Managed services: How to make printers someone else's headache

Time to put a full stop to printer hassles...

With many organisations switching to managed print service providers to save money and resources, it pays to look carefully at all the options, says Louella Fernandes.

Many businesses operate a complex print environment consisting of various makes of printers and copiers with different consumables and servicing patterns. But printing is showing no signs of disappearing, so businesses are facing escalating costs - both in paper and consumables. An unmanaged print environment is not only costly - both financially and environmentally - it also poses security risks, such as documents being left exposed in output trays.

However, businesses are now realising the need to tackle the complexity, cost and risk of operating an unmanaged print environment.

Quocirca estimates that 45 per cent of enterprises have turned to an external managed print service provider to help them run their print infrastructure.

Managed services can save anywhere between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of printing costs

Managed services can save anywhere between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of printing costsPhoto: Shutterstock

This approach allows an organisation to focus on its core business activities because staff no longer need to spend time ordering paper and ink, processing invoices, and responding to printer-related helpdesk calls.

The cost savings can be significant. Managed services can save anywhere between 10 per cent and 30 per cent of printing costs. In addition, when services such as pull-printing are introduced, they can boost employee productivity, enhance security and reduce environmental impact.

Managed print services comprise three main phases - assessment, optimisation and ongoing management. A comprehensive assessment will analyse the existing printer fleet, along with usage, and make recommendations for a consolidation and optimisation.

A typical recommendation might be to replace outdated, single-function printers with the latest networked, energy-efficient, multi-function printers.

At this stage, software can be introduced such as secure or pull-printing, which ensures print jobs are only released to authorised users. This approach, together with regular monitoring, ensures the print environment adapts to changing business needs.

Managed service providers broadly fall into two categories. First, there are hardware vendors such as HP, Ricoh and Xerox, which deliver services directly or through third-party providers.

Most hardware vendors deliver print services directly to larger organisations and may use channel partners to target smaller businesses.

Second are independent providers, for example, system integrators or value-added resellers, many of which by definition will be channel partners for certain hardware vendors.

They are particularly appealing for enterprises that...