Want to track printer usage, allocate costs and enforce policies such as double-sided printing? We look at your options.
Unmanaged printing is a hit and miss affair – you can't track usage and allocate costs, and you can't be sure that people are complying with policies such as printing double-sided whenever possible.
Print management software takes care of both these issues, and may also provide additional print functionality such as find-me printing (collect from any device) and secure print release (only print when the user is present to collect the output).
Some print management software comes from printer vendors and may only work with that brand of hardware, while others are designed to work with a very wide range of devices.
The vendor-independent print management product that seems to crop up most often is PaperCut.
PaperCut NG tracks printer use, issues alerts to users when they breach printing policies (by selecting single-sided output, for example).
Very small businesses and startups with up to five users can take advantage of PaperCut's offer of a free licence for the full NG product. After that, prices start at $480 for up to 25 users.
PaperCut MF is a similar product, but includes software that runs on various multifunction devices to provide find-me printing and secure print release. It supports the use of card readers to identify users, and manages copying, scanning and faxing as well as printing.
Nuance Equitrac Office
Nuance’s Equitrac Office provides a single queue with delivery to any printer on the network, print rules to reduce waste and cost (for example, by denying users access to colour printing if their jobs don't require it, or by sending jobs to the most cost-effective printer), secure print release, automatic reporting, and more.
The Equitrac range is endorsed by Fuji Xerox, Konica Minolta and Ricoh, among others.
It's quite common for hardware vendors to offer their own print management software, sometimes in the context of document process management. In some cases, these products support printer fleets that include devices from other vendors.
BRAdmin comes at no extra charge with Brother's networked printers and multifunction devices. It allows remote configuration (with the ability to configure multiple devices at once) and remote firmware upgrading (individually or by group), and can discover new devices on the network.
It can also monitor the status of other vendors' devices, providing they are SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) compliant.
Device usage can be logged to file, and BRAdmin can be configured to send emails to appropriate people when devices go into error states such as “out of paper”. This helps keep things running smoothly.
Despite being a Canon product, uniFlow monitors multi-vendor printer fleets, and provides a universal driver. That means a job can be directed to any networked printer after it has been output by an application.
Other benefits include secure printing (the job isn't released until the user is at the printer), automatic distribution of documents to destinations such as SharePoint or Dropbox, support for mobile devices, policy compliance (such as defaulting to – or even enforcing – black and white rather than colour), mobile support, cost accounting, rerouting jobs to printers with lower per-page costs, and the automatic deletion of print jobs that aren't released within a certain time.
Fuji Xerox Printers
Fuji Xerox's Auditron is a feature of certain members of the company's range of printers and multifunction devices such as the DocuPrint M455 df. It allows for usage reporting, plus control over who can use the device, how many pages they can print, and whether they can use colour.
While Ricoh endorses Equitrac and PaperCut, it also has its own products in the print management arena.
Ricoh Remote Fleet Management provides centralised monitoring and reporting, plus automated toner ordering.
Enhanced Locked Print NX provides secure print release with optional card-based authentication.
IntelliColour is a device-based approach to printing rules (such as print all emails in monochrome, or limit the use of colour printing to particular applications or users).
Toshiba Print Management Suite
Toshiba’s Print Management Suite provides usage reporting, print rules (such as allow colour printing only for internal documents, or recommend duplex printing when a user selects single-sided), consumables management, diagnostic reporting, and find-me printing. Beyond that, there’s little other detail about the solution on Toshiba’s website – you’re asked to contact a company for more information.