InfoPrint: Getting to the Center of the Problem
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IT managers have historically sought enterprise print management solutions that deliver efficient and effective use of printing resources, while addressing the special issues presented by enterprise-wide printing and practical end user requirements such as access to a variety of input and output options. Now vendors are responding to the market by providing enterprise printing solutions that utilize a combination of software and a variety of new-generation printers to deliver the benefits IT managers seek, marking an industry trend toward centralized print management in the enterprise environment that provides flexibility of use, and – in many cases – lower total cost of ownership.
Centralized Print Management
Printing in an enterprise environment has traditionally been fragmented. Frequently, the enterprise printing floor has been dominated by specialized printers for particular platforms or applications, often requiring individualized support staff. For example, in many businesses, mainframe output is routed to certain printers, LAN output is routed to other printers, and graphic documents are printed by still another set of devices, creating a print management nightmare for IT managers and a reduction in printer efficiency. Often, users are not notified when a job has printed, leading to high waste from reprints. In some instances, LANs are clogged with print jobs incorrectly queued or otherwise mismanaged. Because the printing solution is not integrated into core business applications, such as SAP, the user may be unaware that a job has been misrouted. In these cases, pooling applications to a scaleable range of printers driven by centralized print management software creates efficiency by unifying functions and providing comprehensive print management.
InfoPrint Manager, a software solution created by IBM, features plug-in architecture for existing mission-critical applications (e.g., SAP/R3) that provides centralized print management that interfaces with the existing system. Stan Bradshaw, president and CEO of the Richardson, Texas-based Bradshaw Group, a provider of high speed printers, indicates that one of the fastest-growing segments of the enterprise printing market includes customers who are utilizing SAP for control and management of business processes, but who are not necessarily adequately addressing their needs with respect to printer management. In these instances, a comprehensive software solution for print management can be a logical next step in their entire document management solution. In fact, this type of software can significantly reduce or even eliminate loss of essential print jobs such as invoices, which without comprehensive tracking and management may be spooled and then lost in a fragmented enterprise printing system.
InfoPrint Manager allows users to submit print jobs in a range of formats, including GIF, JPEG, TIFF, AFP, PCL or Adobe Postscript to a single system, which then manages, prints, stores and reprints the data. Users can submit print jobs into the queue directly from whatever application they choose, saving valuable time by avoiding a multi-step process. Industry studies have shown that on average 40 percent of help desk calls are printer-related. InfoPrint Manager allows simultaneous monitoring of all print jobs and provides comprehensive print and job control, including centralized configuration. This feature allows IT staff to create, delete and configure printers and cues, change media supported by a printer, interrupt printing, monitor job and printer status, modify jobs, recover from printer and job errors, enable and disable printers, hold, release and cancel jobs, all in a comprehensive, centralized manner.
Additionally, IT managers will appreciate the fact that a Web feature integrated into InfoPrint Manager permits them to submit, store and retrieve print jobs remotely. Specifically, they can manage jobs, printers and their server systems from almost anywhere. This feature is particularly valuable in a distributed printing environment, where IT managers and staff need no longer feel shackled to their desks when monitoring business-critical printing.
The case for centralized management software is particularly compelling when the efficiencies of high-production printers are factored into the equation. For example, if a business is generating billing statements using a high-production printer such as the IBM InfoPrint 3000 or 4000, yet does not adequately utilize the printer at off-peak times, InfoPrint Manager may allow the human resources department to print 1000 copies of an employee manual during what would ordinarily be idle time for the production printer. After the print job is submitted into the queue, InfoPrint Manager could schedule and manage the job during idle time.
However, regardless of the capabilities a particular printing solution provides, IT managers are ever-concerned with its scalability in today’s fast-growth business environment. Any enterprise printing solution must be able to grow in size and capability without compromising the initial investment. InfoPrint Manager, for example, promises scalability for networks of all sizes, from LAN to WAN.
In today’s enterprise printing environment, IT managers not only are concerned about capturing pages and ensuring that they go to print, but are also looking for an enterprise-wide printing solution that integrates into the greater document management solution for all parts of their businesses. Some of the possible applications for InfoPrint Manager include business statements, books, mission-critical applications (such as SAP or Tivoli), industrial, direct mail and one-to-one marketing.
