09 August 2005

Printing in the Division

Looking for better ways to provide services to the Division.

As a result of our investigations into printing in the Division to establish some benchmarks for the design of a replacement program for the current aging stock of Divisional printers, the Technical Services Unit has implemented a remote monitoring system for the existing stock of networked printing and photocopying devices (at least those that can be connected to the network).

The present temporary system is now tracking some 50 printers and multifunction devices and further refinements are in progress, such as finding additional printers that aren’t in the list for any reason, seeing which vendors’ software gives us the best view of the devices (and supports other vendors’ devices as well as its own), and setting configuration options to give us a better understanding of the devices we are looking at.

Experience so far has reinforced the view that the development of a remote monitoring system not just for printers and multifunction devices but for all networked devices is way overdue: with proper monitoring the Technical Services Unit can become more proactive in managing issues as they occur, or even anticipating potential problems before they occur and preventing them from happening. For example, we can now see the percentage of toner remaining in the cartridges installed in most of the newer devices around the network, and can replace it before the it runs out, or advise the person responsible (in the case of multifunction devices, for example) that they need to monitor the machine in question.

It has also demonstrated that we must assess the capability of any proposed additional or replacement devices to make sure any such device will fit in with modern network-based monitoring facilities, particularly a single monitoring solution that can be used to monitor all the devices on the network.

The TSU is assessing network monitoring systems available from several different vendors to establish which ones provide us with the sort of flexibility we want before a final recommendation will be made. Although most of these monitoring products are free, such a decision will have an impact on the brands and types of devices we buy in the future, because we will want to be sure any new device fits in to the one monitoring scheme.

We intend initially to target for replacement some older printers and other devices that don’t fit in with any system so that a better service can be offered. Based on the current experimental system we will be able easily to provide regular reports on the scope and spread of printing (and eventually photocopying as photocopying devices become networkable) across the Division.