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Choosing the Right Device Management Solution

9 Jul, 2007 By: Trevor Hofer imageSource

Choosing the Right Device Management Solution

If you are a dealer or VAR and you haven’t heard by now that remote meter
reading and supplies management solutions can benefit your business, then don’t
bother reading any further.

Most dealers and VARs are aware that remote meter reading and supplies
management solutions can benefit their business and provide a value-add for
their customers.  However, there seem to be dozens of these solutions available
today and many appear to perform the same functions.

How does one decide which device management solution is right for them?
Despite the similarities on the surface, the accuracy, reliability and power of
device management solutions will vary greatly from vendor to vendor.  Choosing
the wrong solution can result in lost customers. So let’s examine the different
types of device management tools that are available and the steps that can be
taken to ensure that the best solution is chosen.     

OEM vs. Third-Party Solutions

Most of the major OEMs have their own device management solutions, some of
which are available for free. For example, Ricoh has @Remote, Canon offers its
dealers imageWARE Enterprise Management Console (EMC) and of course, just about
everyone has heard of HP’s WebJet Admin. OEM solutions can perform many useful
functions: firmware upgrades, device configuration, and driver installations.
However, their meter reading and supplies management capabilities can be limited
– particularly in mixed device environments. OEM device management solutions
cannot collect detailed meter readings and toner levels from their competitor’s
devices. Some OEM solutions are also limited to specific device models and
therefore will only be suitable in a limited number of client sites. Given that
there are some limitations, it is recommended that they are used in conjunction
with a third-party solution, which will offer a broader feature set and support
a wider range of print devices.

Choosing a Third-Party Solution

Most third-party device management systems will offer similar core functions
such as meter reads, service alerts and reporting. However, these solutions were
not created equal and their features should be examined closely before a
decision is made.  

Meter Reads

Accuracy is critical

While device management solutions are able to gather meter reads to some
extent, how accurately they perform this task is critical to the success of your
cost per copy program.   Remember, the fastest way to lose credibility with your
customers is to charge them incorrectly.   

Again, there are very few device management systems that can accurately
capture data from all of the major OEM’s devices. While most vendors can capture
life counts, they may not be able to consistently distinguish between color and
black & white prints. This is due to the fact that the information required to
read these meters is proprietary and kept in a database within the devices. The
data can only be dependably accessed if the OEM has given the software vendor
this private information. 

There are two ways that you can confirm that a device management vendor has
extensive device support: First, ask them if they have established relationships
with all of the OEMs, and second, be sure to try before you buy. 

Service Alerts

Must be highly filterable

Service alerts are designed to notify dealers of critical issues that can
affect device usability. They can also inform you of less critical issues that
can be indicative of a potential problem. For example, an email notification can
automatically be sent out when a paper jam occurs. The device management system
you choose should have advanced filtering options that let you limit
notifications to those which are most relevant to your business.  Without the
ability to filter, a user may be emailed repeatedly whenever a paper jam is
detected ona machine – this can quickly become a hassle rather than a

Advanced filtering options allow users to be much more specific with the
notifications they receive. For example, one could choose to be notified only if
a machine jams a certain number of times within a day. This can help dealers
pinpoint serious issues that are costing them money without burying their
service personnel in alert notifications. 

Toner Levels 

Needs depletion times & online ordering

Device management systems should have graphical representation of toner
levels to let the user see at a glance, which devices are in need of supplies.
The toner level indicators make “just in time” delivery possible by sending an
email when devices are running low on toner. 

A quality system will estimate the toner depletion time based on a company’s
historical print data. If only percentage values are shown for the toner levels,
the system will not be reliable for that “just-in-time” delivery. Toner usage
varies heavily from organization to organization, so a Time to Depletion Report
is preferable to simply reporting the percentage of toner remaining.

Lastly, dealers and VARs will benefit greatly from a device management
solution with online toner ordering capabilities that allow their customers to
order toner with the click of a button.


Choose a system with flexible & customizable reporting

Reporting features are used to generate billing statements and perform trend
analysis.  A device management system should have highly customizable reports,
easy print device grouping, and powerful scheduling capabilities. The solution’s
reporting tools should also allow data to be easily exported into third-party
accounting systems.


Remote configuration tools will save you time

Most device management systems track printing via a software component which
is installed onto a computer at a customer’s site. This software will have to be
updated periodically; for example, to make changes to the network configuration
or add support for new devices. Some device management solutions require that
these changes are done in person at the customer’s site. Clearly, it would be a
hassle for you to visit a customer whenever an update is required.

Fortunately, there are solutions available with fully automated updating
features and remote configuration tools. With the right solution, configuration
and troubleshooting can be done from anywhere using a web browser.

Technical Support

Be sure to test it

Before choosing a vendor it is important to get familiarized with their
technical support.  Does the company have a reputation for providing high
quality support? Is there a cost associated with it? Is it easy to access?  Are
the support reps competent? An easy way to answer many of these questions is to
test the support during a software trial period.   

Installation Options

Hosted solutions reduce hassles

Device management solutions typically have two installation options –
stand-alone or hosted. Stand-alone solutions require the dealer or VAR to host
the necessary server software themselves. This means that dealers/VARs must
provide the computer hardware and bandwidth and have the technical expertise to
maintain the system.

In most scenarios a hosted solution will be the best choice. Hosted solutions
are maintained on a remote server by the device management vendor and as a
result require far less resources to operate.

If privacy is a concern, use of a well-negotiated contract is usually much
less expensive than purchasing a stand-alone solution. Build security concerns
into the contract.

Pricing Options

You get what you pay for

Remember that you generally get what you pay for. Beware of free systems
since their device support is limited. A system’s pricing structure should be
straight-forward – without monthly fees or setup fees. The ideal device
management solution will be priced based on the total number of devices or pages
being tracked.

Free Trial

Always try before you buy

As hinted above, the only way to ensure that a solution is worthy of your
time and money is to try it. Perform a minimum of one 30 day trial period before
making a commitment, and be skeptical of any company that is reluctant to give a
free trial. 

By following these guidelines, dealers and VARs can be rewarded with a
reliable solution that will greatly increase their productivity as well as the
level of service that can be offered to their clients.   

Remember, device management solutions providers are like phone companies. If
you’re not satisfied with your current provider, you can easily switch to

Trevor Hofer is Print Audit’s Marketing Manager. Since 2002 he has helped
Print Audit become the fastest growing print management solution company in the
world. Trevor now oversees Print Audit’s marketing and public relations
initiatives. Contact Trevor at (877) 412-8348, by email at
thofer@printaudit.com, or visit

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