Today, printers. Tomorrow, 'integrated peripherals'?

With less office printing going on, printers are struggling to redefine themselves.

1 2 3 Page 3
Page 3 of 3

Other forms of security include authentication procedures intended to control use by identifying the users. Each user can have a configuration profile that limits or monitors his or her use. For instance, only users in the marketing department might use color and all users might have a limit of how many pages they can print. Authentication can be done via log-in, or with card or badge readers attached to the print server, as is the case in the Park Hill school district.

"Anything costing more than a thousand dollars has security features that let you control access," says Jamieson. "It's a matter of actually implementing those features."


Indeed, "We have more than 1,500 security features, but most customers have no idea what they are and how to use them," acknowledges HP's Laing. So HP has come up with an interface involving seven questions, which sets the options based on the answers, he adds.

Sources add that limitations are also sometimes imposed based on the application that does the printing. For instance, software that prints e-mail may be limited to black and white, while spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations are allowed to use color.

Sandt says that most of the Park Hill district's savings came from an 11% reduction in printing that resulted from the use of pull printing. (See the sidebar.) He also found that, previously, 8% of printouts were never picked up, which poses a security risk.

Contractual issues

Monitoring who prints what is important for financial as well as security reasons, since higher-end printers are typically acquired with service contracts that include replacement ink or toner (and possibly paper). The buyer is charged for each page printed, at a rate typically lower than the retail cost of ink or toner. Park Hill's Sandt, for instance, said he was able to cut his district's per-page cost for color printing by 70% through this kind of contract.

Sources agree that the going rate is a penny or two for black and white, and eight to 13 cents for color. But if you print an e-mail that includes a single URL with a blue underline, is that a color page? The answer varies by vendor.

For instance, Haffner says that Xerox's software differentiates between strict black and white, tiny uses of color, moderate uses of color and full color. The system will charge the black and white rate if there are only underlined URLs, and half the color rate for spreadsheets with highlighted cells, he says. Color brochures are, of course, charged the full color rate. Around 70% of use falls into the black and white or partial color category, he adds.

Sandt, whose contract is with Konica Minolta, says that one URL will cause a page to be charged for color, so the print drivers are set to gray-scale by default. Individual users, meanwhile, have a quota of color pages they can print.

Managed print services

If a printer fleet is going to have features in place to monitor costs, the buyers also want to use them for planning purposes, and the vendors will often offer to help their efforts through an arrangement called managed print services. Laing says HP commits to reducing costs by 30% when it undertakes such a project.

"Many larger firms are doing it, and now even small- to medium-sized businesses are paying more attention," Jamieson says. "The vendors are telling them to replace under-used machines with shared devices to remove unnecessary costs."

Such services have been a leading reason for the adoption of MFPs, says Barbara Richards, a consultant at Infotrends, a market research firm in Weymouth, Mass., because they let users cut down the number of devices they own, providing cost savings if only by cutting power consumption.

"You don't see stand-alone copiers anymore, you see printers with scanning, faxing and document management," she says. "It's a double-edged sword for the vendors, since they don't want to lose business up front. They have been very savvy about that, and have been offering workflow solutions. The MFP is the on-ramp to all that."

Lamont Wood is a freelance writer in San Antonio.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

1 2 3 Page 3
Page 3 of 3
Bing’s AI chatbot came to work for me. I had to fire it.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon