35 Replies

  • Good insight!  Thanks.

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  • Excellent articles.   I am working with a managed print service vendor right now.  

    First I interview other high users and identify their needs and ask what if questions.

    Obtain print out samples for color copies.

    Then I worked with the vendor to go over our needs and review the vendor contract proposal as well as vendor reputation.

    These are what I review:

    contact reference

    identify print volume,

    cost per page, etc...

    backup strategies if the copier failed. 

    Review service calls & percent uptime report from their existing customers.


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  • Nice write-up. We had a similar experience when our old copier died, and the CFO called in several big name copier companies without consulting his staff. We also ended up with a bunch of unhappy users.

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  • Didn't want to out the crappy copier company? :)

    I have had years of great service with Toshiba. They might come in a little higher than the others, but it is worth it in the end. At one point I got to where I was calling them daily and a tech was coming out daily... they then offered to upgrade my machines to brand new models for an extremely favorable rate. Apparently the maintenance calls were costing them a lot of money.

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  • Living the nightmare currently as we changed printer vendors 6 months ago.  A Windows 2008 print server works for all other brands of printers in house but not the new batch.  32 bit computers require each printer to be configured as a direct printer.  The vendor is clueless as to the cause when it is clear that they used a work around to install 32 bit drivers on the 64 bit server.  That work around does not translate to 32 bit workstations so the server cannot install drivers for the 32 bit computers.  Updated drivers and BIOS, back-graded drivers and BIOS and universal drivers tried and nothing helps.

    The printers also have very limited remote management function and today we had to send the vendor to a remote site to enable LPD as their software simply left that function out of the web based management.

    Not all copier companies should be in the printer business as they do not understand the protocols used sufficiently to program their "copiers" to work as printer.


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  • Yikes!  We have been lucky with our Ricoh's I guess....well, and a Canon.  We do have an apparent issue with one Ricoh model and certain pdf's of mechanical drawings that driver's alone cannot fix.  Based on the last few visits we have had from our rep, the fix requires work from the engineers in Japan to come up with a firmware update.  Hurray!!  It's been 4 months....still waiting.  The solution, for now, is for users who are having this problem to send the troublesome pdf's to the other copier (different model), or to an old HP1320 (which does not seem to mind at all).

    Thanks for the post, Nick.

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  • Unfortunately, I have also seen the tech who only shows up when called, and never does any sort of preventative maintenance (even when specifically spelled out in the agreement beforehand). As someone who used to manage a copy store (think low-end Kinko's type place) I can vouch for the only pay for what you need. We had a huge beast from Xerox that screamed (2 copies a second - yes, it was the exact same model as the one from 9 to 5) and we needed that speed and capability at the start of every semester. Running day-to-day copies on that was not feasible (it was very old and getting parts was getting harder when I left) so we also had a smaller but more flexible unit to use for that. The walk-up machines were pretty simple, but as "regular people" were the ones using them, the simpler the better. Nice write-up with a good list of things to think about - thanks!

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  • Great write up!

    Copier/Printer drivers have been a problem in my situation where we use Citrix with a remote Healthcare system.  When I asked what drivers should be used the answer was, one that works.  It ended up being what is called a mini driver or a HP Laser PCL 5.

    Then you have to deal with network connectivity and the copier being used more as and electronic document manager and saving either to a shared resource and or upload the document to the Healthcare system.  Doing it from many branches across IPSEC tunnels of many types of internet services is another challenge.

    Backing up the address book of the copier and loading on a replacement copier was another issue.  Especially when the copier got replaced before we backed it up.  Which also included the scanning to network configurations.

    The best thing you can do is try to stick with the same model and or compatible type of copier to take some of the pain away.




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  • Great article.  We have gone down the copier road more than once over the last few years, and it has been an eye opener.

    Step one:  Make a choice between the traditional "copier company" model (high capital cost, larger machines with traditional features like sorting, stapling, collating, hole-punching, etc., and a low ROI) vs. the "printer company" model (low capital cost / value for money, high print speeds, better drivers & UI (often), typically better "soft" features (like scanning), more features out of box vs. extra (faxing, scanning, etc.), high cost of service (vs. copier companies), higher ROI (per page cost is higher, consumables not included in service contracts).  High volumes usually mean a copier is a better choice than an MFP, but that decision will vary for different companies.  We use both.

    Step two:  If you are going with a traditional "copier" brand, get the Better Buys For Business guide for the appropriate range of copier you are looking at.  This is a paid product, but you will get your money back in spades on what you will learn, including what markups and discounts are common in the industry (and they are significant).