The benefits of InfoPrint Manager are evident with respect to business statements, an area of enterprise printing often characterized by short production windows and focus on cost, customization, printing integrity, and availability of printer resources. InfoPrint Manager addresses each of these areas by providing the management necessary to meet user expectations for integrity and customization.
Using the Library feature of InfoPrint Manager, the text of books, manuals and journals may be stored and printed on demand. This is particularly helpful for out-of-date books, which now may be printed as needed.
Regarding SAP and Tivoli applications, InfoPrint Manager is SAP/R3 certified and does not require modification of SAP upon installation. It provides feedback about job status in a SAP environment, and enables users to add forms, logos and signatures to SAP output. Additionally, InfoPrint Manager can convert SAP output (OTF) to various data streams using access methods in SAP. In a Tivoli environment, InfoPrint ManagerPlus for Tivoli allows users to control InfoPrint Manager from the Tivoli TME 10 console. Users may distribute InfoPrint job submission packages to users across the Tivoli managed region and send Tivoli events to the Enterprise Console when InfoPrint Manager logs messages. The industrial environment in particular may benefit from InfoPrint Manager’s SAP integration capabilities, as the software can track invoices, packing slips and shipping instructions, ensuring that business-critical documents are printed accurately and efficiently.
Users producing direct mail and marketing materials can take advantage of InfoPrint Manager to customize mailings and marketing materials and to enhance documents with color. Additionally, the InfoPrint Submit feature allows for merging of text and graphics, and users can incorporate a wide range of items into printed material ranging from database entries to rotated graphics. When combined with the appropriate printers, this technology provides the flexibility users need together with the speed and efficiency required to produce mass mailings and large quantities of marketing materials.
With respect to end user flexibility in an enterprise environment, IT managers know that individuals may want the ability not only to print a document, but also to view without printing or perhaps delay printing, to store a document in a library format, or to utilize fax, e-mail, scanning technology or the Internet. This is perhaps the fastest-changing area of enterprise-wide printing solutions, as vendors rush to meet individual user demand for flexibility in document management.
IBM InfoPrint Manager allows users to send and receive fax data globally from the desktop. Users may also e-mail a PDF document for viewing or printing. The InfoPrint Manager Library feature allows long-term storage and retrieval of frequently used documents and permits users to search for jobs and files by key words, date of creation or author. InfoPrint Manager also provides scanning support for hard copy input. Scanned documents are automatically cleaned up and aligned, and scanned files can be saved as PDF documents for view, print, or Internet distribution.
The Web feature permits a user to utilize a Netscape or Microsoft Web browser to manage printers. Users may send documents to print over the Internet, thereby utilizing a "virtual network." For example, a user may create and view a document in one city, and - using the Web feature - print the document in another city. The Web feature also allows users to transfer output from InfoPrint Manager onto a Web site.
Users also want to create documents in a variety of formats using a number of different platforms and have the ability to submit these documents into the queue without concern about printer addresses and capabilities. When InfoPrint Manager is combined with printers such as the InfoPrint 3000 or 4000, users may easily do this and may also take advantage of current publishing applications such as Quark or Pagemaker. Additionally, InfoPrint Manager assures users that large printing projects, such as presentations and brochures, are printed on the most efficient and appropriate printer, as InfoPrint Manager can support up to 1000+ page-per-minute printers and color printers.
Although it provides increased flexibility, software such as InfoPrint Manager is most effective when combined with advanced printers to create a total enterprise printing solution. IBM’s InfoPrint 4000 High Resolution Duplex Printing System, a high-speed, high-volume duplex continuous-forms printing system allows enterprise customers to use more complex applications, and the InfoPrint 3000 Advanced Function Printing System, provides quality and speed while taking into account budgetary constraints and physical space requirements.
The InfoPrint 4000 system combines a printer with complete print file submission and print management processes for PostScript Level 2 or 3 and legacy Advanced Function Presentation ("AFP") applications. AFP is IBM’s printing architecture that provides enhanced printing capabilities, including application flexibility and WYSIWYG viewing of documents before or after printing. The key to this enhanced flexibility is the printer’s control unit, which allows switching between 480- and 600- dpi resolutions. Hence, operators may choose the resolution to meet the needs of both traditional AFP production printing and Adobe Postscript jobs. Today’s businesses often need to produce high-quality, graphics-intensive documents, as well as production print documents, such as billing statements and reports, and the InfoPrint 4000 presents a single solution to these printing requirements.
