One of the most delicate parts of an IT professional’s job is negotiating with users who want to buy their own IT tools, like peripherals or a one-off software package (their justification: it’s on their own department’s budget, so, you know, FREEDOM). A desktop printer is often one of those items that gets snapped up on a trip to the Office Supply store (“it was soooo cheap!”) and once one pops up, they can manage to proliferate like Gremlins under bright light.

One of the toughest parts of an IT professional’s job then becomes convincing a colleague to let go of their local printer. In some cases, a user needs dedicated access to a printer for volume or security purposes. Most of the time, though, these local printers become the “emotional property” of a colleague who just likes having it within arm’s reach.

Emotional attachment between users and personal printers? Emotional attachment plus security risk when a user installs it himself with the Default Password and it’s visible to the network? Well now the Gremlins are loose and running around under an open sprinkler head. Welcome to another chapter of Printer Mayhem.

What sort of Printer Mayhem do local devices create?

The cost of consumables is the most obvious issue. Different printer brands require different cartridges and offer little in the way of bulk purchasing advantages.

The more painful costs, though, hits the folks who wind up having to support them. These are those hard-to-quantify internal costs when these devices have issues – jams, error messages, a leaking cartridge, etc – and a help desk ticket gets created to deal with it. Local printers are notoriously difficult to manage proactively via asset management tools or a standardized print policy.

How to combat local Printer Mayhem?

Besides coming in on a weekend and having all of your annoying local printers mysteriously “go missing”, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the mayhem associated with them:

  1. Standardize on one model of printer.

    This is a good step to take if you just can’t loosen your colleagues’ grips on their dedicated device. A standardized model at least lets you do bulk supply orders, configure one type of toner alert, as well as train colleagues on basic “do-it-yourself” troubleshooting to avoid calls to IT. The cost of swapping out a fleet of desktop printers for the same make-and-model can be a lot less than you think: just ask us.
  2. Scan the network regularly for rogue printers.

    Most desktop printers get connected to a computer via USB, but sometimes users will share access and open their device to the network. As an administrator, if a quick walk-through of the hallways and cubicle aisles isn’t efficient, run a periodic search on your network to detect any new peripherals that may be connected and open to the network.
  3. Put all the printers under contract with a partner.

    This is a great step if you just want to have a budgeted monthly fee and minimize the hassle associated with your printer fleet. Printers under a managed service contract automatically get best-of-breed OEM or remanufactured toner(check out our blog on this) and when they yelp and moan with error messages, it’s often your contracted partners’ problem to address.
  4. Have a partner conduct a complete print audit.

    Sometimes implementing a cost-efficient approach to print management and user print policies means an emotional and political battle that’s not worth fighting on your own. By bringing in a partner, you can stand back while they identify the costs associated with ink-on-paper across your whole organization. This “print audit” would include local printers (we’ve even found them hidden in people’s file drawers), networked multi-function printers (MFPs), and anything that puts ink on paper. The quantitative impact of a print audit – especially when extrapolated to printing costs over one or more years – can be a great catalyst for change. 99% of the time, the per-page costs associated with one print environment vs. another (local color inkjet vs. color MFP, for example) can be orders-of-magnitude apart. Suggestions like consolidating 8 or 10 local printers into one new MFP and giving users private print and storage capabilities can pull in dollar savings and squeeze out security risk.

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Originally published August 16, 2017, updated August 8, 2018


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