Enterprise Software

Rein in printing costs with PaperCut

Printer support can be difficult, but print accounting can be a nightmare. Scott Lowe describes how Westminster College has solved the accounting portion of the equation with PaperCut.

In my sixteen years of service in the IT industry, one thing has remained constant: printers suck. Buying them, supporting them, feeding them and making sure end users can use them - any way you look at it, making sure that printers are meeting the need can be painful.  On the other hand, for the business, printers are a life line necessary for all kinds of tasks and, without them, there probably wouldn't be a business.  As such, it's important that IT keep these critical - albeit finicky - devices in working order.  At the same time, organizations need to be cognizant of how much printing is taking place as inappropriate printing can truly "nickel and dime" a company to death.

Prior to my arrival at Westminster College, the IT department had implemented a product called Equitrac to handle print management.  A group of environmentally concerned students actually pushed the administration to place reasonable limits on printing and asked that a solution be implemented in order to compel compliance.  Shortly thereafter, Equitrac was implemented.  While the software did its job, for a variety of reasons, we ended up on an outdated version of the software without the ability to upgrade to the newest version without paying for a full license again.  Upgrading was too expensive, so we ran that way for about three years before we began running into compatibility issues stemming from running the older software.  As a result, it was time to either upgrade or move to another platform.

I'll cut to the chase.  We discovered another product called PaperCut that had been getting very positive reviews on a number of higher ed listservs to which I subscribe.  After a short scan of the market and getting a few members of my staff involved, we decided to give PaperCut a shot.  For what it does, the product's pricing is spectacular, particularly for educational institutions.  For our 1,500 user licenses, we didn't end up having to pay much more than we did for Equitrac support alone, so, from a financial standpoint, the decision was a no-brainer.  We moved to PaperCut over the summer of 2009 and have had very few problems, but have enjoyed a great number of the product's features, including:

  • A web-based console used for both administration and user access. Users can very easily get a list of every single one of their print jobs.
  • Automatic refunding in the event of a failed print job with no need for IT to get involved.
  • Multiple easy ways to add money to a student's printing account. We haven't yet implemented what PaperCut calls "TopUp" cards, but we plan to do so.
  • No problems working with Windows, OS X 10.4, 10.5 or 10.6. Lack of OS X 10.5 and 10.6 support is what drove us away from the older version of Equitrac.
  • Automatic creation of user printing accounts through integration with Active Directory. Under Equitrac, getting new printing accounts created was a true hassle.
  • Excellent, intuitive reporting tools, including an "environmental impact" report for each user that provides them with information about how their printing affects the environment.
  • A very regular release cycle. Last year alone, there were close to fifteen releases, all of which added features and corrected issues.
  • Meager system requirements for the server component - 1GB RAM; Windows, Mac OS X, Linux OS support; and less than 1GB of disk space. We run ours on a VMware-based virtual machine.
  • Easy, easy administration.

The intuitive reporting capabilities have allowed my staff and I to better assess which printers belong where and to understand print cycles.  The result is better on-hand inventory of supplies and a better understanding of who has high printing needs that might require additional equipment or support.  On top of that, by closing down free-for-all printing in our computer labs, we've seen a significant reduction in waste, which translates into lower costs and a lower environmental impact.  Once we moved away from Equitrac to Papercut, we've experienced a whole lot less administrative hassle related to print management, more features and better overall support.

We have yet to tap the full potential for PaperCut and, so far, it's far surpassed our wildest expectations.  Frankly, we've not had any negative experiences or problems with the product.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid advertisement.  It is, however, a review by an extremely satisfied customer.

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About

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

12 comments
pc-dev
pc-dev

I'm one of the developers at PaperCut - look after much of *nix code (Linux, Novell and Mac development). I've been working with a site in the UK and they pointing this post out to me. Very well written. We're a very top-heavy technical company and don't spend much on marketing, preferring to invest in the code instead. Word-of-month like this is important! If you're ever down under here in Australia, make sure you let me know and I'll catch up and shout you a beer :-)

Dart
Dart

I fully agree that this is a great product. We use it in our 8 libraries to charge customers for printing to Ricoh multi function machines. Each library has a "print release" station (just an old PC), which is used by staff to collect payment and release print jobs. Print jobs that are not collected by customers within 12 hours, are automatically deleted out of the PaperCut queue, so no waste there. Agree that the cost was very low compared to similar product options.

Angel_Tech
Angel_Tech

I work for a School as well, of course we dont have that many computers, a bit less than 500 maybe.. but We had to deal with the out-of-control printing issue when I got here almost 2 years ago and heard the concerns about having all this print outs.. Since I work for a school district, budget is a big deal and so I needed to come up with a solution. Printer Peer was our solution. it's a freeware and works with shared network printers, you can also llimit of printing for all users. So now we have a workstation in our labs monitoring who prints what/when/how many pages/file names/etc and since then , we've seen good results with students and also with teachers. Of course we also have network printers not being monitored but those departments pay for their own toners :) Cheers .. good article...

it
it

We use paperCut here at our school and this year alone we have seen a 50% drop in waste. with no complaints on the users side, and as an Administrator it has been a breeze. This software is worth WAY more than its advertised. I would recommend this to anyone in a school setting.

changeforge
changeforge

Scott, Your post cracked me up! I would love an opportunity to chat with your experience on this subject. We have been utilizing this internally for a few weeks now, or more specifically PaperCut MF for proximity card access integration to our MFP's. So far, the platform has well exceed expectations - especially after having worked with so many output management solutions. If you are open to discussion, please feel free to contact me using any of the information listed on my blog's connect page: http://changeforge.com/connect. I would love an opportunity to interview you and learn more about your initiatives at Westminster College. Warmest Regards, Ken Stewart

rbogar
rbogar

Just curious- Did you mean: reign (rn) intr.v. reigned, reign?ing, reigns 1. To exercise sovereign power. or: rein (rn) v. reined, rein?ing, reins v.tr. 1. To check or hold back by or as if by the use of reins. Often with in, back, or up. 2. To restrain or control.

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I've never been to Australia... would make for a fun trip. If I ever get down there, I'll definitely look you up! Scott

kmdaniel
kmdaniel

We use PaperCut as well at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa. Great product all around. Our students are given a set dollar amount each year for printing. If they need more they purchase the prepaid cards through our bookstore. On the employee side we use it to track/bill back employee printing to the correct department. This has allowed us to simplify and centralize the accounting and costs with copying and printing on campus.

Dart
Dart

What's wrong with you ? Too much Twitter ?

Ron_007
Ron_007

Here is another tool you may want to consider. http://www.ecofont.eu/downloads_en.html They have created fonts with "holes" in them. They have put white spaces into the letters to in theory reduce ink used by approx 25%. The holes are not visible at "normal" print sizes, they become visible in large size headings. However, there is a bit of a tradeoff. The letters are somewhat wider (horizontally) than "normal" fonts like Times Roman. (Disclaimer: I'm not associated with the company)

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I pride myself on using correct grammar and am generally a spelling nazi. I have to admit that I had no idea that these were separate words! I've corrected the title of the post to reflect to correct spelling. Thanks! Scott

Scott Lowe
Scott Lowe

I read about this a while back... are there any real world, non-marketing testimonials about the solution?

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