The InfoPrint 3000 incorporates many of the same features available to InfoPrint 4000 users, including integration of AFP architecture, which allows users to print up to eight logical pages on a duplex sheet; print vector graphics, compressed images and text anywhere on the page; print with multiple character sets or fonts; and enjoy WYSIWYG viewing of the document before or after printing. The InfoPrint 3000 is also equipped with a control unit that enables operators to switch between 480- and 600- dpi resolution.
Total Cost of Ownership
Unfortunately, the total cost of ownership of a printing solution may be easily overlooked if an IT manager focuses solely on the initial equipment cost when evaluating a variety of enterprise printing solutions. In order to make the most effective decision, total cost of ownership must be considered from a comprehensive viewpoint prior to purchase.
Traditionally, cost of ownership discussions with respect to enterprise printing solutions have centered around the costs of equipment, maintenance, supplies and consumables. In the case of high-production printers, the efficiency of the newest machines - such as the IBM InfoPrint 4000 - is in itself a significant factor. These printers generate output at such high speeds and maintain such outstanding print quality that larger print jobs are more cost-effectively processed. The newest model added to the IBM InfoPrint 4000 series of printers prints up to an accelerated 708 impressions per minute. In an enterprise printing environment, this means higher resolutions may be utilized to produce more effective business statements, for example. Additionally, the InfoPrint 4000 is available with pinless drive technology that allows the printer to run plain paper as well as traditional tractor-fed paper. This technology radically reduces dust and waste materials. By eliminating needless paper trim, businesses realize substantial cost savings.
The InfoPrint 3000 printer is a particularly appropriate solution for smaller enterprises with budget constraints, as not only the initial investment but the supply and maintenance cost is lower, and it provides such versatility of use. Its lower cost may permit IT staff to place the printer in multiple locations for a distributed printing environment, or replace multiple low-volume printers at each location with a single InfoPrint 3000. Because the InfoPrint 3000 accepts either 240-, 300- or 600-dpi data streams, overall printing costs may be reduced by eliminating redundant printers that had previously been maintained to provide this flexibility. Additionally, the printer has a growth path from a simplex to a duplex system, and, based on application needs, users may run a duplex system as two independent simplex machines. The printer may also be used as a cost-effective back-up for excess production-print workloads or it can function as a primary printer if necessary.
Beyond the factors typically considered with respect to total cost of ownership, IT managers now are also considering the cost-savings produced by centralized print management and the flexibility it brings to the enterprise table. For example, with InfoPrint Manager, users may take advantage of the "free" Internet to send and print documents, thereby creating a virtual network. Comprehensive monitoring of print jobs reduces waste by eliminating misprints and reprints. Integration with SAP functions allows InfoPrint Manager to track business-critical jobs such as invoice printing, thereby avoiding lost invoices. Paper use can be dramatically decreased within an organization when InfoPrint Manager is used to fax documents, and heavily used documents such as forms may be scanned into the InfoPrint Manager Library, where users may retrieve them directly onto the desktop, thereby reducing photocopying expenses. InfoPrint Manager, together with the appropriate printers, may also maximize printing assets by eliminating single use printers and/or ensuring that the flexibility of each device is utilized fully.
In summary, centralized print management software, combined with the appropriate printers, can provide a cost-effective enterprise printing solution that implements the flexibility both IT managers and end users seek in today’s connected business environment. Although no particular solution is a panacea for the infinite problems encountered in the enterprise printing environment, IBM InfoPrint Manager provides significant benefits, including more efficient, centralized print management for printers, fax machines and other devices and seamless integration into existing business systems. Additionally, users may enjoy a wide variety of scanning, library and Internet applications that enhance both creativity and productivity.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Deegan is Manager of Technical Support at The Bradshaw Group (Richardson, Texas), a distributor of printers and a custom integrator of software technologies for enterprise-wide printing solutions in distributed and high-production environments. For more information, call (972) 644-7558 or visit their Web site at www.bradshawgroup.com.