costs and wait-times across the board. It gives you the opportunity to select software and hardware that meets the needs of your organization, how your organization works, and where your organization intends to be.
While there are many considerations when upgrading legacy print fleets, the following 5 are a good place to start.
1) Printer Suitability
It’s always a good idea to run a needs assessment for your printers, offices, and employees. This can include a high-level look at your offices but should also consider individual teams and their needs.
Placement – Where should printers be? Do people need personal printers? If so, who needs them? Why?
Number – How many printers are needed? Why? Can printer placement be changed to reduce the total number of needed printers? At what number of printers do office workers start having to wait for print-access? What is your current print volume? Do you intend to reduce that?
Features – Do printers meet the quality needs for the organization? Do some teams require higher-quality or different-format printers?
Compatibility – What existing hardware/software/servers do your printers have to be compatible with? Are you digitizing? Do you need scanning and online file management with printers?
Each of these considerations can change a lot about your final solution. If you’re not up for running a needs analysis on your own, most managed print service providers (MPS) will do so as part of the service.
2) Printer Security
Printer security is an increasingly complex and serious issue, especially as new international laws affect how organizations are allowed to treat data. In fact, some studies suggest that as many as 60% of businesses who have lost data have done so through printer security breaches.
While most printers will offer basic security solutions, it’s important to choose options that meet your security needs.
Firewall – Your printer should support networked security and should have its own firewall.
Remote Updates – Your printer should support remote updates, so IT staff or your print services provider can keep your printer software up to date.
No Ports – Open USB ports can be a huge security risk, especially if employees are unaware of the risks of using BYOD devices and printing directly from unsecured USB drives.
Access Management – Pin/Card print-queue access management ensures that only the person printing can access the print file, protects the print-queue from unsecured access, and works to prevent accidental file loss. While access management can slow the process of printing down, many businesses do benefit from it.
Not every organization requires the same levels of security. Your best option is to perform a risk analysis and choose software and hardware covering your most pressing needs.
3) Carbon Footprint
Upgrading your print fleet offers numerous opportunities to reduce your organization’s carbon footprint.
Different printers use vastly varying volumes of ink and toner when printing. Unfortunately, there are few standardized ratings which can make the process confusing.
For example, Epson claims their Workforce Pro series generates up to 94% less waste than standard laser printers and copiers but many other printers will have similar claims.
In most cases, it’s a good idea to look at the total number of pages printed per cartridge, compare the size of the cartridge in question, and go from there.
Most businesses greatly benefit from the ability to force users to print with specific font-size, font, and margins. You may also want to set black and white printing and duplex (double-sided) printing as the default for your entire fleet.
While it is important users be able to override these settings, doing so could save your organization thousands every year.
Other measures, like pin-code or card access management prevent accidental duplicate printing, allow network managers to monitor who’s printing the most, and help the organization integrate printing standards that reduce waste.
4) Printer Software and Network
Print software and printer networks are a huge part of your printer fleet, especially as you digitize and move towards online files. Printer software should meet your organization’s needs and the needs of individuals. For example, it must be compatible with computers and devices used by your organization. It should also be relatively easy to use and accessible. If possible, it should integrate into relevant tooling so users can print files from tools.
The printer network also has to fit many considerations. Some of the most important include security, file-transfer rate, volume of users, user access management, and remote access. For example, if you have to enable remote access, does it support VPN? What is the maximum user load? How does it scale? Does it support file storage? Backup printer queues?
In most cases, it’s a good idea to review your needs, create a list of needed and wanted features, and then choose a solution based on those considerations.
5) Fleet Maintenance
Your print fleet upgrade is not a permanent improvement. Any software and hardware is temporal because technology is constantly changing. Most printers have a lifespan of 5-10 years before it becomes more costly to keep them than to replace them. While this can extend longer (some models offer return on value well into 15 years), most will require continuous maintenance, upgrades, and eventual replacement.
Your business should integrate a management process to maintain your fleet. This should include:
- Regular updates
- Hardware monitoring
- A maintenance schedule
- Re-supply strategy
- Optimization strategy
- Replacement strategy
If you choose to work with a managed print services provider, they will provide these services as part of your contract. If you don’t, you should create a strategy to do so yourself, assign members of IT to manage printers and keep them up-to-date and determine a strategy for maintenance and eventual replacement.
Your printer fleet is an important element of your organization and likely considerably costlier than you realize. Upgrading it will save you money. At the same time, upgrades give you enormous opportunity to improve the efficiency, capacity, and security of print across your organization, which will add to business results.