One of the questions I frequently get from clients when we talk about their colour printing needs is, "How much is this going to cost to run?" They have heard the horror stories about over spending when they introduce in house colour print capabilities, or they have experienced them in the past.
I assure clients that there are strategies you can use to control colour. Easiest, but sometimes not politically correct is to not give every person access to the colour printer or colour multifunction. No access. No cost to run it. Of course this creates two classes of users, those who are approved for colour and those who are not.
Another strategy is to setup the colour printer so that users must enter a code to print. This is most easily done with multifunction devices since many of these (but not all so check for the capability before you buy,) have the ability to force a user to enter an code into the device or printer driver before they print colour. This forces the user to make a decision. Do I need colour or not? It avoids the inadvertent printing of documents in colour that could be monochrome. Setting the default mode on the print driver to monochrome accomplishes similar control, but without the delay caused by the need to enter a pin code.
Sometimes we setup two copies of the print driver on workstations so that the user chooses the driver called B&W for monochrome output (make it the default) and colour for colour output. This helps avoid the inadvertent use very easily and is more transparent to users. It takes a little more effort at the setup stage however.
So how do you know how much colour printing is really costing you. Most colour units have the capability to use an accounting code system to track the printed output and then calculate the cost of the prints generated using an approximate page cost. If the print device does not come with this capability there are third party print management software packages that will do it for you. Of course all of this effort has to be worth it. if you are not overly concerned and can manage your users' use of the capability then (often simply done with a user colour policy being established,) then you don't need to go to this extent.
In the end, the control of your colour costs can come down to the device(s) that you choose to handle the need. Colour laser printers can be very inexpensive capital devices. Colour multifunction devices are also much less costly than in the past. What needs to be understood is the components that make up the operating costs of the device. In general the operating costs as are inversely proportional to the capital cost. The more you pay for the device generally the lower the operating cost is going to be. Low cost network capable colour laser printers can cost as much as three or four times the amount to run as mid price laser printers and mid sized colour multifunctions.
How do you know? For an easy formula to calculate your cost of a colour printer's operation read Part Two, coming soon.
What has your experience with colour? Is it a necessity, or is it a waste of effort and money? Your comments are welcomed.