Centralised Print: To Centralise or Not to Centralise, that is the question
Of all the cyclical debates (jam or cream first on scones, chicken or egg etc.) the question of whether to centralise or decentralise your print infrastructure seems to come and go with the tides. We are regularly asked what is best and it must be said that industry thinking is that the pendulum has swung back towards decentralisation.
There are undoubtedly pros and cons for both options but the major driver, cost, is starting to pale into insignificance as the price of devices and cost per print, continues to come down.
Old school thinking said that centralised print was the only way forward. The idea being that by reducing the number of devices you save the capital cost and then the ongoing costs associated with running multiple devices. At that same time, this was an industry renowned for bad contracts with high penalties and punitive per print/copy charges and so many manufacturers did nothing to help change direction for this train of thought. Centralised print was also used by some suppliers as a clever way of creating lucrative contracts which included substantial hidden margins.
On top of the cost debate, the technology simply did not exist to connect devices easily or provide intelligent printing and so offices followed a more traditional format – everyone with their own desk, sat in departments etc. - and so there was limited demand for anything different.
Nowadays, many of these arguments have been shelved or overcome and the print industry has had to keep pace with the demand for more flexible working, hot desking, work from home and multi office environments. ‘Follow me’ print and cloud server based print technology now allows users to pick up their print from wherever they are working at that point in time, not always going back to a centralised hub.
Companies have also realised that there must be a balance because an over rationalised environment can have a serious impact on productivity of staff. Users are away from their desks for longer periods of time creating situations whereby phones ring longer, go unanswered and the response to customer demands is slower.
Costs continue to fall and, if you choose your partner carefully, managed print contracts are not as painful as those of the 80s and early 90s. Historically, cheap to buy devices typically had excessive toner and ink consumable costs, with a colour print costing as much as 20p. Recently though, similar desktop devices which are cheap to buy, or rent, have seen the full colour consumable running costs and service support contracts get as low as 2.85ppp, depending on volumes. If you are lucky you may be paying something similar to this already on a per print basis with a mid-high volume centralised device, but you will most likely be paying an expensive quarterly lease rental charge in addition for the device itself.
More importantly these low-cost devices print at speeds of 40-50-60 pages per minute and handle volumes of up to 20,000 prints per month making them great for busy offices. Latest service offerings ensure that if there are any issues with the device not functioning properly, at any point in the contract, it can be swapped out for a direct replacement at no additional cost. So, if a mid-high volume machine does fail there is limited or no impact of productivity for the business.
Like everything in life, we say exercise some moderation and aim for a happy medium, somewhere between plurality and centralised print. An audit of current structure set against a background of desired outcomes can normally find the right balance. Why not contact us today to organise an audit?
Considering forthcoming GDPR regulations, the question of print and document management security is becoming a hot topic. A great deal of focus regarding data is placed on the storing and use of it and yet very little attention is paid to that same data whilst it is in the ether or when it is recreated in physical/hard print format. We have previously blogged about securing the print process in and around the end point i.e. at the printer, but what about the process up to the point of print?
In most organisations network security is taken seriously with thousands invested in it and yet this investment could be put to greater use to secure documents in the print queue, introduce print efficiencies and further reduce the security risk at the end point.
Over the years there has been a swing between centralised and decentralised print, meaning fewer people have dedicated printers immediately near their regular place of work. Add to this a more mobile workforce, global operations and multiple offices and you soon understand the risk that is posed by printing to the wrong machine in the wrong office at the wrong time. Furthermore, the traditional view of localised printing does not offer any flexibility to the individual concerned or reflect the fact that different job roles may require more personalised print settings, specific to the work being undertaken.
Making your print infrastructure more connected will solve all of these issues whilst further securing important data and files. Technology and software like ‘follow me’ print utilises the flexibility and security of the network infrastructure to enable on demand printing – allowing users to print the files they need, when and where they need it and only if they need it. Instead of an immediate print to device function, files are stored in the cloud or on a server, which forms part of the network and is covered by the investment in network security. The document then sits there, safe, until such time as it is called down to a device by the relevant user. The user specifies the device and the print settings at that point in time or if working across a range of connected devices can simply have a personalised print setting which identifies the user, file and device and prints the file accordingly.
As well as answering print security issues, technology like follow me print can help to reduce print volumes and therefore cost. So, if your print infrastructure is not connected and using the latest technologies, this may be another risk when GDPR regulations come into force in 2018.