Monday, November 24, 2014

Paperless Office for Disaster Recovery

A paperless office solution not only can reduce the amount of paper that you print, see my article on “The Cost of Printing”, but can be part of your Disaster Recovery Plan or “DRP.”

In my mentioned article instead of printing your documents onto paper you create them as a PDF files and save them that way.  We have all read things on our computers that are PDF’s so we are familiar with it already.  The big difference is that now we create the PDF’s for reading.

Imagine the destruction of your critical
In the event of a disaster where your building is inaccessible, damaged or destroyed all of your paper documents will become useless.  As you can imagine that alone can put you out of business.  By making your printouts as electronic documents and placing them onto a secure hosted location on the internet can help bring your business back from a disaster quickly.  All you need to do is access your electronic documents any time, any place.

Not only can you add PDF’s into a paperless office, you can include spreadsheets, word processing documents, AutoCad drawings, photographs and graphics and more.  Adding physical paper to the paperless office is as simple as scanning them into the solution.  Most copiers today have scanning capabilities built into them already that allow you to scan to a location on a server or PC.

By being very diligent in creating and storing your documents electronically, especially mission critical ones  the destruction of your building will become more of an inconvenience than anything else.  OK, granted it would be a major inconvenience but at least you potentially would not be out of business.

With these hosted paperless office solutions you can customize them to fit your business structure including who can access what document.  As an example you certainly would not want a routine clerk having access to payroll information so various levels of security can be set up.  You would need to check with the solution provider about setting this up.

Who can benefit from setting up a paperless office solution?  Everyone.  There is no business to small or too large that cannot benefit from some form of paperless office.  And you do not need to go insane and make everything paperless.

As a homeowner or renter you too can benefit from this as well.  All you need is a scanner which
You simply scan your documents into a computer
for safe storage and easy retrieval

generally comes with software that creates PDF files beside your computer.  From here you can scan all of your documents and save them onto a disk, generally a DVD.  All that needs to be done now is put the DVD into a safe location.  I would recommend a bank deposit vault if not that, a safe that you can buy from places like Staples, Home Depot, Lowes, Etc.  That is the simplest form of a paperless environment.  A true paperless office is actually a database.  In a later article I will go into that a bit more.

For the small mom-and-pop types of businesses can setup a system similar to that above.  As an example, take a bar located on Duval Street in Key West.  Some of the paper that could be included into a paperless office could include:
  • Receipts from their vendors when they get deliveries
  • Invoices
  • Physical inventories sheets
  • Deposit slips
  • Insurance papers
  • Copies of leases
  • Correspondence
  • Photographs
  • Job applications
  • In essence, anything on paper
Once scanned you can save them to a DVD and keep that in a safe place.  This way if something happens you will still have access to your records.  Even if you have to wait for the bank to open.
For larger companies they would most likely go with a hosted solution which is offsite for document storage instead of a bank vault.  But the way costs have come down, even the most modest of businesses can now afford one.

Granted this will not eliminate all of your paper but with proper use a paperless office solution can help save your business in the event of a disaster.  You just may even qualify for an insurance break for having a DRP and especially one with a paperless office solution.  But check with your broker.

If you are interested in setting up a paperless office solution for your business or home, feel free to contact me and I will be glad to help.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Cost of Printing

Have ever considered how much it costs to click on print?  A few pennies, right?  Who cares?
Now what if I show you that, by using actual data that your printing costs can be over $2,000 a year per printer.  Now that is something to think about.

To begin with we are going to use actual data taken from a company that has several printers in one office.  I selected an employee that is doing a substantial amount of printing just for a worst case scenario but this really is not uncommon.

Let’s start with one of their printers, a HP LaserJet 1320.  The original price of the printer needs to be
HP LaserJet 1320

factored into our figures.  The printer was purchased directly from HP and the average service life is 5 years.  The price of the printer was $399 plus shipping at $25 plus tax of $37.10 brings the cost of the printer to $461.10.  Using the 5 year rule the printer costs $92.22 a year.

Some people will argue that the cost of the printer should not include the shipping and tax.  But these are still costs that come out of the checking account and need to be figured into the final bottom end of the costs.

And since we know what model printer, we now know that it takes the 49A toner cartridge.  I wanted new HP toner and not a rebuilt unit or non-HP cartridge.  By going on-line I saw that Staples, WB Mason and Quill sell the cartridge for $93.99 and add tax of $8.22 and the toner costs $102.21.  These companies offer free shipping so we are not going to factor that in.  The advertised print yield for the 49A cartridge is 2,500 pages.  That breaks down to .04 a print.

