What print architecture is right for you?

Understanding the total cost of ownership (TCO) of various print architectures can help you choose between print server printing, direct IP printing, or a hybrid approach.

Our third blog in a series of print architecture articles to help network managers and IT professionals optimize IT infrastructure for network printing.


In our last post, we discussed two different network printing architectures: Print server-based printing and Direct IP based printing.

Using total cost of ownership (TCO) data for desktop PCs and servers from Gartner’s Total Cost of Ownership report, it can be shown that print server architectures are a better choice for LAN environments as well as organizations with relatively few distributed offices. Additional TCO data from Gartner shows the average annual TCO for a server is just over $6300, and the average annual TCO for a moderately managed desktop PC with 50 applications is $4383. Part of the $4383 is $772 in variable software management costs.

Calculating the average TCO per application comes to a little over $15 per year. Understanding that direct IP print management uses client software, you can now figure out where the TCO trade off is for opting to use a print server model, or a direct IP printing model. In many cases, the break point is a little over 400 desktops. This means that for offices where there are less than 400 desktop/laptop clients, the direct IP network printing architecture is optimal, and in environments where there are more than 400 desktop/laptop clients, the traditional print server model delivers a better TCO argument.

So what does this mean? Can you mix and match, or are you forced to pick one architecture over the other? There are a few solutions in the market that offer direct IP-based network printing solutions, as well others who offer print server-based software. If you take a close look, there are scenarios where a hybrid solution is best.


Hybrid network print management

In certain situations, a hybrid network printing architecture may be the best infrastructure solution to optimize TCO. Many organizations think that planning and deploying network printing architectures are binary decisions. You would either use all print servers or all direct IP printing. In some cases, an argument can be made where a mix of both traditional print servers and direct IP printing architectures should exist to optimize TCO.

Some organizations have a mix of branch/remote office profiles. Remember, the break-even point of users where this tradeoff occurs is around 400 users. If your company has a large main office (>400 users) and small remote/branch offices (<400 users), a hybrid network print management solution may be best for you. Realistically, this could mean banks with branch offices or retailers with stores to name a few. Print servers can cost effectively be deployed in the main office and direct IP printing can be deployed in the remote offices.

Another example may be where companies have a combination of both small and large branch offices. This scenario might exist when two companies have recently merged and IT is charged with optimizing IT printing resources within the new organization.

Hybrid network print management solutions can not only help you optimize TCO of your network printing infrastructure, but offer the versatility and performance to meet users ever-changing needs. In our next blog, we’ll look at other factors to weigh when making the decision for which approach is right for you.

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Brandon Most

About Brandon Most

Brandon Most is the Sr. Product Marketing Manager for Nuance Document Imaging’s print management products. As an experienced marketing professional and technology enthusiast, he strives to bring those two passions together to effectively bring his product categories to life. Brandon holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a major in Marketing and a minor in Finance and Leadership from Fort Hays State University, Kansas. Follow Brandon on Twitter: @MostBrandon