    There's no substitute for just doing your homework :>)

    Spice (1) flagReport
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  • This was a good read. We are having a similar issue. A department head decided to revamp our printer situation with approval from the CEO, without involving IT. I just walked into the office one day to find new  vendors replacing all our printers. Two years later and $20k in overages I am finally brought into the mix. This time around, they finally realized that no, we don't need a copier/printer for every three employees.

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  • It seems that every one of these vendors realize that when companies get more of these devices in, their prinitng quanities sky-rocket automatically. So any printing contract produced almost always goes over quota.

    Companied dont realize when these quotas are established, you have to consider that people will always print more with a new printer put in place.

    Also, these maintenace agreement are more about pace of mind and less about cost. The rarely seek to save money but just save stress. So although paying for break fixes is cheaper, its more of a hassle to get a machine serviced regularly. Now, the machine auot send status updates and quotacounts to the companies automatically so they dont even get serviced.


    All in all, the additional costs and headache is done to eliminate certain headaches, and wsince we all know companies arent really interested in saving money, otherwise they would go completely digital and cut back on printing totally.

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  • Wow, great article.  Been there in the past.  Now I just count my blessings and depend on Pollock.  It's a local copier company with great suport and pricing.

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  • I do all the copier buying for my company for the CFO.  Rule number 1 to lessen the maintenance headaches with any copier:  Never, never negotiate a lease/maintenance contract longer than 36 months, (3 years)!  Thru experience, he and I have discovered that the service issues start increasing around 2 1/2 years into the contract.  So, by the time the system is really starting to have a lot of problems, its already gone!

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  • Very nice article and some good insight. I have been in the same situation where I had no say in the replacement of a copier. Had a user that did a lot of color printing. She was in an office that was in the middle of a manufacturing plant. Old printer is dying and needs to be replaced. Researched and found a nice replacement that was the same manufacturer, just a newer model to the one she had. Bonus was the old toner would work in the new machine. Headquarters had mandated that all new color printers/copiers had to be a different brand, due to them signing a maintenance agreement with said company. Needless to say, we get the new machine comes rolling into the shipping department and it is huge. Old machine was a table top model,this one is on rollers and takes up a large amount of space in her office. Worse part about this was I was the one that had to gather the meter reading and then approve the invoice every month, which she was always at least 60% over. After about 8 months I put together a cost analysis of what we were spending on this one machine in monthly overages and sent to the bosses. Printer stayed on site until that plant was sold and then I was finally able to convince the new owners that we needed to do something.

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  • Wow!  That write-up sounds eerily familiar.

    Three months ago, I finally got the Panasonic DP-8045 that had plagued our users for nearly two years out of the office.  What a piece...

    Our new Toshiba is considerably better and easier to use given that it has a web interface and much better on-board screen and menus, but we can still count on a paper jam or paper-pick-up issues at least twice a week.  We print/copy about 175 pieces of 8.5x11 a day.

    I tried to argue that we should just get a couple of MFPs for users, buy them outright, buy our own toner, and rely on warranty.  Even if we had to buy a new one every year it would be cheaper than the annual cost of a monthly lease agreement.  I was overruled.  Meanwhile, the 7 year old Dell 5310n workgroup laser printer in my office is still going strong, has never broken down, and I've had only one paper jam when I tried to use thicker colored paper to make some badges.  It is currently sitting at 177574 prints for its lifetime and still going strong.  I can't kill it.

    But I had to call the techs for our Toshiba for the third time in two months this morning...

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  • Great information.  We went through a RFQ process a couple years ago, and we were also still within a lease for the equipment that we had at the time.  When we had purchased the previous equipment the vendor suggested something that was really just not enough for the amount of printing that we were doing in a month.  While we were very disappointed in the actual equipment we had (which is what prompted us to start looking for replacement machies), we were happy with the support that we were receiving from the vendor.  This vendor was able to pay off the lease themselves without adding the cost into our new contract, which is one of the big reasons we decided to stay with them.  Any other vendor would have paid off the original lease, but added that cost onto our new lease.

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  • We stated and very close to past experiances I have had ont eh subject of Copiers / Scanners.

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  • Well writen, and good insite. I worked for a printer Service company for three years and most of the money the company made was not from the sale of a new printer but the service contract that almost always went with it. I my opinion unless the printer is a large floor modle type printer don't bother with a service contract as it will cost more then the repairs that are needed over the life of the machine.

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  • The business office buys the copier and the problems are all his. It is a color Xerox, and actually, it works as well as I could ask. There is a monthly fee plus copy charges, so I assume that there is no limit to the numbers of copies that can be printed.