A few words on toner yields, the industry norm for printing is that a typical page is covered with only 5% ink.  If you look at a typical page and visually compress the text all into one corner with no paper showing through you would cover about 5% of the page.  What can throw this off is if you print a lot of graphics or pictures, lots of heavy bold or black text, or maybe just a few lines of text per paper.  But it is safe to say that most pages are covered only 5% and HP rates the 49A cartridge for 2,500 pages at that 5%.

Typical case of paper
For paper I chose the white multipurpose paper that most companies would normally buy.  Here I went with Staples and it is advertised at $49.99 for a case.  Each case holds 5,000 sheets of paper.  Add sales tax of $4.37 and the case now costs $54.36.  From here each sheet of paper costs just a hair above $0.01, but we can safely say a penny.

Now we see that each time we click print that one page costs $.05 each.

Where does that mean after a year?

Taking the same company and that one employee it was found that they print an average of 4,300 pages a month.  Multiply that by $0.05 and we see it costs $218.79 a month which is $2,625.51 a year.  Add in the annual cost of the printer of $92.22 and we see that printing from that one person costs us $2,717.73.  Look at the schedule below. (Note I used the sales tax for my county of 0.08625%, your county sales tax most likely will be different)

Cartridge Price                  $  93.99
Sales Tax                            8.22 

     Net                           102.21

Divide by the Yield              2,500   

Price of toner per print                         0.04

Price for a case of paper           49.99
Sales Tax                            4.37

     Net                            54.36

Divide by sheets in a case       5,000   

Cost per sheet of paper                          0.01

     Cost per print                              0.05

Times prints per month           4,300

Cost of printing /Mo.                          218.79

Cost of printing per Yr.                     2,625.51

Price for printer                  399.00
Shipping                            25.00
Sales Tax                           37.10

     Net                           461.10

Divide by service Life (Yr)          5

Annual cost for the printer                     92.22

     Total Printing Costs / Yr             $ 2,717.73

Just for the heck of it let’s say you have 12 employees printing that volume and you see that your costs for printing are $36,612.77 a year.  Like I asked before, who cares…now?

Even if your printing is a more reasonable 3,300 pages a month you are still looking at $2,107.15 per yer per printer.

And let us not forget this is for black and white.  Color is a lot higher.

These figures will be different with each different type of printer, where it was purchased, the price paid, the brand name toner vs. remanufactured or third party toner, the price of paper, how many prints that you actually do, shipping, and sales tax.  But at the end of the day printing is not cheap and with today’s economy it pays to keep a close eye on how many pages are printed.  So in reality your printing costs would be different than what I have here but it is something to keep a close eye on.

Many copy machines today have network printing capabilities in them so users can send their print jobs to those machines instead.  With many contracts you get a set amount of free prints/copies per month as part of the contract.  This can be a substantial savings in toner costs.

But the down side is if you have a lot of people printing to these machines you can wind up with people waiting for their print job to come out.  And print jobs can get messed up even when they setup print separator pages which is money tossed out the window.  Plus if you go over the allotment of print jobs, the copier company could charge you as much as .10 or more per print over the allotment.

In the long run considering that staff has to get up from their desk, walk to the copier, wait for their print jobs then walk back is salary lost that could be put to productivity.  Add this to the monthly printer charges, supplies charges, over usage charges and you really see that there is not great of a savings after all.

You can go with one of those print management companies.  Here for a monthly fee they supply all the toner you could want.  But they give you an allotment of how many prints you can do and like with the copier companies, any overage you can get hit very hard with excess print charges.  Plus you are getting their brand of toner and not brand name.

We tried that in our office and it turned out to be cheaper to stick with buying the brand name toner cartridges from Quill, Staples and WB Mason.  The toner that the print management company sold was not as good either and when one of their cartridges leaked all over the inside of a new $800 printer and they did not come forward and repair the machine.

Imagine how much money is
being tossed out
Another thing that many people don’t think about is the waste of paper when printing.  How many times is the garbage can filled with paper from a printer?  How much money is being tossed out?
And let us not forget one thing that was not brought into our figures, the cost of electricity to run the printer in the first place.

With the focus on going ‘Green’ today, printing on paper can be considered a waste of natural resources.

Another method that is very cost effective and within reach of every company is to go paperless printing.  With that the document is created electronically and printed as a PDF file which is easily read by any computer, provided they have a PDF reader installed which you can get for free.  Most computers today have one already installed.

The creation of a PDF file is accomplished by installing software that acts like a printer when you click print.  Only instead of spitting out paper it creates the document as a PDF file which can be read with an application like Adobe Reader.

