Taking control of your printer estate

Posted on Friday, October 28, 2016
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By Andy Barron
Managed Print Operations Manager


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A while ago, my colleague wrote a great article on the true cost of print. Within it, he looked at the areas of the print estate that can get overlooked and how these gaps can be more efficiently managed with a true Managed Print Services (MPS) contract. In this blog, I'm going to look at some of these gaps and how organisations can close them by using a Pull Print solution.

What is Pull Print?

Pull Print, Follow Me, Follow You – all these terms describe the same thing – a print job is sent to a single print queue, ready to be released by the individual user on any printer in the printer estate.

So how does this differ to a typical print set up? Let's look at the differences and benefits.

In a typical print set up, each user's computer will need to be connected to every printer they may need to use, adding time to the set-up of each individual PC. A user then:

  1. Selects a printer
  2. Sends a document to that specific printer which is printed immediately
  3. Goes to the relevant printer to retrieve document

With a Pull Print or Follow Me set up, a print server will be created, however only a single print queue is created to be shared with all users. Documents will wait on the print server until they're called to print. Each user has a means by which to identify themselves at all printers, usually with a swipe card, PIN or log in. A user then:

  1. Sends their document to print
  2. Visits any printer and identifies themselves
  3. The printer will display the users’ personal print queue
  4. The user selects the documents they wish to print

What are the benefits of Pull Print? 

There are some clear benefits to the Pull Print process and here I’ve chosen just three to focus on:

1. Time

In a typical print setup every user is mapped to each individual printer they normally print to. If users need to move to a different location in the office, or a different office completely, there's a fair amount of work – remotely or physically – to map new printers to their PC. With a Pull Print solution, none of this is necessary, making agile working easier for staff and allowing the IT team to focus on maintaining the core business systems and applications around the office.

2. Visibility

A Pull Print solution will monitor print queues, giving IT teams visibility of:

  • Who is printing
  • Where they are printing
  • What document types they are printing

This is really useful for organisations that may need to cross bill or associate cost to specific departments or clients. It also gives visibility of the most heavily used printers, who typically prints to them and the type of documents being printed, which can assist in increasing efficiency and identifying potential misuse.

Collecting this data means organisations have full visibility of the fleet of printers, knowing which devices are under utilised and which are over utilised. IT teams can then decide if they need to move devices around to reduce downtime of printing in key areas, reposition the devices to be closer to key users, and see how much those A3 devices are actually used! They'll also gain all the reports and evidence they need when refreshing the printer estate.

3. Security

Imagine your traditional printer in an office, stacked high with uncollected items, containing all sorts of sensitive or personal information. After ensuring no unauthorised person can connect to the network, suddenly there's a huge amount of data lying around, waiting to be leafed through in order for a user to find their own document, or having been sent to the wrong printer, or just forgotten about! This may be why many departments state that they need their own printer.

With a Pull Print solution, the documents are only released by the user as they stand at the printer and are therefore collected immediately, preserving any confidential data. Users only have the option to print what they have sent, ensuring a secure environment and allowing them to delete items sent by accident or not needed any more. This, in turn, means that an organisation is reducing its environmental impact and saving money by reducing unnecessary waste.

Joining up the benefits

The Pull Print solution is highly intelligent. By looking at the reports generated, organisations can start to build scripts to save resources. These include:

  • Automatically ensuring printing from specific applications defaults to grayscale
  • Ensuring emails are printed in duplex
  • Enabling prints to 'multi up' (multiple A4 sheets on 1 side of A4)
  • When printing in grayscale, ensuring those blue hyperlinks are removed, which always cost a colour click
  • Prompting the user to make them aware of the true cost of printing their document

In addition, if one printer is offline, printing can resume elsewhere without any issues. Implementing a Pull Print solution will typically reduce an organisation's printing by 20%, and provide additional savings through the reduction in print-related IT administration.

Here at Softcat we’ve implemented a “follow me” print solution across all our offices and are already seeing the results. In our head office alone, we've seen a 7% paper wastage saving within the first two months of the system being live. Users have praised the ease of use and the time saving benefits of clicking ‘print’ in one office and releasing their job in another office.

Find out more

For more information about what Softcat can do to help streamline and manage your organisations print estate, contact your Softcat account manager, or get in touch using the form below. 

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