**Originally published on Oct 4, 2016**
Every so often, it’s important to revisit your current print management solution to see if it’s still working for you. What might have been a welcome improvement five or ten years ago might no longer be effective as your print environment and workplace have continuously evolved. There’s even a chance your print management solution could negatively impact your organization’s morale, efficiency, and bottom line.
To better evaluate any enterprise print management solution, it helps to match its performance against a set of criteria. Below is a short checklist in the form of questions you can ask to see if your current solution is still performing as expected and determine if it meets your organization’s existing and future needs.
How much printing downtime are you experiencing?
Printer downtime might be the most basic metric of any enterprise print management solution. If printing is regularly held up by server crashes, spooler hangs, or rogue drivers—and the difficulty in troubleshooting those instabilities—something needs to change.
On top of print server maintenance and updates, printers themselves are hard to keep up with. Any multi-function printers in your fleet have several things that can go wrong: scanner not working, paper jams, faulty copier, etc., which often result in you becoming a decorated repairman instead of an innovative IT specialist. Most modern print solutions provide you with instant alerts to help you be more proactive instead of reactive when a printer goes down.
If SNMP alerts and Advanced Reporting features haven’t been implemented into your print environment yet, you’re missing out on opportunities to resolve issues before they happen and easily identify ways to increase printer uptime in your organization.
Is it secure?
Print security is a term that has received its fair share of headlines amongst print management solutions. It’s a rather broad term, but securing your print environment and the data that flows through it requires many moving parts.
For example, to protect documents from internal theft, companies are implementing pull printing functionality that allows users to release print jobs at designated network printers via some form of authentication (badge reader, PIN, etc.).
Another level of security comes with identity provider (IdP) integrations. Print solutions that integrate with major IdPs help thwart external attacks by prompting users to authenticate on their devices and only authorizing them to use the applications they need to do their jobs. Requiring users to sign in via SSO or MFA before they have access to printing keeps external attackers out and helps quickly identify attacks when they do happen.
We only named a few, but there are plenty of security features you can take advantage of to lock down your print security. One of the most crucial pieces of increased security is reducing legacy systems. In today’s climate, they aren’t compatible with modern print security solutions, lack sufficient audit trails, and are more vulnerable to data breaches.
Is your print management solution future-proof?
Traditional print management solutions are still running on a model introduced over two decades ago. Without dozens of supplemental solutions and custom tweaks, this model is inflexible and can’t adapt to the increasing need for mobile printing, secure printing, or enterprise-wide print reporting/auditing in modern workplaces.
Future-proofing your print environment means adopting modern solutions designed to satisfy your organization’s future needs. Think of how your printing infrastructure fits into your company’s five-year plan:
Is your print environment prepared to take on hundreds of new employees?
Does it have the tools and security in place to embrace Zero Trust Network Architecture?
How will it integrate with new cutting-edge VDIs and IdPs?
It’s a lot to consider, but these types of questions should be top of mind for sysadmins and IT managers building toward a future-proof print environment.
What kind of infrastructure is required?
All enterprise print management solutions have infrastructure requirements. The more fundamental question is whether that infrastructure is necessary. For example, distributed organizations often place one or more print servers in each remote location, driving up costs associated with maintenance, print management, and hardware.
What’s more, it feels like adding print servers is the only solvent to evenly disperse print traffic and manage new remote locations when they pop up. Once you have hundreds or thousands of printers on these servers, it’s easy to lose track of how many you have in your fleet and how many are actually being used. In fact, around 90% of companies don’t even know how many printers they have.
If you’re struggling to reduce infrastructure, try weeding out under-utilized printers and exploring ways to consolidate your print server management.
Is it built to scale?
Several enterprise print management solutions promote themselves as scalable, but accommodating a growing user base by throwing more infrastructure and resources into an existing solution isn’t exactly ideal. Although adding print servers increases performance and offers built-in redundancy, they cause a cascade of problems.
More print servers equate to less control, higher licensing fees, and more printer definitions to maintain. IT managers also have to add more employees to their team and train them on their policies and maintenance requirements, taking up time and more IT budget.
Another necessity of today’s printing solutions is their ability to extend to your hybrid workforce. The remote work model has taken over, but hybrid employees still need printing capabilities with their devices when they visit remote offices. When remote users need access to nearby network printers, they often have no choice but to call the helpdesk and ask for printers to be installed.
If your current print solution doesn’t cater to your hybrid workers, it not only restricts your ability to scale, it puts more pressure on you to handle print-related helpdesk calls when users visit the office.
How many print-related helpdesk tickets are you getting?
Print-related helpdesk calls are an often overlooked evaluation tool but a largely important one, as printing is an essential function of any workplace. Most helpdesk calls are print related (up to 40%) and can limit your productivity at the office. When users can’t print where and when they need to because of printing downtime or elaborate installation procedures, it can be detrimental to morale, creating an “us vs. them” mindset between users and tech support.
Excessive helpdesk calls come in many shapes and forms. Some can be as basic as a vague, “My printer won’t print.” Others may result from failed deployments and require additional troubleshooting on your end before it gets resolved. And as mentioned earlier, your hybrid users may need to install printers in a remote office they are visiting for the first time.
If you’re dedicating a few hours daily to addressing printer issues, it’s probably time to start wiping out your biggest instigator: print servers.
Check All The Boxes for Optimized Print Management
This print management checklist is by no means exhaustive and should be adapted to fit your organization’s unique conditions and priorities. But it should help you identify key performance aspects of your enterprise print management solution and determine whether or not it’s time to migrate to one that is more stable, scalable, future-proof, and cost-effective.