Lexmark International Inc. has introduced a software-as-a-service portfolio designed to make using and managing its business printers easier for both end users and channel pros.
Called Lexmark Cloud Services and available now, the new product suite includes fleet and print management components, plus a solution that lets users print or scan directly to selected file sync and share services.
The fleet administration system, named Lexmark Cloud Fleet Management, is designed specifically for channel partners with SMB clients. Available at no additional charge to users of compatible devices, the solution provides a multi-tenant interface that administrators can use to view, configure, and apply firmware updates to Lexmark printers remotely.
“Today when a channel partner wants to deploy a configuration or a firmware update, they have to go onsite to a customer to do that,” says Eric McCann, a software product marketing manager at Lexmark, which is headquartered in Lexington, Ky.
Additional remote management functionality includes tools designed to help technicians diagnose technical problems. “If a partner gets a call from a customer that printer A isn’t working, they can log directly into the portal, they can bring up that printer, they can see if there’s any configuration or anything that’s not what they want it to be, they can remotely pull logs, and they can remotely restart the device,” McCann says. “Being able to do that first and second level troubleshooting without ever leaving their office is a big deal.”
Cloud Fleet Management also provides client-by-client page consumption data that channel pros can use for invoicing purposes. Many channel pros who charge by the page collect those figures once a month from their customers, who must send someone around on foot to all of the company’s printers to assemble it.
“I can think of nothing less efficient than that,” McCann says. “With this tool they literally log into the portal and they have a table view of all the devices in a customer’s fleet with their mono and color page counts.”
Lexmark makes other fleet management solutions, most notably its MarkVision Enterprise product. In addition to being bigger systems than many SMBs can afford, however, those products are all installed on premises. According to McCann, hosting fleet management software in the cloud offers significant advantages.
“There’s no software updates, there’s no infrastructure updates, and there’s no Windows licenses,” he says. “All those things go away in the cloud, and you use the service, you pay a monthly fee for the service, and you move on with your day to day business.” SaaS applications like Cloud Fleet Management scale more flexibly, both up and down, as well, he notes.
According to McCann, offering the product at no extra charge is designed to stimulate demand. “We want people to move to this system and use it, and so for now there is no fee for using [it],” he says. That could change in the future, he adds, if Lexmark adds significant new functionality to the system, but pricing for the base functionality available now will remain unchanged either way. “We have no intention of charging for anything that we’re not charging for today,” McCann says.