PDF is a common format today
Of course when you create the original document you are most likely using a program like MS Word, WordPerfect or some other word processing package.  Right from the get go the document is in a paperless format.  Problem here is that the document can be altered so by printing it as a PDF helps prevent or at least reduce that possibility.

At my last company the accounting department produced workpapers that the property managers had to review and sign off on.  These were massive documents that were printed as hard copies.  Then they were sent for review and finally to be signed off on.  Afterwards they were scanned into PDF files to be put onto the paperless library.

A project that I was instituting was instead of printing the hardcopies in the first place, make the workpapers as PDF files right off the bat.  Review them on-line, print the signature page only and sign off on that.  Now scan that one page and attach it to the workpapers.  From there a simple matter of putting them into the on-line library.

With programs like Acrobat Professional it is a simple matter to add notes to the document should there be changes that need to be done or if not that, just print those few pages and not the entire massive package.

This not only was a major cost savings as far as printing was concerned but it saved the time and salary of a person to scan in thousands of sheets of paper, plus the postage costs to send them out and not to mention the space savings as well. 

Yet as great as this can be, you still will need to make physical printouts from time to time.  There simply are areas where you need that piece of paper.

Keeping an eye on your printing costs today should not be difficult and can save you a lot of money in the long run.  With the advances in technology that we have there is no reason not to start to move toward printing paperlessly.

(c)2014 William Lewis

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Redundant Internet Connections for DR

A lot of businesses today rely on the internet for commerce in one form or another.  Regardless it is email, on-line applications, research or ordering the internet is the life blood for many companies.  Losing that connectivity can potentially cost millions of dollars depending on the type of business.
Most companies will have only one internet connection, hence a single point of failure.  In order to prevent that it is wise to have a second internet connection from a different Internet Service Provider (“ISP”).

This is also prudent for disaster recovery should one ISP lose connectivity or a tree takes out lines on a pole
Loss of the internet can be frustrating 

for some
.  Even a car or truck hitting a pole can take out your internet.

What a lot of people do not realize is even if you have a second ISP, the internet connection could potentially be supplied from the same Central Office (“CO”).  If the CO has problems then you could lose both connections.

Part of this is because most places use good old fashioned copper wires from the pole to the building to supply connectivity.  Regardless of what ISP you select, the very last mile, that is from the CO to your building runs along lines owned generally by the phone company.  And what now have is the single point of failure once again.

That is why when you select a secondary ISP, it pays to find out where their CO is located.
Some places will have cable connectivity like CableVision here on Long Island.  They use a totally different CO and they own the copper from along the whole stretch thereby taking the phone company out of the loop for one connection.

Other places could even have a fiberoptic connection which eliminates copper altogether and like the cable will originate from a different CO.  The fiber could also be from another provider which again takes phone company out of the loop.  Of course the phone company could have a different CO for the fiber so double check for they might even give you a discount in having multiple products.

Fiber Cable is made up strands
of special glass
With the way that fiber has come down in costs and the speeds far exceed what can be obtained on copper, it pays to look into having fiber as your primary connection and copper as your secondary connection.  This way if one should fail, you will still have the other to work from.

Generally how this is accomplished is that both connections are brought into the same room.  From there they are connected to the same firewall which is configured to accept both.  Most firewalls today will have a failover built into them so if your primary line goes down the secondary takes over instantly and seamlessly.  No one would ever know.  From the firewall the connection is now connected to the network where everyone works.

Internet Connection with
Dual connections

A lot of times the firewall will also do what is called ‘load balancing.’  That is split the traffic among both connections so one does not have a bottle neck.

Some companies will even go as far as having a third connection should they lose the first two.  This can also be copper of fiber from another provider.  Some places will use a broadband connection similar to cell phones using a device where 3G or 4G modems are connected to.  This is good in case a tree or accident takes down a pole outside.  Problem with that is the costs can be very high and you would not get the same amount throughput as you would with copper or fiber.  And like cell phones you might not get good reception.

Cradlepoint Router
A device that I used is known as for broadband connectivity is CradlePoint.  It takes up to three broadband modems connected to it by USB cables then to the firewall.  In testing I pulled both the primary and secondary internet connections and just left the CradlePoint connected.  No one in the office of 55 ever knew the difference.

A major issue does arise with multiple internet connections and that is if you have your own email server like Exchange, should your primary internet connection fails then you could risk the possibility of not having email at all.  Here is where you would need to discuss with your internet providers to establish what is known as BGP to ensure that your email will work regardless of what internet connection is working.

In summary, if your business relies on the internet then you should truly consider having a second connection through a second ISP.  It makes good business sense especially in disaster recovery.

(c)2014 William Lewis