Failing to manage printers efficiently can hamper employee productivity and raise business costs. Here are some printer management tools and strategies for SMBs to consider.
By Terri Coles
As a business grows, so does its fleet of printers—and so do the potential costs and headaches. We’ve all been there: you’re waiting on a document you need as soon as possible, and there’s a literal or figurative jam at the office printer. Or you’re out of ink. Or someone has cancelled all the print jobs before theirs.
Printing problems can reduce employee productivity, potentially damage client relationships, and raise overall costs, but there are ways to limit such pitfalls, thanks to a number of tools that help SMBs manage the print environment.
“There are a lot of different moving parts to maintaining a managed print environment,” says Gil Lane, who works in business technology sales for PC & Network Solutions in St. John’s, Canada. “For the medium-to-large business organizations out there, the service would have to include remote monitoring software and support, automatic toner fulfillment, technical support for break/fix, and a recycling component for used cartridges.”
While smaller businesses may not need as robust an array of solutions, some form of print management is still useful, whether it’s to maintain a printer cartridge supply or knowing what’s going on with each printer at a given time.
Printers themselves now often include technology that can keep them—and your entire print environment—working efficiently. “Most printers have the smarts built into them, by the manufacturer, to send email notices to a named contact to advise if there is a service problem or if toners are low,” Lane says. “This way the customer doesn’t have to worry about running out of toner during a check or payroll run.”
Printers usually come with their own drivers, which are meant to help you manage the options discussed here along with many others. But you may find that a standalone software product will better suit your business’ particular needs.
Does your office have printing hogs? Some printer-management software allows you to limit the number of pages that can be printed by each user, forcing employees to self-monitor their use of printing resources. Other options allow for specialized draft-mode options, allowing you to adjust the settings until you reach the right balance between ink saved and print quality.
Preflight software can provide accurate previews of documents before printing, alerting you to potential problems before you send the file to your printer. These can be valuable when working with digital files that you’re printing out for the first time, reducing the need for multiple printed drafts and preventing issues that could send your printer offline.
Also, digital technology provides the option to simply not print at all. Providing your employees with the ability to save documents in the cloud or on a shared server can make their often-accessed files, such as intranet manuals and style guides, easily available without requiring them to be printed out.
Other features that reduce costs have been around for nearly as long as printers themselves. Reducing toner costs is the main way to reduce the costs of your print environment. In the print driver software that comes with your printer, choose the “draft” print mode as your default; choosing that option as often as possible cuts down on ink use and increases print speed.
Another way to reduce costs is to cut down on paper use. Take advantage of the settings offered on business-ready printers—for example, those that allow for print double-sided.
Look into the paper you choose as well. In some cases, using lower-quality paper for internal documents and saving higher-quality paper for client-facing documents can reduce costs. In other cases, you may be better off financially going with one paper type for all office needs because you’ll be able to buy in larger quantities.
This article was underwritten by HP: Introducing HP BusinessNow, the right technology to help your business grow.