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Cambridge University manages print for more than 20,000 students with PaperCut

The University of Cambridge requires no introduction. You already know it’s the second-oldest university in the English-speaking world and the fourth-oldest university in existence. You don’t need me to burn precious words in the opening paragraphs telling you that.

Just as big as Cambridge’s reputation is its literal size, with more than 20,000 students across 31 Colleges. When it comes to managing print for 27 of those Colleges and 41 departments, the last words you might expect their IT team leader to utter are, “I really enjoy working in print. I can’t see myself doing much else, well, not just yet!”

But dial back the clock a decade and that may not have been the case…

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A reputation well earned

“10 years ago it was very different,” says Kelvin Morgan, Cambridge’s computer officer. “Now we’re in a position where we have a rock-solid service. If it wasn’t for PaperCut we wouldn’t be in the position we are in now."

Says Kelvin: “I can remember the very first multi-function device integrated into the managed print service, since then it has grown not only in size but also in its capabilities. People now come to us and say, ‘We really need to join this service. We’ve heard what it can provide.’

“The managed print service had to evolve to support multi-function devices and meet the challenges at the time. After a few years, it really started to gain traction, it was clear Colleges and departments valued it.”

Centralized printing service for 27 Colleges

Cambridge’s PaperCut MF set-up is opted into by their Colleges and departments, says Kelvin: “We are using PaperCut to underpin the centralized service which is participation by subscription. So the Colleges and departments will choose and pay to use the service to cover the costs. We like to think that it’s a minimal cost and we think that we’ve got that bit right.”

“PaperCut then gets used to manage print, photocopy, and scanning. It’s predominantly used by the student population but we’re looking to change that over the next 10 years. We’re at a point now where the service has grown as much as it possibly can do with the student population.”

Supporting staff is the print service’s current priority, and this is where it has probably historically fallen short, says Kelvin: “It has taken some time to get to this point but all the effort was worthwhile as the University now has a service it can move forward with… So, it’s gone from strength to strength and we’re now in a position of saying, ‘Look it has grown for the past 10 years, it’s now fully established and mature and we can accommodate the rest of the University. We are now ready to move beyond the undergraduates.’”

This has been made possible due to how much IT time has been freed up by PaperCut: “I’m pleased that we don’t receive too many support tickets,” says Kelvin. “That’s really because it’s easy for us to manage. We are then able to focus on other aspects like new features and we are able to deploy them quickly and easily. Managed print as a service can be both time consuming and difficult to get right but PaperCut goes the extra mile to help make managed print work really well, and efficiently.”

Printing usage recovering from COVID-19

Managing print for the University is hard enough, but hybrid working during COVID-19 redefined the printing space: “When we have people isolating in college, and they needed to hand in an assignment to a deadline there were some challenges,” says Kelvin.

“We set up ‘Delegated Print’ with PaperCut which meant that rather than having the job held on the queue we could set it up so another student could release the print job and collect it on the student’s behalf. So essentially we could set up a ‘helper’ to assist an isolating student. With that, PaperCut helped quite considerably during the lockdown."

The UK’s COVID-19 lockdowns saw a decrease in printing, but a bounce-back is now on the rise, says Kelvin: “We’ve got a massive drop in usage. But what’s interesting is that printing is on the increase. As students and staff return to work, the recovery begins.”

Hybrid printing enabled with PaperCut Mobility Print

Another hurdle for Cambridge’s staff and students was the deprecation of Google Cloud Print. “It was a shame,” says Kelvin. “I was surprised because for us it worked really well. But I’ve heard that for a lot of people it didn’t and that’s why Google has deprecated the service. Even though it remained in beta, and was not fully released, it was a shame because it did solve a pain point for us with Linux printing.”

Even though Cambridge have been using PaperCut MF for a number of years now, the Google Cloud Print end of life saw Kelvin and his team recently implement PaperCut Mobility Print and its Cloud Print functionality to enable BYOD printing: “We manage 27 Colleges that are members of the University but with the autonomy to run their own networking infrastructure.

“Colleges also provide different types of accommodation for the students that will be either in college or out of college,” says Kelvin. “When it’s out of college, they may not have a connection to the University’s network and some students will have private accommodation, which they arrange themselves. They have this requirement to print from outside of the network so that’s where Mobility Print is really useful. We find that some Colleges run NATs (Network Address Translations) which causes problems as well so Mobility Print really does help with that.

“What we really like about Mobility Print is its simplicity for the user, especially its ease of installation. It is just so easy and it has the extra benefit of being native as well. There is no learning curve once users have it installed. It just works and that’s really good.

“We receive very few support calls for Mobility Print, and we put that down to its simplicity.”

Life without PaperCut

“We have parts of the University that don’t have PaperCut,” says Kelvin. “These parts are predominantly within the University itself, not the Colleges. They tend not to use print management, and so lose out. Purchasing of print hardware is done on an ad-hoc basis without firstly thinking about their overall need within the department.

“If we look at the unmanaged parts of the University the service offering doesn’t compare to that of what we currently offer within the managed print service,” says Kelvin. “With more centralized purchasing of devices, we can specify the models that we know work with our service. We can then also put in maintenance contracts and agreements for consumables which have us saving money week on week.

“Without PaperCut, it would be chaos,” says Kelvin. “PaperCut gives us the data. The data to make a decision. You can’t make an informed decision over your hardware refresh without it.”

Refreshing enthusiasm

But what makes Kelvin utter the words, “I really enjoy working in print, I can’t see myself doing much else, well, not just yet!…” Because he’s preaching to the choir.

We’re print geeks at PaperCut, so game recognizes game: “From the very early days,” says Kelvin. “When I got into print I quickly realized that PaperCut is an enthusiastic company. We really see the enthusiasm that PaperCut projects and you see that in the emails or when you put in a support call. It is just so refreshing. It is something that you guys should really be quite proud of. I think it radiates that you enjoy your jobs.

“There’s also a willingness to develop the product. And obviously, you can’t go around pleasing everybody but if there’s a strong case there is a genuine will to develop. Where you can develop, you do develop. We will ping you an email or when we’ve got you in front of us we will also say, ‘Hey, have you thought about X?’ and you do respond well to that.

“I think it seems like it’s like a two-way street, you take our ideas, we take your ideas and you listen. If we have a suggestion you just don’t throw it off, you think and actually weigh in on it and investigate them. That’s really good… it’s encouraging.”

Want to find out more?

If you’d like to know more about Cambridge University’s implementation of PaperCut, check out this blog over here where they share their tips for how to approach print management.


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