Tech Update: Printing in the Enterprise
Making the choice
Organizations need to print, and purchasing printers is an
integral part of the IT buying cycle. So the criteria includes the choice of
printer, features, and technical aspects etc. A look at the various issues involved
in the selection of printing solutions. by Anil Patrick R
print or not to, that is not the question. The question is all about finding
the printing solution that can satisfy your organization's needs. The plethora
of printing options available in the market is mind boggling at first glance.
However, you can get the best value from your printer investments with a little
In the earlier days a 'printing solution'
meant buying a couple of stand-alones and sprinkling them around the organization.
The advent of networks introduced networked printers and made major changes
to this picture.
It is interesting to note that network
printers did not entirely replace stand-alone printers. Today's networks use
combinations of both stand-alones and network printers. In addition to this,
Multifunctional devices (MFDs), which can do functions such as scanning and
faxing, have also made their presence strongly felt now. Despite the entry of
MFDs, stand-alones and network printers still rule the printing market. One
of the major reasons behind this is the higher cost factor of MFDs. Although
MFDs do provide consolidation of functions, organizations still consider entry-level
pricing for MFDs to be a bit high due to relatively higher initial investment
Therefore, we can clearly see that stand-alones
and network printers still remain the hot favorites for organizations investing
in print solutions. Let's now take a look at the differences between stand-alone
printers and network printers.
Stand-alone vs network
Competition has always existed in the matter
of deployment of stand-alone and network printers in the enterprise. However,
the truth is that there is no competition between the two!
Both types of printers have their own strengths
in the enterprise and one cannot always replace the other. It is best to use
a combination of both in the network. "The functional requirements of decentralized
operations calls for deployment of network-based high-speed printers. These
combined with individual stand-alone printers serves the organization's printing
needs," says Ashok Adhikary, General Manager IT/CIE, Kvaerner Powergas India.
Some of the differences between a stand-alone
and network printer are highlighted in table-1 (A difference of print). Depending
on a particular printing need, the correct printer for that can be put in place.
Let's have a look at stand-alones and network printers in detail now.
Stand-alones are most suitable for small
print jobs. They also provide the additional advantage of print document security,
since these printers are usually placed near the user. For example, consider
the CEO's office. The CEO may not want others to see his print documents due
to their confidential nature. In addition to this, he may not want to go all
the way to a shared printer to get print-outs. This segment of the organization
that demands privacy, convenience and requires only small print volumes is where
Network printers come into the scene when
larger volumes are involved. These are usually high-speed, heavy-duty printers
with network connectivity (LAN/WAN). It is time to take a look at why network
printers are better than stand-alones for large scale printing across the network.
Heavy duty print champions
Network printers offer several advantages
over stand-alones in a networked environment. Some of the major benefits of
using a network printer are in terms of print quality, costs, print volumes,
and maintenance/management issues.
Since they are networked, more users can
make use of the same network printer. Printing quality of network printers is
usually better than that of stand-alones. Acquisition costs of printers also
comes down since only a single, faster, high-end network printer needs to be
purchased, instead of several stand-alones.
"Network printers offer advantages like
better centralization, easier management, savings on recurring costs. Fast and
efficient printing is a key feature of network printers," says Subhojit Roy,
Head (IT), SBI Mutual Fund.
Network printers are built for handling
heavy workloads. This means that wear and tear of printer components is lesser
for a network printer. It also translates to higher uptime and lower TCO figures.
Compare this with the maintenance and replacement of spares that would have
been required for several stand-alones to realize the difference. This makes
good economic sense for the enterprise in terms of operational and maintenance
"Network printers provide huge reductions
in capital cost. A single network printer can replace 5-10 personal printers.
They have lower AMC charges and require lesser space," says A K Gidwani, Chief
Manager (IS) - Retail Strategy, Bharat Petroleum Corporation.
In terms of management, today's network
printers have come a long way. Most network printers have interoperability with
popular network management tools. This facilitates remote management of the
printers. Most network printers also have diagnostic features that can detect
and alert the support personnel about malfunctions and things such as need for
Almost all network printers come with support
for a variety of operating systems. This is a very useful feature to have in
today's heterogeneous networks. Different platforms across the network can make
use of a single printer with this arrangement.
