PrintFleet’s new generation DCA brings new opportunities to resellers
On April 24-25, the PrintFleet Connecting the Data roadshow hit London’s South Bank. With presentations from Perform IT and Samsung and an informative roundtable discussion, vendors, distributors and resellers learnt how PrintFleet solutions can help deliver MPS more efficiently and cost effectively.
Top billing went to PrintFleet’s new DCA Pulse data collection agent. The product of three years’ development, this new generation DCA addresses the shortcomings of existing solutions and seeks to overcome hurdles created by the vendors themselves.
DCA Pulse is a core component of the PrintFleet solution, working in conjunction with PrintFleet Central and PrintFleet Optimizer to collect, manage and report on organisations’ printer usage.
PrintFleet CTO Gordon Reilly said that in redesigning the DCA concept, PrintFleet was reducing service delivery costs for resellers, facilitating the transition from device monitoring to device management and moving from historical to predictive data.
He pointed out that PrintFleet DCAs used to be ‘monolithic’; you installed the software and then any change required an update and a new DCA installation. Pulse is much more flexible.
“DCA Pulse still has the scan engine on the customer site, but it is tuned into backend pieces that are dynamically produced through a central cloud repository. If the firmware is updated or a new device comes out, we can update files in the central cloud architecture. These are then pulled down to the DCA in real-time so you are always working with the latest information,” he said.
“Also, rather than an interrogative approach of asking a series of questions to a device regardless of the device, Pulse identifies the make and model of a device and then goes back to the central piece and pulls down information relevant for each make and model in the system.”
Model Definition Files
These so-called Model Definition Files are created from manufacturer specifications and provide DCA Pulse with the manufacturer and model information needed to collect data on meters, supplies and device attributes.
Compiling this data has always been a challenge due to the wide variation in the way data points are labelled by manufacturers, which can also change by region. Now, when PrintFleet compiles Model Definition Files, it categorises each type of data with a standard definition model so that it can map and compare data using a standard nomenclature.
Reilly said the use of MDFs also lets PrintFleet manage a broader range of devices than just A4 and A3 machines, such as wide format printers. Having the ability to specify information that’s important to different form factors, for example to provide more information about supplies and errors and less on page counts, opens the door to managing new types of device.
“With Pulse and the creation of Model Definition Files we have a significantly better method for managing the diversity of the device population out there,” he said.
DCA Pulse also boasts enhancement designed to save time and streamline data collection, including:
Differential Transmission; this reduces processing time by only sending data that has changed or values that have been updated to PrintFleet Optimizer; and
Custom Scan Intervals, which let you set independent scan intervals for device discovery, meters, supplies, errors and attributes.
“Before data collection was done in one sweep and it would do everything, but with Pulse you can set different scan cycles. You don’t have to read the meter every hour – you can set it to do it once a day or twice a day. You may want to scan supplies info more frequently than print data, say, and read device errors and alerts even more quickly,” explained Reilly. “With Pulse, you can scan on a cycle of minutes so the information is more current and you can break data collection into individual pieces, which has a major effect on business issues – if you control frequency you can control the quality and precision of the data collected.”
Reilly pointed out that with Pulse, results are delivered more quickly too. “With the old method, the scan would run to completion and then you would get the results. With Pulse, scans run independently and as soon as the scan is done you get the results. You don’t have to wait for all to finish before you get the results of the one you want.”
Other developments lower maintenance and deployment costs. For example, while the DCA has historically been Windows only, DCA Pulse is compatible with Linux, Ubuntu, Debian, MacOSX and Raspberry Pi. A low-cost, plug and play computer about the size of a mobile phone, the Raspberry Pi lets you do a very low cost DCA deployment in small and medium-sized businesses.
Remote configuration reduces the number of engineer visits required, as does a Heartbeat function that enables PrintFleet Central to see that the DCA Pulse is still operating, even if there has been a firewall change that affects its ability to communicate.
In addition, PrintFleet has made a number of changes to the reporting function in PrintFleet Optimizer, notably an Estimated Days to Empty (EDTE) feature, which converts toner level percentage figures into days remaining before the toner runs out.
PrintFleet urged resellers not to overlook the sales value of Optimizer reports that can identify managed vs unmanaged machines; volume by brand; age of devices; power consumption per device, per month; inactive devices with less than 200 pages per month; new devices detected in last 30 days; and toner and ink coverage per device.
The ability to combine different reports into one executive document with branding on the first and last pages is too good a sales opportunity to miss.