The (near) paperless life: We evaluate the benefits of managed print

The paperless office is still a long way off but, whilst we might not be able to live without paper, we can definitely reduce paper waste and, at the same time, cost. Marie Cahalane investigates

‘Have you tried turning it off and on again?’ A tireless answer to all ‘technical’ difficulties. Alas, when it comes to the frustrating complexities of school printers – from no paper or toner to a full-blown printer-apocalypse – it’s not always the solution. A staple resource in every school, the printer, if not efficiently managed, can be a quiet consumer of paper, toner, time and money. In fact, a study conducted by research company Gartner revealed that businesses could save up to 30% with better management of their print systems; the question is, how can we reduce the intrinsic costs of print?

Businesses could save up to 30% with better management of their print systems

Managed print services (MPS) regulate and optimise document output and workflows by assessing the individual needs of your school and providing solutions to your specific inefficiencies. We asked Mark Ash, Samsung UK & Ireland’s head of print, how MPS benefits schools and his answer was simple. “With the time and budget constraints faced in the education sector it makes financial sense to look at ways to save money and free-up teachers’ time to spend with their students rather than worrying about printing.”

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Controlling rising print costs has become a critical issue for schools; poor print management is resulting in spiralling costs and it’s reported that 75% of organisations are unaware of their print spend. Phil White, UK MPS sales manager at Brother UK, attributes the challenges faced by schools in terms of print to a lack of control and visibility. “A well-managed print service enables IT managers to overcome these challenges through increased transparency which is used to implement the right levels of access and control,” he says.

Management reporting enables an insight into specific user information to be gained, allowing efficiencies in deployment, configuration, workflow and environmental impact to be identified. Paul Young, head of technical services at UTAX (UK), recommends that schools review how they’re managing their print services and ensure that the solutions they apply are specific to the school’s needs. “For some schools the priority might be cloud printing from multiple devices; for others it might be integration with SIMS; the best strategies are ones that deal with the specific needs of a school and that comes from working with a partner who understands MPS and the education sector.”

Hardcopy meets softcopy

As technology takes classrooms by storm print has retained its role in the educational setting. “We’re witnessing MPS evolve from a mere print offering to an all-encompassing service that incorporates the general consumption of digitised documents,” Mark observes. The introduction of mobile devices and tablets as learning tools means that information is being presented in many different ways. To accommodate this MPS providers have worked hard to ensure that print integrates with such devices by adopting technology such as the cloud, the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) and big data so that print infrastructure can be intuitively connected.

It makes financial sense to look at ways in which to save money and free up teachers’ time to spend with their students rather than worrying about printing

Paul flags data encryption as a potential problem to be aware of. “A print device is effectively a huge hard drive full of information that could potentially be at risk.” MPS takes this into account by providing safe printing through ‘secure pins’. “This means teachers can feel free to print confidential information, such as exam papers and results, and be assured that only the right person is able to get access,” Mark explains. Again, it’s about making print-life easy.

Near paperless

Sustainability promotes efficiency in terms of cost, time and materials and, while we are still miles away from the utopian dream of a paperless life, it is a move in the right direction. Mark points out the environmental merits of MPS, introducing pull printing (sometimes referred to as ‘follow me’ or ‘find me’ printing) which, he says, “Puts an end to the waste paper that is never collected through convenient secure release at the device, improving the speed and quality of the user experience”.

Based on customer feedback, Paul told us that one of the biggest hidden costs, often overlooked, is the use of space. “For example, the average four-drawer filing cabinet takes up about one square metre and holds approximately two linear metres of records. It’s easy to see that even a small archive room housing the retained records of hundreds of students could easily be using the rental equivalent of £5,000 annually.” He adds that MPS offers a simple solution to this. “Software which can scan and upload multiple documents directly into the SIMS Document Management Server alongside a student’s record does away with the need for hardcopy document storage – and gets the most out of print hardware.”

There are many benefits to MPS; efficiency saves time and money, plus modern print hardware is more environmentally sound – further reducing overheads.

This article first appeared in a past edition of Education Executive. You can subscribe to receive the magazine – great news is the first six months are FREE. Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, or connect with us on LinkedIn!

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