February 26th, 2021 by Kevin Box
There was a time in history where the "On-trend" method for managing copier and printer fleets was to map out the office and strategically place workgroup copiers & printers within the office space to maximize coverage. In my opinion, this is the ideal method for reducing costs and maximizing efficiencies.
However, many organizations still use a hybrid approach, whereas select workers have their desktop printers and strategically placed workgroup devices for the team. This method can be costly and inefficient because someone must manage the printer fleet and purchase all that toner. It often falls on either the IT department or purchasing. Either way, it takes time and resources to manage printers, especially for larger organizations. When this is the case, the need for a strategic device management approach is often ideal.
The Importance of a Managed Print Services (MPS) Program
I often run across organizations with a high number of desktop printers yet have no real strategic policies to manage the fleet, e.g., When managing a fleet of printers, organizations should consider several key factors to optimize the printer fleet and reduce cost. The focus areas should be around device standardization, enterprise devices versus devices made for low volumes, "Transactional" devices, and security measures to secure the fleet. These areas matter if you are looking to make the fleet more efficient and keep critical data safe. This posting will give insight into the best practices for how to approach and manage your printer fleet.
I have done walkthroughs in several organizations with every sort of make and model of printers. You often see multiple brands and models that range from high-efficiency LaserJet printers to less expensive models designed for a low volume environment. Having this sort of make and model mix can cause all kinds of internal burdens on whoever is assigned with managing the fleet.
For example, an organization with 100 printers made up of multiple brands and models can be costly and inefficient to manage. The person managing the fleet must address drivers and other related printing issues, source toner when needed, maintenance kits, parts, and other issues as they arise - Often from multiple providers.
There is also a considerable amount of time associated with fixing the device when it breaks or determining if the device needs to be disposed of and replaced with a new printer. Now, multiply that over a hundred printers throughout the organization, and you have a person whose sole job may be to manage the printer fleet. If the employee has other responsibilities, the reactive nature of managing a printer fleet means another task may fall by the wayside. The employee becomes inefficient and ineffective at completing other duties that may be just as important to the organization's operational effectiveness.
Enterprise Versus Transactional Printers
Those smaller, cheaper printers for sale at your local Office Stores are often much more expensive than an enterprise-level printer that costs three times as much for the hardware. Why? Because manufacturers sell transactional devices with low price tags as an entry point into the market, which is often at a loss. However, you end up paying more for the toner over time– A lot more!
Consider one such scenario: You go down to your local Office Retailer and purchase an HP LaserJet Pro M283 for $499.99. This seems like a reasonable purchase. However, if you compare it to HP's Enterprise-level device, you will pay 25% more for the cheaper device over five years. The price difference is due to the price and yield of the toner. The M283's toner cost is around $62.89 per mono toner cartridge and $73.89 for each color cartridge. However, the yield on this toner is only 1,350 per mono cartridge and 1,250 per color cartridge. Now, compare this to the enterprise level device, which has a price of $232.99 per mono cartridge and $321.99 for each color cartridge. However, the yield for these cartridges is 12,500 for mono and 9,500 for color. So, over five years at 2,000 prints per month, you will pay $1,578 more for the smaller transactional printer.
Why Securing your Printer Fleet Matters
Another often overlooked aspect of Transactional devices is their lack of security. You can say this about any printer, even those with security built into the machine. However, first, let us focus on those devices with security already baked into the hardware.
HP has developed one of the most robust platforms for security built into its Enterprise level devices. HP Enterprise level devices come with several key components like Connection Inspector, Sure Start, Run Time Intrusion, and automatic whitelisting, ensuring only known authentic firmware is loaded. You can read more about this in my blog Are Your Printers Vulnerable to Hackers? Which is posted on the Function4 website. This blog posting gives detailed insight and tips on printer (Endpoint) security.
The second component to securing printers is to make sure you close any vulnerability gaps with printers on your network. Even with a firewall, bad actors can still gain access to a network through the printer. They do this through email phishing by sending a malicious email, for example, directly to an employee's inbox with instructions to print something out like a coupon. This sort of activity is hard to detect because hackers recreate authentic-looking emails from other internal emails within the organization. Once the employee sends the print job over to the printer, malware can open a gateway past the firewall and directly into the network.
Another aspect of securing printers on the network is general awareness. A recent study showed that only 61% of IT managers are even aware of having printers' security pitfalls attached to a network. Printers often come out of the box with open ports, enabled protocols, and default passwords. Having an MPS agreement in place can help alleviate this issue because it can be deployed automatically to monitor vulnerabilities and reconcile issues. Your MPS provider can also help you build the printers into your organization's security policy that will help mediate any known issues, download, install the most recent firmware, and systematically close off any vulnerabilities with the printer fleet.
Having an MPS provider manage your printer fleet can save time and money and help protect your network from hackers. Most organizations do not know how much of their budget is used to manage their printer fleet and further have no complete understanding of the security vulnerabilities associated with having unmanaged devices attached to the network.
Having an MPS agreement in place can help you maximize your fleet's performance, optimize uptime with your employees, and reduce your IT department's burden with managing printers.
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