Tax season is fast approaching, and one of the things to double-check in advance is your firm’s printer fleet – and new tools are making that easier than ever.

Do you have a lot of printers and multi-function printers in your firm? If so, do you know which ones need toner, ink cartridges, or a drum replacement?

If you have to wait to have a staff member give you a heads-up on a device that needs attention, or if you want to get a handle on who is using which print device, what they are printing and how much that printing is costing you, HP has a couple of utilities you might find useful. One’s free, the other isn’t, but both will give you useful information on managing your print fleet.

Almost all of the major printer/copier manufacturers have what they call fleet management utilities. These software utilities reside on a PC or server and periodically ping every Simple Network Management Protocol, or SNMP-compatible printer and MFP on the network to determine the device’s status. One nice thing about having a utility that uses SNMP is that, for the most part, it’s device-agnostic. That means that regardless of whichever vendor’s utility you decide on, it should report the status of any SNMP-compliant device regardless of which vendor manufactured it.

Over the years I’ve used utilities from Xerox and Lexmark; they are both great and other vendors have similar offerings, but the one I keep coming back to is Web Jetadmin from HP. It’s just personal preference, but I just like the way it looks and operates. That it’s available for free doesn’t hurt either.

Web Jetadmin has lots of great features, but one that’s immediately apparent is its scalability. I probably wouldn’t bother installing it to monitor less than half a dozen printing devices, but it’s very usable with few devices or hundreds. You can install it on a PC running 64-bit versions of Windows from Windows 7 SP1to Windows 10, or on Windows Server 2008 and later. If you are running under Windows Server, Web Jetadmin can pull information from the Active Directory.

The interface is similar to Windows Explorer and very user friendly. You can have multiple Windows open simultaneously and size and position them on the screen pretty much any way you want to. The initial Window gives you a list of network print devices and whether or not there’s an alert that the device needs attention. Click on a particular device and a status window opens that gives you supplies levels, troubleshooting help if there’s an alert, and a selection of available reports.

Web Jetadmin also lets you configure devices for best utilization. You can set duplex or monochrome printing as the default of particular devices, and use historical reporting to determine if there are devices on the network that are being over- or under-utilized.

To be fair, some of this information is readily available without using Web Jetadmin or a similar utility. Most printers and MFPs these days have embedded Web servers that can be reached by entering the device’s IP Address into a browser. Depending on the particular device, you can then see the device’s supplies status, and in many cases, how many pages have been printed in different modes. I find using Web Jetadmin a lot easier than periodically querying the printers and MFPs on my network. More information and a download link for Web Jetadmin can be found on HP's site here.

Weighing the value

A second HP utility that impressed me isn’t free, but might be cost-effective for your practice. HP Jetadvantage Insights provides some of the same information as the free Web Jetadmin, but goes beyond the free utility to give you information on the total cost of ownership of your print fleet, as well as what members of your staff are printing and which applications are utilizing specific print devices. Easy-to-understand dashboards make accessing and understanding this information quick and easy. As with Web Jetadmin, Jetadvantage Insights is device-agnostic. It will give you data on most SNMP print devices connected to the network, and TCO data from Gap Intelligence and HP’s proprietary sources is provided with the cloud-based application, though you can enter your own cost data if you want.

I do have one complaint on the utility: It’s brand-new, and the only available documentation is presented as an HTML Help file. I disliked having to switch back and forth between the utility and the Help file when installing and using Jetadvantage Insights. But that’s probably just me. I’ve been doing this long enough to be used to having printed documentation. Once you’ve used the utility for a short while, it’s pretty simple to get where you want to go, but some of the functionality is hidden under multiple layers, and getting to some screens takes experience or experimentation.

Pricing depends on whether you are on a HP Managed Print Services contract or not. MPS users pay 6 percent of the contract price per year. Non-contract holders pay a yearly fee per user. Between one and 1,000 users, the single-year contract fee is $7 per user per year. For many smaller practices with a fair number of print devices, having TCO and granular print device usage is worth the cost. For a practice with just a few print devices, Jetadvantage Insights is probably overkill.

More information on Jetadvantage Insights is available on the HP site.

Ted Needleman

Ted Needleman has been covering technology for more than 30 years, writing frequently on software, hardware, and related subjects. He was previously editor-in-chief of Accounting Technology.