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How to Make Multi-Site Printer Management Easy

IT manager sitting at desk on the phone looking relaxed and smiling.

Do you need to manage printers across different locations? No matter what kind of business you're in, supporting end-user technology across multiple sites can be tricky.

Whether you're a retailer with 150 stores plus an HQ or a business with 5 offices across the Australian capital cities, you probably have an IT situated in one location but need to support users in other locations. The physical distance between the IT team and the users may lead to delays in addressing problems, which can interrupt the smooth operation of your business. For certain processes that rely on printing, printer downtime could put a halt to critical parts of your business.

The 6 biggest challenges of managing printers across multiple business locations

Lack of control leads to runaway costs

In many businesses that we speak to, we hear complaints that each site has gone rogue when procuring printers, directly procuring their printers or signing up with different managed print providers. Some of the worst examples include businesses that have 5 or 6 different contracts or retailers with 50+ stores all buying different printers and consumables from local suppliers. When we ask these businesses how much they spend on print each month, some come back with a confounded "I really don't know", and that's a big problem.

A lack of control over the procurement processes can significantly impact a company's bottom line. When stores purchase devices and toner from random suppliers without any oversight, they often pay more than necessary and are giving up the bargaining power that could be had if the whole business negotiated a print solution with a single supplier.


Support difficulty and delays can lead to downtime

Has your mum ever called you on a Sunday afternoon and asked you how to do something specific or fix an issue with her iPhone? Did she explain the problem clearly? Were you able to fix the problem without getting your hands on the phone? Welcome to the life of a remote IT support specialist.

In multi-site businesses, a major pain point for IT is how they can effectively manage and support technology remotely. It takes longer to fix issues as they're relying on staff on-site to communicate the right information and take the actions that IT have told them to. This can lead to employee frustration, and more importantly downtime of print devices. This downtime may completely halt work that relies on printing and cause delays that can lead to lost revenue or customers.


Printers aren't set up to be monitored and managed

A key challenge that stems from a lack of control is that printers are often set up incorrectly when deployed without the involvement of the IT team. Often they are just connected via USB to a single laptop or desktop that is used to print. Because they haven't been connected to the network or set up with print monitoring tools, the IT team can't monitor or manage these printers - they may not even know they exist!

The lack of visibility makes it difficult to detect problems early and resolve them before they escalate. Firmware updates, critical errors, and consumable alerts can easily be missed by onsite staff. When these issues go unresolved, the site may experience printer downtime that stops operations, incur a security breach, or lead to a complete breakdown that requires a costly replacement.


Manual toner ordering

As employees, none of us are perfect. It's easy to forget the little things, like ordering toner for your printer. Large, multi-site businesses can churn through a lot of toner, and if the ordering of toner isn't automated, it can quickly lead to printer downtime while you wait on a new order to be dispatched. If you run out of toner at critical sites, like a warehouse that needs to print shipping labels, then you could see your ability to service customers stop entirely.

Additionally, when each site is managing its own printers, the time spent managing your print devices multiplies. You're also going to be paying a higher cost for consumables as individual sites work with local suppliers instead of negotiating a single price for the whole business.


No standardisation of printers

When sites act independently, your business may end up with dozens of different printer brands and models. This becomes a time-consuming nightmare for your IT team to manage and support as they'll need to have specific knowledge of more printer models. Support calls will take longer to resolve as they try to work out how to support a specific device. Employees who work across multiple sites are also left confused and potentially unable to use printers if they're not familiar with, or don't have the right firmware to use a device.


Deploying new printers and updating printers

When it comes time to deploy new printers to your sites, coordinating the rollout of new printers or updating existing configurations across multiple locations can be massively time-consuming and costly. You need to ensure staff onsite are capable and available to help, that the printer is configured correctly to the network, and that the printer meets any unique physical or technical requirements. If you don't have skilled personnel at each site and clear communications, then it is easy to waste a great deal of time with a slow rollout.


How you can make multi-site print management easy

1. A single print management provider

Using a single provider for printer management across all locations can greatly improve your print solution. By having one point of contact for support, you can make it easier to manage your printers and reduce the time you spend coordinating with different providers. Outsourcing your support to a managed print provider means your IT team will have more time to focus on higher-priority tasks and your staff won't be derailed by printer downtime.

You'll also gain complete visibility over your print spend and the ability to put into place solutions that reduce your spending. And you'll be able to use your greater bargaining power to negotiate the best possible price.


2. Automating toner and consumable orders

Automating toner and consumable deliveries can help reduce downtime due to low supplies and ensure you're able to print, whenever you need to. With simple print monitoring software, your consumable levels are tracked, and toner and other consumables are dispatched before you need it. Your staff won't need to waste time ordering toners or suffer from downtime caused by running out of toner.


3. Centralise monitoring and reporting

Implementing a centralized monitoring and reporting system for printer management can provide better visibility into printer usage, performance, and potential issues. Your printers can be kept up to date with the latest firmware, your toner orders can be automated, and your invoices can be accurate without needing to provide a meter read. Not only that, but your print provider can review your usage with you and recommend ways to further reduce your print spend through software solutions or consolidating your fleet.


4. Standardise print models

Standardizing printer models and consumables across all locations makes it easier for your staff who work across multiple sites. With the same devices in every location, your staff can print from anywhere with ease. This standardisation also gives you access to backup toner supplies. If you're using models with the same toner, you'll have a shared pool of consumables to use if one printer has a spike in usage and a toner replacement hasn't arrived in time.


5. Use smart software to make deployment a breeze

When it comes time to upgrade your printer fleet or install new devices, software solutions like Print Deploy from PaperCut make it easier to set up new printers without needing to send your IT personnel to each site. Printers can be configured in minutes, and your onsite team don't need to worry about communicating back and forth with IT to work through the process of setting up the printer.


6. Eliminate your print servers and go serverless

Serverless printing makes it easier to set up printers and helps reduce the chance of your print infrastructure going down. By moving to serverless print, your staff will be able to print faster, your IT team won't need to waste time supporting your print servers, and you can move to a cloud-based solution that is scalable and aligns with your overall IT strategy.


Need a little help?

Managing printers across multiple sites can be a daunting task, but with the right strategies in place, you can make it simple. If it sounds like a lot of work or if you want to free up your IT team from the burdensome task of managing your printers, we're here to help. Multi-site print management is Enabl's bread and butter, with successful projects for customers like Beacon Lighting, Infinity Pharmacy Group, Avis, and GWA (who produce Caroma products and more).


Get in touch with our team to learn more about how we can help you manage printers across all your business locations.