Field Study Hard Look: MSPs See Managed Print Ready for Prime Time

Both George Lucas, the director of the Stars Wars saga, and James Cameron, the director of Avatar, waited until computer technology caught up to their visions before they made their films.

Many of you, as technology experts, have taken this same stance towards managed print services. You’ve been concerned about the maturity of the technology, and its ability to accomplish what’s necessary to deliver on customer expectations of managed print services.
So was Oli Thordarson, president and CEO of Alvaka Networks Inc. For 28 years, Thordarson has served as head of Alvaka, an Irvine, Calif., company that provides advanced network management, monitoring, security and integration services. AlvakaNet, the company’s flagship offering, is a set of consulting, network management, monitoring and security services.

Way back in 2005, Thordarson was one of the channel’s leading and most outspoken proponents of the move from break-and-fix work to managed services. He also had the courage to warn solution providers that their companies could get sick and die if they moved too quickly into a recurring revenue model that made their salespeople less money in the short term. That was a bold observation at a time when moving from lucrative one-off contracts that earn salespeople fat commissions to monthly subscription contracts was becoming all the rage.

Much has changed in five years, including Thordarson’s opinion of managed print services. What does he think of managed print services now?

“It’s a natural extension of managing servers, server applications, communications, networking infrastructure and desktops,” which Alvaka does for clients. So it’s no surprise that the company is keenly interested in the Xerox managed print program.

Managed printer services are a natural extension of managing servers, server applications, communications, networking infrastructure and desktops.

- Oli Thordarson, Alvaka

Thordarson says he looked at managed print several years ago but found it lacking in certain areas. Those concerns have all disappeared as managed print has matured, and he finds the latest Xerox offering compelling, and a program Alvaka will likely sign up for soon.

“The last time I talked to [Xerox] I was really impressed with the program,” Thordarson says. “It’s on the short list of managed services we’re likely to add in the future.”

Managed print makes sense for many solution providers and their customers for a number of reasons, Thordarson says. For Alvaka and its clients, “anything that helps us wrap our arms further around managing IT, and takes away some of the frustrations and time-consuming tasks that create inefficiencies for the client is a good thing,” Thordarson says. “This is one more thing we can take off the table for the customer that they have to manage and something that’s often frustrating and costly for them.”

Many of Alvaka’s customers “don’t want to manage printers, they just want the output,” Thordarson says. “They don’t want to deal with the details. It’s just like when they don’t want to manage servers, they just want the information when they request it.”

Managed print removes the challenge of having to keep track of inventories of toner, paper and equipment, Thordarson says. It also eliminates the need for solution providers or clients to have technicians running around servicing printers. “You don’t need to have a guy who every time a remote office calls has to jump in a car with toner and tools to go fix a problem,” he says.
“Strategically there are much more important things to do than managing fleets of printers.”
Many companies don’t have the monitoring tools needed to efficiently and proactively manage printers, Thordarson notes. When they get a call about a printer problem it’s usually because a device is already down. That’s a strong argument for using a managed print service that can resolve print-related problems that can’t be handled well in-house, he says.

What makes the Xerox offering particularly appealing, Thordarson says, is that it’s turnkey. “They provide software that is much more robust than it was three to five years ago,” he says.
One big plus of using a managed print service is that solution providers don’t have to worry about stocking inventory. “When my client needs toner, we can send a request to Xerox and they can ship it to the client and bill us later,” Thordarson says. “I don’t have to stock all these different kinds of toners.”

But it goes beyond inventory management. “I don’t have to hire a tech” to handle printer fixes, he says. “Xerox has that infrastructure. So we’ve still got the relationship with the client, but we don’t have to make all these investments.”

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