Businessman working on computer while coworker using printer at office

What is print management?


Explore the definition of print management and all it encompasses.

Read time: 4 minutes

What is print management: definition and challenges

 Print management, at its simplest, involves managing the devices, software and applications, and supplies of an organization’s office printers, multifunction devices, and other print devices that may be used (like Zebra printers) so that they are accessible to all employees who need to use them.

But as anyone who’s ever been involved with print management knows, it can get involved and complex fast.

Having a unified printing environment sounds like a reasonable goal for most organizations. IT managers would love to be able to -

  • Implement universal security protocols and printing rules for every device.

  • Push out firmware and driver updates to the entire fleet and user population in one operation: and 

  • Monitor device usage, operational, and supply status through a centralized portal.

But implementing a print management strategy across entire fleets, diverse networks, and distributed workforces presents many challenges.

Why? The reason is pretty straightforward. Most printing environments are built ad hoc over time – before a broader print strategy exists.

And then by the time you realize you need a print strategy, gathering the data for an accurate analysis becomes a massive and unwieldy effort.

Changing needs can introduce even more challenges. For example:

  • Need more capacity or advanced finishing? 

  • Did the firm open another location?

  • Maybe the old printer finally gives out? 

Mobile and remote workforces increase the difficulty.

Installing new or replacement devices based on the lowest price or fastest availability today may not be in the best interests of the organization tomorrow, as many discover. The result is often a disjointed fleet of printers and copiers with little visibility into usage, controls, and costs.

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Case Study: BDP International

Even more print management considerations today

Today’s MFPs do a lot more than print – they are central to many document workflows, scanning, processing, capturing and storing all manner of sensitive information and data. As entry points into corporate networks and document management systems, MFPs demand security like any other IT asset. Cloud and mobile printing add urgency to this need.

Components of print management

Print management enables efficient workflows through the management of print devices, printed output, and costs wherever employees are working. A print management strategy should accomplish three objectives:

  • Manage print output costs. This refers to maximizing the use of paper, toner, and supplies to balance printing expenses with accessibility. For example, implementing rules-based printing such as forced duplexing, black-and-white output, and using quotas or billing codes to track usage, minimize reprints, and reduce non-essential printing.

  • Manage print devices. Know how devices are being used in terms of volumes, job types, and users to maximize fleet deployment. Is it time to redeploy or right-size? Is the device properly configured for the most frequently programmed finishing modes? What is the operational status? Remote management of device condition and preventative maintenance scheduling is critical to achieving maximum uptime.

  • Protect information. Whether confidential or not, information must be protected and secured. Printed documents often contain sensitive or personal information such as Social Security numbers, test results, or financial data. Without output management tools and policies in place, these documents can be printed and left sitting unattended in a printer exit tray where anyone could grab them. Print and output management should support capabilities such as user authentication and secured print release at a minimum.

How print management works

Without a means to centrally manage distributed printers, monitor usage, control output, and get ahead of preventable downtime, printing volumes can spiral out of control, leading to security risks and increased costs.

Print management services – often called managed services or managed print services – solve these problems.

The bigger the organization and its population of users and devices, the more urgent the need for it becomes – and the greater the savings that can be realized.

Print output management software helps to create accountability, control print output, and drive down print costs within the organization. As a byproduct of securing networked print devices, the information that passes through printers and MFPs is also protected.

At the core is a centralized tool through which IT managers can easily monitor device status and supply levels, track volumes, and connect with every print device installed on the network, improving device visibility and availability. Today, this is often a cloud application.

And now we get to the big value of managed print services. Print analytics collects data from print activity which can be used to better manage fleets, improve asset allocation, streamline supply ordering, and increase productivity for in-office, remote, and mobile workers.

Data captured from every print job can include output parameters, the cost to print the document, as well as the application, author, and device used to print the document, creating an audit trail for every printed page to comply with federal regulations in the event of a security breach.

Print management solutions

There are many print management solutions available. The challenge often lies in gathering the data and creating a print management strategy across entire fleets, diverse networks, and distributed workforces.

One-size-fits-all strategies are also impractical. Every organization has its own unique environment, a distinct mix of machines, and different network topologies, cloud strategies, mobile requirements, and printing policies.

 Oftentimes, the size and scope of the first step, figuring out what you need, is beyond the capabilities of the organization. There is too much work to be done. Outside, objective expertise helps analyze and align all elements of the business and determine what is required. 

Organizations that provide print analytics can help to fine-tune print environments, assessing practices and patterns of printer usage. When that data is properly organized, actionable insights identify places to improve efficiencies, helping achieve organizational goals.

With more and more print jobs being initiated remotely, secured mobile and cloud printing are becoming important components of every print management strategy – another area in which many organizations are out of their depth. 

Toward that end, many businesses are turning to Managed Print as a Service (MPaaS) to accelerate their digital transformation with a subscription model versus investing further in their current print infrastructure.

Scalable and flexible print device management and analytics solutions like those provided by Ricoh are designed to ensure device availability, optimize infrastructure for better total cost of ownership (TCO), create seamless workflows, and maximize security – all while freeing your teams to focus on core responsibilities instead of searching for information.

Contact us to learn more about how you can transform your print environment with Ricoh Managed Print Services and our MPaaS solution to centralize the control and security of your print output and devices.

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