Tom Stiles, executive director, Identification Systems Group
When it comes to the maintenance and support of your ID card system, you have a couple of choices. You can have the system maintained by your local expert dealer or do it yourself using the manufacturer’s 800-number and depot maintenance program.
Over the years, ID card printers have become more reliable with a lower average cost. This commoditization is typical in the lifecycle of product technology and offers an advantage when it comes to choice and cost savings. These choices include the purchase of a backup card printer and service of the printer using a depot program.
Your ID card system is an investment and is an important part of a university’s overall identification and security program. It’s much more than just a card printer; it’s a system of many components that need to work together, as well as with other campus systems. In addition, a campus card administrator and their staff’s time is valuable, and working on a down card printer may not the best use of resources.
Questions You Should Be Asking
Several factors should be considered when making a decision on how to support a university ID card system. A card administrator should ask the following key questions:
Do you or your staff have the time to stay on top of all of the details required to keep the system in peak condition? Are you or your staff technically able to handle the ongoing updates, upgrades, cleaning and changes? What is that internal cost, and how much productivity is lost?
I occasionally hear that the IT department handles maintenance and service. The “mysterious” IT department can be a catch-all for support, and they are generally overburdened. It is rare that IT staff has the knowledge to work on a device that has mechanical operations. If they do, will they have the time to perform scheduled routine maintenance? If responsibility is transferred to campus IT, are there internal charges for the service?
Do you have the time to wait for a replacement printer to arrive? If not, do you have a backup printer or two? What is the cost of an on-site service agreement that includes all preventative maintenance, and how does this compare to a depot agreement? If you obtain an on-site agreement, could you leverage that to negotiate a lower price on cards and printer supplies?
Real Life Scenarios
Let’s walk through two possible scenarios to show the differences between on-site service and a depot arrangement.
Scenario #1 – Depot Service
There’s a problem with your printer, you call the 800-number and spend some time troubleshooting the issue.
It may not be apparent if the issue is with the card printer, software, camera or printer supplies. In this scenario, you would need to retrieve the original packing box – that you would have had to save – unload the printer of its cards and ribbon because the ribbon may have personal data on it, pack the printer in the box and arrange to ship it.