Every piece of technology has two costs: cost of acquisition, and cost of ownership. Printers are no different. But because the nature of printers demands constant replacement of consumables, paper and ink, the cost of ownership far outweighs the cost of acquisition.
First, help coworkers consider whether to print or not. Some studies show that the average knowledge worker throws out about 25 percent of everything they print. No matter how inexpensive your toner, that's still a huge waste. Printing to PDF for proofing might be a good answer for some. Since companies spend, according to other studies, as much as one to three percent of their annual revenue on printing costs, conservation and control is needed.
After considering to print or not to print, companies with good printer management also decide who can print. Yes, they control access to printers. If you assign printer costs to the department using the printer, they have the right to control who accesses that printer. Don't let sales people print on the accounting department printer as a way to hide their printer abuse.
Such user control is only possible with a modern, intelligent, and managed printer. In this case, a higher cost of acquisition for a modern printer will pay for itself quickly by lowering the cost of ownership.
Besides blocking users completely, modern printers can restrict users to a subset of the printer's full feature list. For instance, sales might be able to print color documents for customers, while legal can only print black and white documents. Other options include limiting the size of print jobs. Set a threshold for document size and require longer jobs to be approved and submitted by a manager.
Laser printed pages always cost less than those printed by inkjet printers. Using high-capacity laser cartridges reduces your cost per page even more. Color laser printers cost more than inkjet printers to buy, but drastically lower the cost per page of color printed pages. It's much cheaper to share a color laser between several departments than to provide workgroup inkjet printers for each area.
Of course, only printers with modern management and monitoring capabilities can provide the level of detail needed to accurately track printing costs. Tracking costs of older printers requires much more work, is less accurate, and costs may be hidden inside multiple budget categories.
Research firm IDC reported that over 3.1 trillion (with a T) pages were printed in 2010. With that much volume, some control is better than no control. And management of modern printers does the best job to date of tracking printing costs.