What is printer analytics?

(Image credit: Pixabay/mohamed hasan)

There’s a basic business principle related to information gathering that is truer today than ever before - the best decisions are always based on the best data. When you collect enough information, you can make more informed decisions, which leads to great success.

Fortunately, data analysis is now reaching every area of business, including printer analytics. The basic idea here is to examine how printers are used, how many prints employees make, how often they use devices in specific areas, monitor the ink and paper usage at your company, and several other factors that can help you make the most of your printer investments.

Printer analytics has become a vital part of a digital transformation strategy because it helps companies analyze their workflow and study the impact of new technology. An example of this has to do with the new W-Fi 6 standard. With printer analytics, a company can analyze how this faster, more reliable standard helps improve workflow for printing. If the new technology is greatly improving the printing process, a company can decide to invest in it more. 

Printer analytics tends to fall into two categories. On one micro level, you analyze the specifics such as how often employees print and which devices they use the most often. This helps you develop a printer and workflow strategy. You might decide to generate an analytics report that only analyzes one team or department and how often they print to one device.

On a macro level, your analytics should also include summaries and overall findings that help you develop a business strategy for all areas of your company and for all departments. And, these summaries might roll-up to an overall analytics effort. That means printer analytics summaries can become part of your analytics for document storage, security, networking, and even web usage also that you have a better understanding of all business operations.

1. Placement of printers and usage

One of the most interesting examples of how printer analytics can help a company is related to the actual placement of the devices in an office building. There’s a rich set of data you can analyze that will impact your workflow strategy. For example, printer analytics can help you discover that one printer in the marketing department is too far away from the employees. You might discover they are using a higher-end model that is closer to where they sit in the office. And, you can compare the usage of one printer on a small team versus a similar device used by a larger team. This helps you determine if you need to add more printers or adjust your workflow strategy.

It’s important to note that printer analytics should be an on-going activity, not something you do only once in a while. Employee habits change and an ongoing printer analytics strategy means you will routinely track which printers are used the most, which devices are under-utilized, and how each team at your company makes the most use of all printers. 

2. Ink and paper outputs

Related to the placement and usage of printers, analytics can help companies determine the level of consumables, such as ink cartridges and paper, being used. This step in analyzing your printers may require the use of third-party software or the logistics network you currently use (analyzing paper usage as it relates to ordering supplies, for example). 

Many printers do provide some analytics data such as how many prints have been made in a given week or month. Printer analytics is often an exercise in correlating data. For example, a good printer analytics strategy will look closely at the total number of printouts compared to the ink cartridge usage, and compare those results to how often employees use nearby printers.

3. Security concerns

Any strategy related to printer analytics should take a hard look at printer security. This is a critical part of analytics because hackers have been known to breach a company and steal data through printers (since they are sometimes overlooked as a point of unauthorized access). 

The analytics you do for security will look closely at the network security you’ve deployed, the local printer security (such as using biometrics at the device or a PIN code), and the related workflow that determines how employees generate documents and print them out. The data collected here can help you develop a printer security strategy. 

4. Workflow automation

Separate from the analytics related to how printers are used (and where they are used), and also distinct from analyzing ink and paper usage, workflow automation should also be part of your printer analytics. Although it might seem like it is not directly tied, it’s important to analyze how printer usage becomes part of your overall workflow for your business. For example, you might analyze how documents are stored and secure, and then how they are printed. 

It’s important to analyze the entire workflow, which might include document editing, print output to all devices, and the eventual archiving and disposal of the printer materials. As with any security analytics, it should cover all possible scenarios for how employees print.

5. Spending

Of course, ancillary to your printer analytics looking at usage, materials, security, and document workflows, companies should also analyze all of their spending related to printers. This data-gathering exercise can provide a wealth of information about the costs for various devices used in an office and how that spending correlates with paper and ink cartridge usage. 

Once again, printer analytics usually involves the specific data reports and analysis for the spending by department or team, but also a summary of all printer-related spending.

In the end, printer analytics is often multi-faceted because companies have so many different devices, from mobile printers that sit on in an individual workstation to office printers used by hundreds of employees. 

There can be some complexity to analyzing printer usage and workflows, but in the end, the result is that you have much better data to make decisions about new technology, adding more devices, and improving your office workflow.

John Brandon

John Brandon has covered gadgets and cars for the past 12 years having published over 12,000 articles and tested nearly 8,000 products. He's nothing if not prolific. Before starting his writing career, he led an Information Design practice at a large consumer electronics retailer in the US. His hobbies include deep sea exploration, complaining about the weather, and engineering a vast multiverse conspiracy.