    In our situation users all have their own printers as they are scattered across many floors and buildings.  I am getting rid of all color ink jet printers and they get a standard black and white laser printer. The supplies are cheaper than keeping stacks of different ink jet cartridges in my store room. I buy my printers from Tiger Direct, and there is  of course no service on them. If they need a color print, they can send it to the Xerox. If a printer breaks, and I cannot fix it, I toss it and buy another one. The cost of the machines is less than the cost of having a repair tech come to our place, heck, a drive to the grocery store is $25.00 round trip from here.


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  • The thing to keep in mind with your volumes is that if you're not paying an overage, you are overpaying on your contract.  The impressions that are included in your service agreement are generally billed at roughly the same rate as any overage, so if you're paying for 60,000 impressions but only using 50,000, you just paid for 10,000 impressions you didn't use.

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  • This sounds familiar. It doesn't seem to matter what printer you get the users are never happy with it in my experience  they love it for a few months and once the honey moon is over they treat it the same as the old one

    knowing your volume is very good advice. Sometimes getting the higher duty cycle printer is the better option. We just replaced a 60ppm machine with a 80ppm machine and it actually costs less per page printed plus (in theory) it should break less because it  has a higher duty cycle.

    I would never get a contract with a fixed page printing amount. We get all of our contracts with a simple pay per page printed. so if we print 10,000 pages we pay for 10,000 pages.

    Doing driver research is also very good advice. I am surprised by the number of machines that don't seem to have proper x64 driver support yet. (ahem...canon + fiery)

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  • Hey guys, it's pretty simple. Add this to the original post:

    The copy business is a total scam, ESPECIALLY if you LEASE!!!  Leasing companies will not let you out of a lease even if you offer to pay it all off months or years ahead of time!!

    1. Don't lease your equipment, PURCHASE, and purchase used.  We spent $25k on a copier over 4 years on a LEASE, whereas purchasing the same f*&king copier with low miles cost about $6k, cash!!! Be sure to get a money-back guarantee in writing on the used equipment: "In the first six months, if the copier is a lemon, you can return it for another copier, no questions asked"

    2. If you buy your copier used, you can afford to have a second unit (which will work as as a backup).  I only have 20 people in this office, but we have two 50 ppm copiers that print/scan/copy/fax in letter legal and ledger sizes.  My Ft. Worth office had about 80 people and we had three 40+ppm copiers. All of which were previously owned.

    3. Pay a set amount to the maint company per month that covers toner and all parts and labor for break fix, plus gives you a certain number of color and b&w copier per month.  (We pay .08 per color and .01 for b&w on overage charges.)  Or go the other way and negotiate a cost per page flat rate.

    4. Be sure to have an "out" in the contract in YOUR FAVOR that allows you to fire the maintenance company for poor performance.

    That's pretty much it





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  • Excellent article.  I like the well thought out research that went behind this.  This article couldn't have come at a better time for me as I revaluate our service provider and copier situation.

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  • Two makes we won't EVER get again: Konica, and Sharp. In both cases, drivers were promised but either never delivered, or difficult to obtain. For our high-duty-cycle machines, we have Xerox. An off-the-cuff guesstimate is that the Xeroxes have 150% better uptime than any other digital-to-paper devices we have.

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  • The same thing happened to my company.   We didn't put the old Canon out to pasture though.  We moved it to another department and it hasn't given us any problems since the move down the hall.  We went with an American-made copier because of the nuclear issues in Japan and the shortage of parts.   This new copier however was a nightmare for the first six months we had it.  The vendor finally replaced it like for like, and it had different problems that new firmware was able to fix.  We too went over on our printing and wound up adding a network printer (that wasn't on a contract) beside the copier to handle the print jobs.  Life in the copier department has been really peaceful this year.

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  • Ahhhhhhh!  I just had a horrible flash back to my old copier issue!  EVERYTHING you mention in this article happened to me.  It took 2 years for the service company to agree to take our old, rarely working copier out (at no extra cost to us) and replace it with a new machine.  It seems that you have to have a bad experience with a copier/service company to then start to look at the real costs and benefits to truly know what to do.  

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  • Interesting. Boss wants to push printer management to me so I assume I will have to oversee such deals at some point.

