Why a printer technology audit is more pressing than you think

January 28, 20194 minute read

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There’s no time like the present to conduct a technology audit of your network-attached devices—especially your oft-overlooked printers and copiers.

Unless your job title is “IT auditor,” you likely winced when you read that. Audits tend to be synonymous with drudgery, and your printers and copiers might seem like the least of your worries. However, your IT team might be spending hours each month changing cartridges and fixing printer jams—hours an audit could get back.

Outdated print tech is both a productivity and security risk. Aging printers and copiers can burden your team with an unpredictable maintenance workload and slow down business workflows. On the security side, printers are 68 percent more likely to be the source of an external threat or breach today than in 2016, according to a recent Spiceworks survey.

Performing an IT audit can help you understand how to make way for innovation by eliminating workflow bottlenecks and securing the data that flows to your printers.

Don’t underestimate your printers

You may feel shocked when you realize how many resources you dedicate to your outdated printers and copiers. The average company spends $9 managing print technology for every dollar actually spent printing. Aging office technology can also create constant interruptions for your IT team. Each trip away from your desk to fix a paper jam detracts from your other tasks. In fact, more than half the IT budget is spent just “keeping the lights on” and maintaining outdated tech at many organizations, according to BMC research.

There are also security risks associated with aging office tech. A staggering percentage of printers lack basic security safeguards, such as network segregation, administrative passwords, or updated firmware. The vulnerabilities inherent in outdated or misconfigured printers can result in some serious breaches, from printers that spew unwanted messages to hackers that use printers as a foothold into the corporate network.

If you don’t understand the health of your print fleet, you can’t gain control of your productivity and security. Auditing your environment is the first step away from a culture of firefighting. How can you start conducting a print audit? Follow these steps:

Step 1: Analyze

The first step, of course, is to create a centralized list of your company’s printers and copiers. Since older printers tend to be easily forgotten in the corner, the best way to complete this step is to simply walk around and count. For one educational institution with over 500 printing devices, the audit journey started with a physical walk around the campus to build a map of inventory, device type, and location.

If you end up surprised by the final count of what’s on your network, you’re not alone. In fact, HP’s Head of Security Practice Michael Howard revealed that, “I once worked with a client who had 10,000 devices on their network, which were invisible to the security team.” Most organizations suffer from a lack of visibility into their print environment—that’s why an audit is so important.

Step 2: Plan

Once you’ve discovered all your network-connected devices, it’s time to assess productivity losses. Play detective by analyzing help-desk tickets to understand which printers had the highest number of maintenance needs and observing employee workflows.

Maybe your HR department is reliant on manually scanning documents, which could be replaced with automated workflows for capture and route. Perhaps accounting manually prints faxes to create an audit trail, which could be handled by a smarter printer. Rely on a variety of data sources and interviews to understand opportunities.

Step 3: Deploy

With a clear vision of how your current print technology is creating workflow inefficiencies, you can now build a strong productivity case for investing in modern multifunction printers. Today’s best multifunction printers are smart, self-healing, hacker-fighting machines that automate data collection and streamline workflows for a more efficient workplace. Deploying smarter printers with built-in analytics will deepen your understanding of maintenance and business workflows to drive process automation.

Step 4: Manage

If you’re thinking you just don’t have time for a full technology audit of your printers, managed print services could help. With MPS, you can receive a thorough audit of all your devices, as well as analytics on how they’re performing and where bottlenecks occur. MPS partners can then work with you to streamline your digital and paper-based workflows, as well as deploy the best devices for your business, make sure they’re well-maintained, and ensure their security.

For one mining company, pursuing managed print services with HP enabled uninterrupted productivity, minimized staffing needs, and 15 percent savings on toner. According to the educational institution mentioned previously, investing in MPS gave IT so much time back that it felt like hiring “13 new, full-time IT staff.”

If you’ve ever had to stop an important project to service a printer, it’s time to consider an office technology audit that covers all network-connected hardware devices. Complacency can lead to inefficiencies, but upgrading your risky printers and copiers can make way for better productivity, security, and innovation.

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