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Business printing under the spotlight

You might think that printing is dead; that the rise of cloud storage, collaboration apps and other tech innovations have made the concept of printing your work out in physical format rather outdated.

You'd be wrong though.

Printing remains a vital part of many workplace IT systems, as demonstrated by Gartner's most recent print hardware, software and services forecast analysis, which predicts office devices will print almost 3 trillion pages over the course of 2017. What's more, both IT and line-of-business managers are taking an increasing interest in the print solutions used within the enterprise.

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Part of this is to do with the fact that there are so many issues at play when looking at enterprise print solutions. "The explosion in the use of mobile devices and thin clients in the workplace drives demand for printing wherever employees are," Gartner said. "There is also demand for an affordable mobile printing solution that is easy to use and manage and that meets IT security requirements.

"This is being driven by the diversity of mobile platforms and printing devices, the need to ensure documents are printed seamlessly and securely without compromising network security, and the need to control and monitor who is printing and what is being printed remotely."

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In fact, far from just being something you use to run off the occasional handout, print solutions are something that can have serious implications for your business - both positive and negative. There are huge cost savings to be made from choosing the right printer, but choosing the wrong one can prove to be a serious business risk.

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Security is one of the most important things businesses should be thinking about, and that's no less true for printing than it is for anything else. Every printer worth its salt now has network functionality, allowing users to print remotely, email documents and more. However, the dark side of these new capabilities is that unless properly secured and maintained, networked printers can be an easy way for hackers to get inside your corporate networks.

Hacked printers can be used as an entry-point to access more valuable business-critical systems, allow the attacker to spy on whatever you're printing, or can simply be rendered inoperable. Proof of this came earlier in 2017, when a grey-hat hacker going by the name Stackoverflowin' remotely hijacked around 150,000 unsecured printers. Similarly, security researchers from Ruhr University in Germany tested 20 printer models and found that all of them were vulnerable to multiple different attacks.

The physical security of printers is something to bear in mind, too. If you're in an open-plan office without access to a private printer and your company doesn't use follow-me printing, you could find yourself in a sticky situation. Dennis Publishing CTO Paul Lomax recounted a story from a company his wife was once at, where the finance department accidentally left a list of forthcoming redundancies sitting in the print tray - hardly an ideal scenario.

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Another factor to bear in mind is even if print volume goes down, that may not mean it's any less crucial for your business. "Actually, what we've found is that whilst everyone says they don't print anything anymore, when they do, it's really important," Lomax said. "As printer usage has gone down, the importance of printing, for those prints, has gone up." Printing remains vital to many people's way of working and businesses need to ensure they continue to support these employees.

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Compatibility is a key issue, too - it's all well and good buying a job-lot of cheap printers, but if the manufacturer doesn't issue up-to-date drivers for the latest operating systems, there's a good chance many of your employees won't be able to print anything, making them effectively worthless.

Printers are also generally tied into long term contracts from the supplier, with Gartner predicting some print solutions may have a lifespan of up to seven years by 2021. Make the wrong decision at the point of purchase and you could be saddled with a bum deal for the better part of a decade. This is one reason why it's so crucial to be absolutely sure you're making the right choice before you buy.

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TCO - or, total cost of ownership' - is another consideration that businesses should bear in mind. One print solution might seem like a good deal at the time, but if you take into account additional costs like ink, toner, paper and maintenance over the typical lifespan of an office printer, the costs can start to mount up very quickly indeed. In fact, according to Cartridge World's UK boss Paul Callow, the average UK office worker prints 10,000 pages every year.

Let's say you're a medium-sized business with 250 employees, achieving a rather cheap per-page printing cost of one penny for each A4 sheet of monochrome print - that's still going to cost you 25,000 per year. Considering the lifespan of the average business printer is between three and five years, you could be looking at adding an extra 125,000 to your Opex costs, on top of the upfront costs for the printer itself.

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When looking at print solutions, more and more businesses are adopting printers with eco-friendly' modes. The obvious benefit of eco-friendly printing technology, of course, is that it's better for the planet. Climate change is a serious problem and one that requires all of us - businesses included - to do all we can to mitigate it.

However, there are also notable business benefits to moving to an environmentally-friendly printing solution. One such benefit is lower energy bills from actually running the printer itself, another factor that goes into TCO calculations. A more power-efficient printer will leave you paying less money over its lifespan in electricity costs.

This is where devices like KYOCERA's ECOSYS range really come into their own, with a typical electricity consumption rate up to 58% lower than those from other manufacturers. The company has also pioneered toner only' technology which means that rather than regularly replacing the complete toner cartridge - which generally contains more than 60 separate parts made of various materials - customers only need to replace a 5-part toner cassette, significantly cutting waste, cost and the effort of recycling.

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These innovations are all included in KYOCERA's new ECOSYS M5526cdw multifunctional products and ECOSYS P5026cdw printers, which combine the company's pedigree in environmentally-sound printing with superb 1,200 dpi quality and modern print technologies like Wi-Fi integration, mobile printing support and dual scanning. They also offer easy management, fast print speeds and the lowest total cost of ownership in their class.

So, it turns out that printing may not be dead after all. When managed correctly, the right print solution can be a serious business asset, with benefits for productivity, cost and environmental impact. But please; don't call it a comeback.

For more information, please visit KYOCERA's website here

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