Three Tips to Cut Your SMB Printing Costs

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CIO Challenge: Grow the Business While Cutting Costs

It looks as if business conditions are starting to change for the better, which brings with it a whole other set of challenges.

Keeping IT systems running in a small and mid-sized business can be a particularly challenging task, with the IT department often pressed to find ways to reduce costs. This is a topic we're familiar with, and I've written in the past on pertinent topics such as 10 ways IT can save money for SMBs, and how SMBs can tap managed service providers to reduce costs.


Hence, I was immediately interested when Staples Technology Solutions sent along some tips to help SMBs save money on the printing front. Citing estimates made by Gartner, Staples says most companies have the ability to reduce their printing costs by 10 to 30 percent. I outline the tips below, as well as offer my own take on them.


Think before you buy


Before buying a printer, Staples recommends that organizations first hone in on their needs. Identify whether color printing is needed, or whether a black and white laser printer would suffice. Moreover, if faxing and scanning capabilities are required, a multi-functional printer could help save money and space, eliminating the need for multiple machines. Finally, it makes sense to check whether the printer has a "sleep mode" in order to save energy.


While I think multi-functional printers are a great invention, SMBs with medium to heavy printing requirements may want to consider getting a separate printer on top of the multi-functional. This will work great for organizations with only an occasional need to send faxes or photocopying, while having the use of a fast printer to serve their needs.


Encourage responsible printing


Businesses should encourage employees to use "draft" or "econ" mode where possible to reduce the amount of ink used, says Staples, noting that: "When printing slideshows, employees should format them so multiple slides fit on a page."


I couldn't agree with this more. Rather than rely on often forgetful staffers to do that, however, my recommendation is to implement this in reverse: The really quick way to kickstart this process would be to set "draft" mode printing as the default setting for all workstations in the office. Employees can then be taught how to override that for important business documents.


Mind the manufacturer's guidelines


Finally, Staples advised businesses to mind manufacturers' guidelines for their printers, especially when it comes to the topic of printing volume. To avoid printers getting burned out, SMBs should stay below the maximum printing volume recommended by their manufacturers, which is typically measured in the number of pages per month. "If you're consistently printing over capacity on a given machine, consider replacing that printer with a higher-volume one, or diverting traffic to a second machine," writes Staples.


While this last tip may appear intuitive, my experiences with SMBs have shown me that many employees will keep working with whatever printers they've been assigned - even if their needs have changed. When performing an audit to help bring down costs of an SMB, I encountered one department that was using a small inkjet printer to generate hundreds of pages of printouts a day. They were changing ink cartridges practically every day, costing the company hundreds of dollars per month. My suggestion: Perform regular audits of the printers in your SMBs to identify overused (or underused) printers.