Why A3 is a smart play for channel partners

Mary Ann Yule, president of HP Canada

Mary Ann Yule, president of HP Canada

There is a paradigm shift occurring in the A3 copier space – not unlike what we’ve seen in other areas of enterprise IT – and it’s giving channel partners an enormous opportunity to capture a piece of a $55 billion global market.

In recent weeks, several A3 multifunction printers (MFPs) have hit the market with next generation capabilities typically reserved for managing network servers and PCs, like advanced security features, embedded sensors and smart technology. This means some A3 printers are now considered an integral part of the Internet of Things (IoT) world.

For solution providers already in the managed print services space, the integration of sensors and software into A3 printers means better insights into customer usage, improved remote fleet management and an exclusive opportunity for service cost reductions. For example, A3 MFPs can monitor and report on their own health, performance and security status and share back meaningful data for partners to analyze and take action.

Given such momentum, channel partners currently involved in managed print services have the ability to significantly increase their profitability by adding intelligent A3s to their existing print offerings.

Here are three key areas you’ll want to dig deeper on when working with your A3 vendor.

Securing data, documents and devices

Most organizations don’t realize it, but today’s MFPs are essentially PCs that print. Both contain hard drives, memory, BIOS, motherboards, data and more. Additionally, they are often Internet connected and, as such, just as prone to hacker attacks as any computer. Yet, less than 2 per cent of the world’s hundreds of millions of printers are properly secured.

Tightly securing an often overlooked endpoint like an A3 printer is imperative to an overall enterprise IT strategy. Security is badly underrated in many managed print security RFPs, given the pervasiveness of printers as an endpoint device.

Before choosing an A3 vendor, solution providers should look for features that protect endpoint devices through layered security – measures which protect data, documents, software applications and more. Some newer security features, for example, validate the integrity of the BIOS and firmware when the A3 boots up and then reverts to a safe or “golden copy” if it finds the system has been corrupted.

Other security features should look closely at user identities to assure that people sending and printing documents are who they claim to be.

Smart tools means less after hours service calls

Along with taking steps to protect your customers’ business, your success as an A3 solution provider rests on value added services. Look for a vendor who is making big investments in this area, including rolling out new remote configuration and management capabilities, integration with data collection tools and device-specific training programs.

Solution providers looking to enter the managed print services space will be entering the market when the intelligence of other areas of IT are being embedded into A3 devices for the first time ever.

With IoT continuing to evolve, partners will want to prioritize vendors who use industry-standard cloud software and services that integrate with a cross-section of printing and other end point devices customers are using. After all, nobody likes to implement too many changes at once.

Additionally, look for products that allow for custom control panel integration and support for remote configuration and remediation such as remote firmware upgrades and reboots. A product that utilizes cloud based analytics can optimize the longevity of long life consumables and ensure maximum productivity.

Performance always matters

Lastly, A3 specifications cannot be overlooked. Some deals can sink or swim in this area alone.

Ultimately, partners need to understand what their customers are printing day-to-day. With the shift from mono to colour, the ability to offer A3 devices with affordable, high-quality colour options is hugely important. Partners should take the time to review printouts from different machines and ask for benchmarks on how long colour quality will last.

For print speeds, benchmarks vary based on the type of printers that are required for your customers’ environment. The new A3 portfolio from HP, for instance, includes Inkjets featuring PageWide technology reaching 80 pages per minute. More importantly, partners need to look at the performance to cost ratio. For example, PageWide can provide customers a 60 pages per minute colour output device at roughly the same cost as a traditional 25 pages per minute mono or colour laser device.

Lastly, an often overlooked performance feature to consider is energy efficiency. In this age of increasing regulation and social awareness, rolling out an A3 fleet designed to consume significantly less energy will save money while allowing you to do your part for the environment.

In the IoT era, the connected capabilities of A3 printers will only continue to evolve. The vendors to watch are the ones that invest heavily to bring it along quickly, while also ramping-up programs to help partners play a central role in this services-led model.

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