Connecting with Locally-connected Devices
Locally connected printers can be the spanner in the works for any print management provider. Printers simply pop up and can disappear just as fast. What do you do when you are asked to monitor locals? How do you successfully provide services on locally connected imaging devices?
Locals can be trouble … any software provider in the MPS space will admit to that, and if they don’t they are setting the dealer up for challenges down the road.
Ideally, dealers prefer to monitor only devices that are connected to the network. This usually comes about because of promises made regarding the monitoring of locally connected printers. Discovery of the collection software’s limitations and capability for local device information capture led to difficult discussions with customers when promises could not be kept.
Often times the requirement to monitoring local devices is a means to getting to the end … to remove them from the fleet, or have them replaced with networked devices. Let’s look deeper at the “local” fleet and potential pitfalls that may be encountered.
Locally Connected Printers
Nearly every workstation and laptop has at least one USB port. These ports allow users to add capability to the machines and printing is one of the most common needs encountered. Most people would like to have a printer nearby so they do not have to go to “the copy room” or down the hall to retrieve printed material.
By very simple definition, printers used in this manner are generally low output machines. In general, low output capability normally means a low initial investment amount but higher supply and maintenance costs. Customers are usually confronted with this as they begin replacing toner — It is not unusual for a complete toner set to cost half as much or more than the initial purchase price of the device. Even after high yield cartridges and service costs are factored in, many users find that desktop printers are not cost effective at all.
Those who are not “footing the bill” for these machines prefer to have the convenience of the nearby printer, so it is up to the dealer to help expose the “red” on the ledger.
Locally Connected Device Challenges
If ever there was an instance to use the adage “Under promise, over deliver”, dealing with the USB connected printer would apply.
CAUTION – When deciding whether or not to include information on locally connected devices, consider the return on the time required for overall account management. Where local device output warrants machine monitoring, be sure to COMMUNICATE THE POTENTIAL SHORTCOMINGS OF MONITORING LOCALS to everyone involved.
Locally connected devices are typically “personal printers”. They tend to range from older devices that are still quite functional but not intended for use by larger groups, to those that move around within the business environment and can often include smaller, modern or even advanced MFPs with fax and scan capability.
Collection software may report on locally connected devices …
… when the software is installed on the workstation where the printer is USB attached,
… when the workstation remains “on” and connected to the network, and
… when the imaging device remains connected to the workstation.
Following are just a handful of some of the known challenges related to locally attached printers and the workstations to which they are attached. We recommend that administrators watch for these problems:
1. The data collection software (DCS) is installed on the workstation with a USB attached printer.
If the workstation is “turned off” the DCS cannot report.
If the printer is “off” or “off-line” the DCS cannot report.
If the printer is removed from the workstation, the DCS cannot report.
2. The monitored device that was previously attached to a workstation with the DCS installed has been moved to another location and workstation.
If the device is attached to a workstation where the DCS has not been installed, output will not be recorded.
NOTE – If the ‘moved’ device is attached to a workstation with a DCS installed, a new tally of prints may be recorded. If the ‘moved’ device is now “on the network” the DCS may “find” it as routine searches are conducted and if discovered, may begin reporting if the “automatic network device discovery” feature in the DCS has been enabled. CHECK WITH YOUR SOFTWARE PROVIDER to determine their local device support and capture ability.
3. New workstations are placed.
If an installation of the DCS has not occurred on the new workstation, the previously monitored locally attached device will no longer report information.
4. The DCS is uninstalled by the user.
The locally attached device cannot be monitored.
5. Personal printers are attached to a laptop or person’s workstation that can be disconnected from the network.
Even if the personal PC has a DCS installed, information on any locally attached device will not be reported if workstation or laptop is not attached to the network.
The DCS is not installed on the personal PC and therefore data cannot be collected from any locally attached device even if it is attached to the network.
Monitoring Locally Attached Printers
Sometimes after initial discovery there is a legitimate need for locally attached printers. Device monitoring of these machines is possible with some collection software. Each software provider may have their own methods and information gathering capability, but it is generally accepted that the DCS needs to be installed on each workstation in order for locally attached printers to be monitored.
DCS used to monitor locals can be installed in a number of ways including but not limited to, completing manual installations of the DCS on each PC, sending a link to each PC user for self DCS download, and /or mass installation the DCS using the customer’s deployment process for workstation updates.
NOTE – Software providers may offer assistance or suggestions for installation. Some software providers will conference with dealers and their customers and/or offer installation documentation to make certain installations go smoothly. CHECK WITH YOUR SOFTWARE PROVIDER to determine their local device installation and deployment support.
Collection of information is generally limited by the device, driver and firmware being used. Most software companies are limited to spooler tally capture when determining volume on locally connected devices; most do not attempt to gather more than spooler information.
Some software applications offer enhanced local device reporting and support. Software of this nature may gather meter and serial number information from devices with PCL drivers and may provide near network capture ability from devices with bi-directional (BIDI) drivers.
Because of the device, driver being used, firmware and/or connectivity, most locally connected devices do not provide much more than a tally of page output collected from the spooler. Because of this, dealers should not be promising to get service or supply alerting as the alerts simply will not be generated. Most software providers offer limited or no alerting for local devices. Some providers us algorithms to “calculate” when supplies or services are needed before sending notification. Others offer volume alerting and will signal the dealer as volume thresholds are met.
CAUTION – The information offered above may or may not apply to the software you may be using. CHECK WITH YOUR SOFTWARE PROVIDER to determine their local device support and information capture ability.
Other Cost Factors* to Consider When Working with Locally Attached Printers
The typical office worker is responsible for about 34 pages of printed output every day. Many of these sheets are never needed and end up in the recycle bin or as scratch paper. In the U.S.A. as many as fifteen million pages are printed every five minutes each and every day.
In addition to the easily definable hard costs of supplies and maintenance, there are environmental factors to consider as well. Typical small ‘end-user’ printers are usually far less energy efficient and can produce as much as 100 pounds of waste in the form of used cartridges, parts and paper each year. Often cartridges for personal printers cannot be recycled or refilled, adding their bulk to landfills and garbage dumps.
As high as 3-6% of business expenditures have been attributed to printing costs making print management the third highest expense after rent and payroll. Locally connected devices have often been determined as the primary suspects. Businesses can cut imaging costs as much as 10-30% simply by eliminating or drastically reducing the number of locally attached printers as part of their print management strategy.
On top of all this, for typical dealers and/or IT staffs, up to 50% of helpdesk calls are printer related – with many of these being generated because of local device use or abuse.
When dealers expose the high cost of local device usage to CFOs, moving away from them becomes a much easier task.
*Facts, figures and percentages sighted in this report are sourced from widely accepted Gartner Group, InfoTrends and other imaging industry publications and articles published in industry channels since 2009.
… In summary
Monitoring locally connected imaging machines can be challenging as there are many variables that may cause an interruption in monitoring capability. Even with very good collection software, accuracy in gathered information may be limited by the devices themselves. Work with a good software provider to learn what capability is available to monitor locally connected machines.
Locally attached devices can account for much of the expenses incurred across the imaging fleet. While there may always be some locally attached machines, it is generally best to work towards minimizing their use and increasing network connectivity.
Educating the customer of local printer costs can be an important factor in getting devices removed from service. Transferring that education to the local user will help in reducing printed output expenditures.
When monitoring is required, it is essential to “Under promise, over deliver” and sharing the potential shortcomings of monitoring locally attached machines with everyone involved makes good economic sense.