New printer technology is worth a look

* New printers and their management features can help to shave costs and improve productivity and security

When was the last time you did a refresh of the printers in your organization to update to the latest technology? If it’s been a while since you’ve installed new printers, you may be missing out on some great technology that can improve productivity and control usage costs.

Is it worth your time to consider new printers, especially if the current ones are working just fine? According to Lexmark, a Fortune 100 company can easily spend $1 million to $2 million a month on printing. Such expenses can total 3% to 5% of your business operating expenses each year. If that isn’t enough of an eye opener, consider that old printer technology and printing processes can threaten security, reduce customer satisfaction and drag down company productivity and efficiency initiatives. New printers and their management features can help to shave costs and improve productivity and security.

Who would ever think of document printing as a risky behavior? The truth is, printing to a networked device can lead to numerous security concerns. For example, sensitive documents can sit in an output tray or remain in a printer’s memory where they easily can be access by unauthorized personnel. If output devices are uncontrolled and unmonitored, anyone on the network can transmit and retrieve sensitive information without detection. With this in mind, security has become a critical element to network-based printing.

One way to combat the problem of having a sensitive document print out and sit around waiting for pickup is to install a biometric reader that prohibits the document from printing until the owner authorizes it to print. SecurePrint from Silex Technology holds a document in the memory of the printer until the owner touches a fingerprint reader at the printer to initiate print. Ringdale’s commercial product, FollowMe Document Output Management, implements the Solix biometric technology. You can add the FollowMe solution to your existing printers, or find it integrated into printers from HP and other manufacturers.

Secure Release Here from Pharos Systems is a tool that prevents a document from printing until the user physically goes to a printer and enters an authentication code or swipes a proximity card.

Documents remaining in memory or on storage devices is another security issue. HP addresses the problem with a utility called Secure Erase that works in conjunction with its Web Jetadmin software. Secure Erase makes sure that no trace of any output file is left after it has served its purpose.

HP also has utility applications that allow you to control access to color printers or color output. You can control who is permitted to print in color, or which applications can print in color. This reduces the cost of using color ink when black and white is just as acceptable. For instance, you may want to allow people in marketing to print in color, but the people in software development sending output to that same printer can only print in black and white.

Monitoring who prints what is a cornerstone of securing your print devices. There are several companies that offer solutions to monitor and manage your enterprise printing and imaging. Pharos Systems’ Blueprint Enterprise software tracks, monitors and reports on all network and local print jobs. It also has a chargeback feature if you want to figure out what department is responsible for which printing costs. Software solutions from Equitrac monitor and measure print/copy/scan/fax activity and control user access to devices.

Another essential feature, especially in the case of a networked multifunction printer (MFP) (i.e., printer, copier and scanner in one device), is job queue management, which allows a user to determine and control the status of his print job. Without a good queue management utility, jobs are produced on a first-in/first-out basis with no regard for the criticality of the output. What’s more, an impatient user could inadvertently send multiple instances of his document to the printer if he can’t see where his job is in the queue. Many MFPs such as the Xerox WorkCentre Systems include a full queue management application to help users manage the priorities of print jobs and other tasks and enhance productivity.

The major printer manufacturers like HP, Xerox, Canon and Lexmark have integrated many of these products and/or features into their latest models. Printers are no longer “dumb” network peripherals that simply churn out documents. They are an integral part of your network that need to be managed and controlled, just as you do the workstations that send the print jobs to the printers.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.