Printing: Not all about cost

An illustration of a printer and accessories

When SMBs come to review their printing needs, cost is no longer the only issue on their agenda. Today, there are two other important considerations which come high on the list and help deliver important cost savings for the business.

In a recent white paper, SMB Buying Considerations for Smarter Business Printing, October 2012, sponsored by OKI Europe, analyst IDC identifies that environmental considerations remain high on the agenda.

Energy usage in particular is a significant issue, with almost half (46 percent) of European SMBs who responded to IDC’s 2011 SMB Hardcopy Survey identifying it as a major concern. So a reduction in energy consumption is an important priority for SMBs – and this will also have positive financial implications for businesses.

Measures to save energy within businesses can be very simple, for example ensuring that for everyday work, double-sided printing is the default option. Energy can be saved by turning printers off at night but in our experience at OKI, this often does not happen within businesses. In a recent survey we ran into the views and opinions of more than 2,000 office workers across all business sizes, 61 percent of respondents said that no-one in their office was responsible for this small, quick task.

Other green issues identified by the IDC Hardcopy Survey included the availability of hardware and consumable recycling programmes, the use of recycled paper and the need to reduce packaging. An IDC IT and Sustainability End User Survey from September 2011 found that nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of SMEs said that functionality such as duplex and reduced energy consumption were already part of their organisation’s green IT policy.

Environmental pressures are also increasing all the time. The European Union Energy-using Products (EuP) directive, which came into force in January 2013, requires all new print devices to incorporate additional energy-saving features such as ‘auto off’ mode, shutting down the device when its primary feature has not been in use for a certain amount of time.

Of course, in our view at OKI, all organisations, including SMBs, can significantly cut the paper and energy costs plus the environmental impact of all the printing just be developing and managing a print strategy. 27 percentof respondents to our own OKI survey said that their company had such a policy in place that was being actively enforced.

Getting more for your money

With space often at a premium within SMBs, the footprint of the device becomes key to the purchasing decision Though more versatile than their smaller counterparts, the value of earlier A3 devices was limited by the fact that they took up significantly more space and were significantly more expensive.

The latest designs now mean that the footprint of today’s A3 printers are only marginally greater than those of a typical A4. Printers with A3 functionality are also today typically much more affordable – and so purchasing them is now for the first time a serious option for many SMBs.

Secure printing

Security too continues to be a matter of concern for SMBs. Another IDC study, entitled The Importance of IT for Business Enablement Among Western European Vertical Markets in 2012, found that data protection ranked highest in importance on the ‘to do’ list of initiatives for European firms.

This issue is likely to grow in importance as more flexible working puts greater demands on the need for secure remote access to corporate networks. We are already seeing ever greater numbers of employees expecting to connect to office printers from their own smartphones and tablets. In the OKI survey, 24 percent of respondents said they brought their own phones and tablets into the office – and of these a substantial 45 percent print from these devices on the office printer. It clearly highlights the potential scale of the security problem all businesses face.

In meeting this challenge, print security software can play a key role in keeping company data safe. A growing number of SMBs are adopting options like digital document capture and storage solutions together with document security including user ID in order to help manage print devices.

Security packages ensure stringent authentication and restriction of access, as well as PIN protection so that sensitive documents can only be printed when the user enters their PIN or swipes their ID card. Document encryption also makes sure that documents sent across the network are kept secure until they are printed.

The good news is that, printing solutions vendors like OKI Systems are addressing these issues, so the best of today’s print products have taken a significant step forward in enabling businesses to print greener and more securely – and at lower cost.

Graham Lowes is marketing director at OKI Systems (UK)