First Line Software is a premier provider of software engineering, software enablement, and digital transformation services. Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the global staff of 450 technical experts serve clients across North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
In order to make well-informed decisions about your IT environment, having timely and accurate information is essential. This blog post focuses on the collection, reporting, and analysis of print data from various sources. We will discuss strategies for collecting data effectively while avoiding any data gaps in your printing metrics. Furthermore, we will explore the diverse reasons behind the collection of print data based on different roles and responsibilities.
Preventing Data Gaps
To ensure comprehensive insights into your print environment, it is crucial to implement robust practices for collecting print data. As an owner of a centrally managed print service, collecting print data allows you to accurately allocate printing costs to individual departments, facilitating cost recovery and resource allocation. Additionally, it provides valuable insights into printer and multifunction device (MFD) utilization, helping identify instances of overutilization, underutilization, or non-utilization.
If you are responsible for assessing the environmental impact of printing, collecting print data becomes vital. It enables you to understand the volume of printing activities and their environmental consequences. This information empowers you to develop eco-friendly printing practices, reduce waste, and promote sustainability.
Service improvement professionals can leverage print data to understand why specific types of documents are being printed. This understanding enables them to enhance services for end users and customers by improving efficiency, reducing costs, and streamlining processes based on user requirements and preferences.
For security experts, print data holds significant value. By knowing who printed what, where, and when, they can effectively monitor printing activities, identify potential security breaches, and enforce print policies to ensure data confidentiality and regulatory compliance. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the required information and collecting specific data are fundamental aspects of effective reporting. In addition to the essential details concerning the physical print job, such as the number of pages, color or black & white, duplex or simplex printing, and the date/time of the print job, it is crucial to gather supplementary information for a complete overview. This additional data includes user identification, department, location, and origin details.
Once we have identified the data we need to collect, the subsequent step involves determining the potential sources from which we can obtain it. In the context of most large organizations, there are four primary sources of print data that can be utilized:
- Print spool servers
- Client devices
- Centralized applications
Collecting Data From Printers
Device-based accounting provides an overview of the entire printer fleet and gathers information such as the number of pages printed, ink or toner consumption, and maintenance requirements. DBA provides aggregated data from all users and prints jobs, offering a comprehensive view of printer utilization. Job-based accounting (JBA) focuses on gathering data at the individual print job level. It captures information such as document titles, the number of pages printed per job, color or monochrome printing, and finishing options (e.g., duplex or single-sided). JBA provides granular insights into each print job, enabling organizations to understand usage patterns and optimize printing workflows.
However, as anyone familiar with printers knows, there’s always a catch. Numerous printing devices lack DBA functionality and do not record the origin of print jobs. In the case of centralized applications, they often only report the remote/system user. Additionally, label printers, smaller print devices, and older models generally lack any accounting capabilities altogether.
Print Spool Servers
Print spool servers might initially appear to be the logical choice for data collection. Also known as a print server, is a dedicated computer or software application that manages print jobs sent from multiple client computers to networked printers. Instead of sending print jobs directly from a client computer to a printer, the print spooler server stores the print jobs in a queue, known as a print spooler. The server then processes the print jobs in the order they were received and sends them to the appropriate printer.
It creates a centralized queue to hold print jobs, allowing multiple users to send their print requests simultaneously. This ensures that print jobs are processed in a fair and organized manner, avoiding conflicts and delays.
Print spool servers provide tools and interfaces to monitor and manage print jobs effectively. Administrators can prioritize, pause, resume, or cancel print jobs as needed. They can also configure printing settings, such as paper size, print quality, and color options.
Then allows administrators to create printer pools, which are virtual printers that represent a group of physical printers. Printer pooling ensures redundancy and fault tolerance, allowing print jobs to be automatically rerouted to an available printer within the pool if one printer becomes unavailable or experiences an error.
After all, one would assume they have knowledge of what is being printed. However, a closer look reveals that traditional print spool servers primarily focus on spooling and routing print traffic rather than recording the actual content being printed. Furthermore, as enterprises increasingly adopt cloud-based and centralized infrastructures, they strive to minimize network traffic and server infrastructure by avoiding the routing of files through traditional print servers.
Client devices can provide valuable insights into the content being sent for printing, whether it is directed to a print server or sent directly to a client printer. However, accessing and reporting this data from client devices can be challenging due to the lack of a straightforward mechanism for such purposes.
First Line Software offers a robust printing solution that includes the implementation of print management software on all client devices within your network. Our software provides real-time monitoring of print jobs, capturing valuable printing data and generating comprehensive reports. With our solution, you can analyze printing patterns, track departmental costs, and implement print policies to encourage responsible printing behavior.
The print landscape has various elements, and components often overlook printing performed through centralized applications, which can account for a significant portion of an organization’s overall output. Sometimes more than twice. This oversight occurs particularly when the central application directly communicates with the printer or relies on spooling systems such as Linux, UNIX, or z/OS. Compounding the issue, legacy or centralized applications may employ different usernames or system accounts for printing on behalf of users, resulting in the loss of critical metadata associated with print jobs. Additionally, application-specific metadata may frequently go astray during transmission to servers or printers.
Therefore, it is imperative to prioritize understanding the availability and precise location of data, as well as identifying the most effective methods for data collection.
Print accounting software solutions typically engage with only a subset of the potential data sources mentioned earlier, providing varying levels of data accuracy. To achieve comprehensive print data collection, it is essential not only to gather information from all four aforementioned sources but also to enhance the data during the printing and collection process by integrating additional sources like Active Directory.
Building Your Data Capabilities
When evaluating print accounting software for your enterprise, it is crucial to expand beyond the apparent sources of print data to avoid succumbing to the challenges associated with the print data black hole.
For a wealth of valuable insights on printing, we invite you to explore our series of articles. Stay up to date by following us for the latest information!