Feb 19 2010

Rein In Unwieldy Printers

Multifunction-printer deployments can increase efficiencies.

Photo: Comstock Images/Getty Images

Companies have gained control of PC and server acquisition and management, but printers still present a thorny problem for many organizations.

“Printers are the last unaudited IT cost center,” says Tom Codd, director of HP’s Enterprise Imaging and Printer Group. “When people or departments need printers, they usually just go out and buy them without consulting IT. While some printers are shared on the network, far too many are personal desktop models.”

Maximizing your IT investment requires streamlining printer purchasing and maintenance. For example, printer supplies are often purchased outside usual business purchasing channels. Alternatively, many companies have supply closets full of printer consumables — in some cases, for printers they no longer own.

“Companies have already standardized on laptops, servers and storage,” Codd says. “But some organizations have 50 different models of printers from four or five different vendors.”

Lower prices and enhanced functionality (printing, scanning, faxing, copying and e-mailing) make today’s multifunction printers a true value. In addition, the imaging capabilities of these devices support the move toward a paperless environment.

Costly Chaos

The purchase of low-cost printers often flies beneath the radar of the IT department. “Unattended printer purchases can be very costly because entry-level printers tend to have much higher costs per page than workgroup-class printers,” says Marlene Orr, senior printer analyst for Buyers Laboratory, a New Jersey-based business consumer advocate and test lab for the digital imaging industry.

15% Average number of print jobs that are never retrieved


“Many of these printers are USB-connected, which makes discovery and management by IT very difficult,” she adds. “If a company doesn’t know what printers it has and who’s printing how much, it’s almost impossible to control printing costs.”

The other side of printer sprawl consists of older printers recycled for use elsewhere in the organization. “There’s a saying that printers never leave the business. They just move down the hall,” says Robin Wessel, director of product marketing for desktop products for Xerox. “We’ve seen midsized organizations that have one printer or even more per user.”

This leaves many organizations with an expensive mess of printer models, service contracts, consumables and management headaches. Some printers are overworked, while others are mostly idle.

In addition, older printers that have a higher cost per printed page might be used more than newer printers with superior features and lower printing costs. And because low-end printers deliver a low-quality product, print appearance suffers.

Power Drain

As each printer is added to the network or an individual PC, unnecessary power costs are incurred as well. “Many of these desktop printers are just sitting there not doing much but burning up electricity 24 hours a day,” Wessel says.

Departments might also be wasting power on separate printer, scanner, copier and fax hardware, when a more power-efficient, all-in-one solution might make better economic sense.

Old single-function printers can even affect productivity, as IT must spend hours troubleshooting different hardware and driver software. In addition, ordering individual supplies piece by piece, rather than in bulk, can waste time and money.

“Processing a single invoice can cost $30 to $40,” says Joe Buedel, HP managed print services program manager for CDW. Older printers might not even have service contracts, which can mean unnecessarily costly repairs. “Companies may be paying $250 for each service call,” he adds.