Features like duplex printing (using both
sides of the paper), available in network printers, helps bring down printing
costs. These printers also offer features such as stapling, hole punching, binding
Making the right choice
It is essential to have a fix on your printing
need. Unless you have an idea of what are your exact requirements, it is very
difficult to make the right choice.
First of all, decide on the printer requirements.
"Based on printer requirements, one must decide the type of printer to select—network
or stand-alone; speed, quality of output, type of printing to be done, etc.
So, the printer has to be as per requirements," says Subhojit Roy.
Calculation of how much printing will be
required per day will help you decide what your printer's capacity should be.
Always buy a printer that is of higher capacity than your calculated figure.
This will help in case there is a sudden excess requirement as well as accommodate
future organizational expansion. The second step is to calculate costs of operation
(throw in maintenance/outsourcing costs) for all the options that fit your requirements.
Compare all the products with each other to find which one best fits your present
and future budgets. "Future recurring cost is important for selection, which
includes maintenance cost and cost of consumables," says Subhojit Roy.
Now is the time to have a look at the technology
used. This is where vendors usually con buyers by selling products that use
obsolete technology by citing really low costs. Make sure to go in for a printer
that uses the latest technology.
Irrespective of whether you are buying
a stand-alone or a network printer, both have common technology factors. Some
of the technical terms that you need to be aware of here are given in Table
2: Tech talk. Some of the key points to check are printing technology used,
processor speeds, spool memory, network interface speeds, print resolution,
and duty cycle. "It is necessary to look at DPI (Dots per Inch) when choosing
a printer. This decides the quality of print. In laser printers, toner is the
component that has to be carefully checked. If you are going in for a dot matrix
printer, the printer head is the most crucial part to be checked," says A K
Last but not the least is to clarify the
warranty terms. Find out if the warranty is onsite or return to bench. Onsite
maintenance is always better since the vendor's technician will repair it at
your office itself. The options available in warranty are 1 year and 3 year
terms. Read the fine print carefully before exercising your option. Some
more suggestions can be found in the Box below: Buying right.
Buying in bulk always gives more benefits
than buying piecemeal. The benefits include those in terms of cost, standardization,
If an organization has a nationwide offices
(or even global), buying printers for all of them from one vendor gives
major cost benefits. This will also help a lot in doing future purchases
since most vendors have loyalty and upgrade programs.
Most printers available now do not have interoperability
issues. However, it is a good standardization exercise to keep standard
printer configurations in the organization. A standard inventory of spares
can be maintained. You get to save on spares with this arrangement.
Some of the printers come with tools for
calculation of ROI, TCO, etc. Many of these tools are add-ons to the printer
at extra cost. Make sure that you verify the methods used in these tools
if you intend to splurge extra on these.
| Stand-alone printer
|| Network printer
| Used for printing small volumes (Single
|| Used for volume printing (More than
| Lower speeds
|| Higher speeds
| Lower cost of acquisition
|| Higher costs of acquisition
| Higher maintenance costs if many are
used in the organization
|| Lesser maintenance costs
| Cannot be managed using network management
tools because of stand-alone nature
|| Can be managed using network management
| Supports lesser operating systems
|| Supports more operating systems
| Have less of spool memory to save queued
|| Have large spool memory to prevent
loss of print data
| Do not usually have features like duplex
printing/printing on different stationery sizes and types
|| Offers options for duplex printing
as well as printing on stationery of different sizes and types
| Not network dependent
|| Network dependent. Requires 100% failsafe
| Only one user is inconvenienced if
printer goes out of action
|| All users of the printer are inconvenienced
if the printer goes out of action
|| Pages per minute
|| Dots per Inch (This
is the print resolution)
|| Printing on both
sides of a paper automatically
| Duty Cycle
|| Number of pages that
a printer can print per month
|| Cost per page of
printing based on toner price
| OS support
|| Not all printers
support all OSs. so you need to check this factor carefully.
| Tray type
|| Tray types include
semi-cassette and cassette types.
Semi-cassette types protrude out of the printer.
Cassette type is more reliable.
|| Check whether warranty
is onsite or return to bench, 1 year or 3 years.
Anil Patrick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org