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Although student life at colleges and universities has evolved from using typewriters and desktop computers to smartphones and iPads for those Shakespearean essays and mathematical theorems, there is one thing that seems to be a necessity on campus: the printer. Students might have the latest gadgets, but they usually don’t have access to a printer in their residence halls. The college most often has to furnish such devices — which also include peripherals and copiers — or students need to buy their own printers for usage in their 
dorm rooms.

However, purchasing printers and copiers can be a really daunting task. Buyers can find the entire process in obtaining the peripherals to be a challenge. Plus, how does a university, which is already working with limited funds, acquire the print technology it needs without maxing out its budget?

Optimizing Usage With Audits
Many universities have a slew of various printers and peripherals from different manufacturers, making it a difficult task to manage and maintain these devices. Because manageability and reliability can be challenging, it is advisable to conduct a print audit.
The key step is an optimization process, which helps to determine if the right devices are already in place to handle the workload that the school has. Jeff Metze, Lexmark’s industry manager for education, explains their process. “We can meet with the college and review its current list of devices. Schools have to ensure that they are getting the maximum potential from the existing hardware they have. We have found that in most environments, about two-thirds of the present printer equipment is underutilized. In those cases, it’s critical that the customer optimizes its resources.”

An issue that affects many large universities is that much of a college’s infrastructure is departmentalized. Thus, various departments within the school have their own sets of computers, printers, and devices, which may not always encourage a cohesive network. This is where proactive management comes into play. Instead of waiting for a printer to break down and go offline for a period of days, routine maintenance can make a world of difference. Consistently maintaining the print devices ensures less downtime and less expense in the lifecycle for such equipment. 

Reducing Waste, Cutting Costs
It isn’t hard to imagine the vast reams of paper that a college might go through on any given day, let alone during the course of the entire school year. But all that paper can add up — a business process optimization solution to eliminate waste might be a good answer to this problem. This process determines which devices are being used the most and what types of projects are printed often. Once this information is gathered, colleges can find the right print solution to fit within their needs and budget.

A key headache for colleges is this scenario: a student clicks the printer icon on his or her computer but then gets sidetracked on the way to the printer. The document sits at the printer, never to be picked up. It eventually finds its way into the trash. That waste equates to a huge and unnecessary expense. Services like Lexmark’s Print Release, which essentially lets students submit their print jobs from computers or mobile devices to a centralized queue, can cut down on waste. Students would then find a printing device on campus, look up their print jobs in the queue, and choose the ones that require printing.

Metze adds, “There is a huge reduction in wasteful spending. Students only print what they need when they need it. Some colleges have seen a 20 percent reduction in paper and toner costs simply from using this print offering.”

Printing Procurement

A supplier database, like the one from SciQuest, enables college purchasers to look through details about various companies’ offerings. SciQuest has already compiled the necessary data on each supplier so that the information a buyer needs is right at his or her fingertips. A query feature will also pull suppliers from its database to provide to the purchaser who can then ask for the submission of contracts. Once the buyer has the contracts in hand, he or she can choose which company is awarded the equipment contract. 
 
Max Leisten, market director for SciQuest, says, “It’s designed to be similar to Amazon.com. We intended this to be a one-stop shop so that the faculty members can locate what they need quickly.”

The Latest Thing to Hit Campus
It’s uncommon for college students to have the option to print their documents in color. Most schools utilize monochrome printers because they are inexpensive, especially considering the massive number of jobs hitting the printers on school days. However, students now can not only print in color, but have a variety of other options available to them thanks to print kiosks that are popping up on campuses nationwide.

WEPA, which stands for Wireless Everywhere Print Anywhere, is a software platform that uses a cloud printing environment across a network of wireless touch-screen printing kiosks. Each kiosk contains a color printer and is designed specifically for the college setting. Students can wirelessly send their documents via a laptop, mobile device, iPad, or smartphone at any time of day or night from any campus location and can print Windows, Macintosh, or PDF files.

According to Frank Griffith, WEPA’s president and co-founder, “WEPA handles all the backend integration work with student ID providers to offer a fully managed, cloud-based print service. There’s no longer the need for colleges to have a contract and service agreement… when WEPA can provide print kiosks that offer so many benefits.”

Griffith continues, “The main advantage for the university is the conversion of a capital expense for the service contracts on the printers into a revenue-generating scenario where the university gets out of the printer business and lets WEPA manage it with the students.”

On average, a college may deploy 15-20 kiosks across its campus. Once deployed, the WEPA kiosks offer many benefits to the school. IT administrators are not tasked with the responsibility of buying or servicing the printers within the kiosks, as a contract with WEPA takes care of that. Students may use their standard college ID cards to log into the system and pay for printing services at the kiosks, enabling administrators to avoid the hassle of managing money. Additionally, students don’t have the inconvenience of going to off-campus shops to fulfill their color printing needs.

Spending to Save

One thing is almost certain in the printer world: Colleges will probably always have a need for printing documents. Fortunately, there are a variety of options out in the marketplace to help the higher education market manage, maintain, and optimize its printer resources. While the printer environment can be costly, it doesn’t need to be. Manufacturers offer solutions to help colleges and universities manage their printers and peripherals. These offerings are not always dirt cheap, but it is important to note that most times the solutions can offer significant cost savings in the long run. 

Karen Spring has been a technical writer for more than 10 years. She began her career working as a marketing specialist for two computer distributors and as a senior editor for an IT publishing and consulting firm. Ms. Spring contributes to a weekly newsletter that highlights network and Internet security topics.

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