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  • One company to go to if you want to PRINT and have copier functions. HP. Get a reliable local HP printer repair tech for brake and fix calls, your are done! No contracts, buy them out right and only use OEM supplies! 12 years with this company and all we use are HP's. At one time we used reman toners... Ohhh sooo many problems. Went strickly to OEM and repairs went down. Removed our contract maintenance through another company, and highered a local HP tech. Better repsonce time, better service. Besides the occasional please power cycle the printer, and the "HOW DID YOU BREAK THAT?" event my printers/copiers work and do not cause us headaches. HP 9040 MFP, M4345 MFP, P2727MFP's.

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  • Nice write up!  I understand why IT guys hate copiers, but having been a print shop employee in my former life, I have a special place in my heart for the stupid things.

    Because of my work in the print shop, I refuse to let the techs sell me a line of crap.  My former life included tight deadlines and machines that had to work.  My techs know me by name, face and reputation.  I built this reputation by being a demanding pain in the butt customer, but if you have issues with their machine, they should help you, it's their job.

    That being said, I've seen a lot of terrible technicians.  I understand your frustration at a service tech that only comes when called, but I also know that people will put up with garbage because that's what they expect.  I have told my users to call me if it's not right.  I don't care what the "not right" condition is.  Sometimes I can fix it myself, other times I can't.

    Not all service techs are terrible.  They can only fix it what they know is broken (just like IT guys).  If I see that it's asking for preventative maintenance, I call.  If it's wonky, I call.  If someone even says it sounds funny, I call.  The calls are included in our service contract and if I'm not happy with the techs they send or the service they provide, I call again.  If the copiers don't work, most copier vendors have lemon clauses so it helps you to make as many service calls as necessary.  The more documented the problem, in my experience, the more likely they are to fix or replace it.

    When looking at overages make sure to check to see how your contract is structured.  Ours is structured that we pre-pay for a set number of copies every month.  Copies after that are billed as "overages" but are charged at the same rate.  In our case "overages" are good because that means we aren't pre-paying for copies we aren't using.

    I will agree with you that fax boards are a waste of money.  You could buy several fax machines over the life of a lease with the monthly payment on a fax board.  I feel the same way about saddle-stitching and folding units.  Stand alone units may take a little more effort, but they tend to be quicker and don't tie up a copier when you're trying to copy and bind.

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  • The copier industry seems to thrive on the 5-year lease model. That's why all the copier salesmen are driving nice cars and wearing nice suits.

    One big thing that the copier companies figured out, and we need to be well aware of in IT, is the money issue. CFOs typically look at OpEx as better than CapEx. Purchasing a copier makes it a CapEx transaction, but paying a lease payment is an OpEx transaction. If you are looking to purchase a copier, new or used, make sure to have a conversation about this with your CFO before doing any negotiation with the vendors.

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  • Good article. In our last round of copier negotiations we worked out a better deal with Ricoh than our last contract. We only pay for actual usage, not a fixed page amount. That brought my comfort level way up, because now I know our expenses will be directly proportional to demand, which we have some control over. That will be our norm from now on.

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  • We've had Toshibas and have been greatly frustrated.

    As this excellent article illustrates, the service contract can be as important a consideration as the machine itself.

    The truth is, we were not frustrated with the Toshiba copiers per se, but with the (lack of) service we got with the machines as they began to age.

    Currently, we're using Xerox machines and a different local service contractor, and we are much more satisfied.  Is it the new machines working better? Is it that Xerox is better than Toshiba?  Probably, it is that our current service contractor is more responsive than our former one (and the machines are still kind of new).


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  • I myself work in the copier repair industry as a repair tech.  I have no knowledge of the sales side or cost.  What I do know is make sure you do your research.  Not all machines or drivers will work for everyone.

    I also assist a companies IT department in getting the machines to work on the network.  Generally we have had very few problems with customer's IT and our machines.  Occasionally we come across somebody that wants to do it their way and sometimes it works other times it does not.  If your machine is not working on the network try the suggestion from the manufacture, if they have one.

    If you are trying to match color there is a whole lot can cause problems.  Anything from the type of paper to the humidity in the air.

    If the machine is jamming a lot it could be the paper.  Especially if the paper is cheap and the machine is in a humid warehouse.  Just saying jamming may not always be a machine problem.  Our techs are trained to recognize this and try's to convey this to the user.  The user will of course say we have always done this.


    Many good points in the article.

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  • Nice article. Copiers are the vein of our existence.

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  • Great article. We have been very lucky to have a local  vendor that provides good customer service in a timely manner. Western Plains Business Solutions. I just have to plug their name since they take good care of us.  We have had almost no down time running Kyocera Copiers for the past three years. (Knock on wood) We really didn't do it on purpose but we have two back up HP printers just in case. The HP printers were here before the copiers were installed and they have just stayed.

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