3 reasons agencies should embrace managed print services -- now

Not long ago, office printers were a lonely piece of equipment sitting in a corner waiting for commands to produce documents. Aside from an occasional need to refresh ink and toner or conduct routine maintenance, printers got minimal attention.

Unfortunately, far too many government agencies still think about their network printers this way, even as they have become more feature-rich, internet-connected and critical to operational efficiency. This is a problem.

Over the past few decades, printer capabilities have changed dramatically. Not only have they added qualities we now take for granted, such as faxing and copying, they have grown into full-fledged, wireless network devices. Employees can access and print from almost any mobile device or location. And agencies can deploy printers capable of doing small or large batch jobs that once required the services of a professional print shop. These deceptively powerful, digitally enabled machines require top-notch expertise to maintain -- the type of expertise most government offices do not possess. Yet, many agencies try to do the job themselves.

Instead, agencies should consider the strategy employed by many private-sector enterprise organizations known as managed print services . MPS entails outsourcing holistic and efficient management of printing and imaging services to a vendor with expertise in these areas. Typically, that means hiring the printer manufacturer because it tends to be more familiar with the gear and can offer services at attractive prices.

In the private sector, the MPS market is expected to jump from $28.40 billion in 2016 to $50.78 billion by 2023, according to a recent report. So far, adoption by government has been light given the tremendous upside to MPS. Agencies should examine MPS for its potential value in three areas: efficiency, savings and security.

Better efficiency

In the private sector, 66 percent of business owners believe hardware and equipment offer more value when delivered as a service, according to a Quocirca report. With printer fleets, this is true. Contrary to popular opinion, most document costs are not in the infrastructure and management of the printers themselves, but in how people manage, share and store documents within their organizations or with customers and suppliers. This is where MPS shines.

One of the greatest advantages of using MPS is that providers will do a quick and accurate assessment of what is or isn’t working with a printer fleet -- and then make actionable recommendations for optimizing and streamlining processes and workflows while reducing downtime. 

For example, MPS providers might propose using multifunction printers to replace separate devices performing individual functions, such as copying, printing, scanning and faxing. Similarly, they might suggest locating printers in different areas according to usage patterns and needs. They would also ensure agencies always have the most updated and operationally efficient printers deployed as a standard part of the managed services. 

In addition, top providers will most likely use analytics tools to improve MPS outcomes. Analytics can enhance operational performance over time by constantly monitoring and evaluating how printers are used in various areas of an organization, watching for maintenance issues that might suggest a need for equipment repair or replacement.

Reduced costs

Analysts say organizations can save up to 30 percent when operating printer fleets with MPS. This is largely because the operational improvements provided by MPS ultimately save money. Providers can typically manage printing more cost effectively than government organizations because they have the right people, knowledge and equipment.

For example, by using analytics to determine the right places to install equipment, providers can reduce the number of printers per employee in an agency, meaning fewer supplies and less wasted paper. MPS providers can also systematically replace older, more maintenance-hungry machines with newer, more efficient models that use less energy.

Time is also money, and because MPS relieves IT managers of the responsibility of servicing and supporting printer fleets, agencies don’t have to pay staff to keep them up and running.

Avoiding security incidents

Modern printers are not that different from personal computers in that they have internal storage and memory and are connected to the internet. This means they are also as vulnerable to attacks as any PC -- and hackers know it. But most organizations still think of printers as inert, disconnected devices. As a result, 43 percent of IT professionals surveyed by Spiceworks in North America, the Asia Pacific region and in Europe, the Middle East and Africa said they completely ignore printers in endpoint security practices. And according to another study, just 18 percent of CIOs see printers as being at risk for a data breach, compared to PCs at 91 percent, mobile devices at 77 percent and servers, also at 77 percent.

This points to a huge potential vulnerability for government that has already suffered plenty of data breaches. Recently, the Associated Press reported that Russian hackers attacked at least 87 people working on advanced U.S. defense technology, including drones and rockets. A few years ago, Russians allegedly hacked the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, and around the same time Chinese hackers allegedly penetrated the Office of Personnel Management, compromising the personal information of more than 21 million people. This is a serious issue.

According to the Government Accountability Office, the number of cyber incidents reported by federal agencies rose substantially between FY2006 and FY2016 (from 5,503 to 33,632 incidents). And while the frequency of attacks has slowed slightly, the overall number is still rising.

MPS providers can assist in minimizing the chances of hackers injecting malware into unprotected printers and copiers by providing complete security assessments and installing equipment with built-in security measures. Not all printers are created equal in this regard, and top providers can recommend the right gear for maximizing the security posture of government agencies.

Clearly, MPS can help agencies enhance their security, strategically trim costs and improve operational efficiency.  Companies today are increasingly outsourcing business functions to service providers when it falls outside of their core areas of competency. Government agencies have an opportunity to do just that -- and apply resources more effectively -- with MPS.

About the Author

Dr. Tommy Gardner is chief technology officer for HP Federal.


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