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Before You Invest in Printing

Printers is the most common piece of equipment found in every office, with its importance varying according to the type of organization. Think about the organization whose work revolves around printing i.e. print media, banking, etc. The management issues related to printing in these sectors are huge and complex with lot of cost associated, which in turn could be optimized if proper policy is followed. On the other end of spectrum are organizations that take only one or two prints per day or even lower. For these organizations printing requirements are simple and minimal with very low associated cost. In this article we would throw light on different types of printing solutions available in market along with total cost associated with them and some outsourcing policy that can be followed to save money and resources.

There are two major categories of printers available for enterprises: Laser printers and Multifunctional devices (MFDs). One point to be noted here is that color inkjet printers are still used where print quality is a constraint but their usability is limited. Having a deployment policy in hand before thinking about buying is must, where deployment policy identifies points on network, where printers can be attached based on different parameters like network traffic, maintenance, and accessibility. One approach is to carry pre-deployment tests using isolated test network.

Color or Monochrome?
The decision of buying enterprise level color or monochrome printers is very subjective and totally depends on requirement of organization. Consider example of big telecom enterprise that wants to print customer bills, where the numbers of pages to be printed are in millions. The cost of printing may increase if color is used for printing the entire bill, but if color is used to highlight only certain portions of the bill it might not affect the cost majorly. At the same time usage of color may help in branding and improvement of user experience. Therefore decision of striking balance between cost and user experience is very crucial and one has to define its need before going for that. And with lowering price of laser color printing, more and more organizations are using color to appeal existing and potential users.

Specialized or MFD?
Standalone laser printers are good where space as in real state is not a constraint and the infrastructure for other devices like copier, fax, etc is already in place. On the other hand MFDs are optimal for organizations where space is a constraint and there is good requirement for other functionalities. A single MFD with its print, scan, and copy capability can easily support a department or a floor. The only visible issue with MFDs is underutilization of features.

The next question to answer is: What to look in before buying? The answer to this question lies in balance of three parameters: price (total cost of ownership), performance, and features. Here by performance we mean high PPM (pages per minute), low warm-up time, high tray capacity, enhanced media support, and low maintenance.

Outsourcing is fast becoming popular with its great success in BPOs where customer support business is outsourced. Now the printing functionality of the organizations is also walking the same road. The whole printing infrastructure and process could now be outsourced to third party.

This process can considerably reduce cost and resources associated with printing process. Even in outsourcing one can choose from two options of offsite and onsite printing. In onsite as the name suggests third party vendor installs printer in your office premises and takes care of printing process. In offsite printing pages or documents to be printed are sent to vendor where printing process is done. Outsourcing is great boon for printing intensive domain and lots of companies have successfully cut their budgets by outsourcing their printing work. Though outsourcing potentially lowers cost but if not done in proper manner, it may lead to loss of control and security issues as material to be printed goes to third party vendor.

Printing policies and technology offerings
In this section we would be covering some enterprise-level printing solutions offered by leading vendors. The competitive market of printing has compelled leading vendors to think out of box, this has given birth to some innovative ideas like outsourcing. Here are few initiatives by leading vendors.

Charging back (HP)
To cut operational costs organizations can charge departments or individuals for printing in color. This will make internal users more responsible regarding printing and at the same time save resources. This will also make printer billing more rational amongst different departments of same organizations. To deploy this kind of model for HP products there are vendors that offer tracking technologies like SafeCom Tracking, CapellaTech Megatrack, etc.

Gloss Mark (Xerox)
This is way on inserting digital information onto printouts that cannot be duplicated using scanning or photocopying. This is kind of water marking of printouts to protect it. This technique can also be used for customization of documents.

Fixing-film (Canon)
The time taken to heat up metallic roller inside printer is high, to reduce this time very thin metallic sheet is used instead that heats up and cools down quickly. This technique makes printing devices more efficient and saves time.

Printers come with built in authentication mechanism for protecting privacy of document to be printed. Consider a situation where one wants to print a private document on shared printer, one just has to give print command and later when he/she has time authenticate and print.

E-mail facility
There are MFDs packed with e-mail facility and storage space. This feature adds more functionality as one can create customized folders on MFD where documents can be stored and if required mailed. To protect privacy of documents access control mechanism can be implemented on documents stored.

Print 2.0 (HP)
To overcome growing challenges in printing domain HP has introduced Print 2.0 plan for enterprises that includes HP printing products, services, and solutions. Print 2.0 has three components to make printing process and management simple and efficient. These components are: Optimize infrastructure, Manage environment, and Improve Workflow.

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