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Network and Classroom Management Thread, Pcounter and alternatives in Technical; Does anyone know any free alternatives to Pcounter? Or is Pcounter worth the cost?...
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    Pcounter and alternatives

    Does anyone know any free alternatives to Pcounter? Or is Pcounter worth the cost?

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    Weather it's worth the cost is entirely down to how much you think you can cut down your printing with it. That's the brilliant thing, it's there to save you money so it's very easy to judge how much it's worth.

    Pykota is a free tool that is often mentioned on here, however it's Linux based a bit of a steep learning curve.

    There's also Papercut logger which just keeps a log of print jobs, however it might be a good start in gathering statistics and proving you need to put something more powerful in place.

    We've just invested about £600 in Papercut NG, since our current printing bill is over £21k it'll only take a small reduction to pay back the cost.

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    elsiegee40's Avatar
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    We use Print Manager Plus, again paid-for. It's worth paying for IF your SLT and 100% behind enforcing print limits. If they waver and start allowing no-quibble top-ups or unlimited printing to staff, then you may as well not bother.

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    Papercut here and it is easy to setup and use, looked at pcounter and others years ago and they looked so outdated compared to papercut, I have not seen the latest pcounter software so I might be off the mark there

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    Quote Originally Posted by pettit87 View Post
    Does anyone know any free alternatives to Pcounter?
    Yes, I simply have a basic Debian VM set up running Samba with System-V style printing. That shares out a bunch of printers, each of which prints to a PDF document in a folder shared out from a Windows server. A script on the Windows server periodically (every 10 seconds or so) checks the contents of that folder for new files and prints what it finds. That's about it - there's a couple of screen's worth of scripts to stick it all together and record who prints what, but that's about it.

    --
    David Hicks

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    I think print managenet is more to do than who prints what. It is about controlling what they print, when they print, from where they print and limits their weekly or monthly print allowance. Papercut covers all that and for a reasonable cost, within I would say 2 months recoups its cost.

    By the way I don't work for them, I just found they do the job for a very reasonable cost, just like all other solutions from down under.
    Last edited by jsnetman; 22nd July 2010 at 08:35 PM.

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    We use pcounter to monitor print usage, but that only covers our network printers. there was a 10 workstation software giveaway/promo at some point but we havent activated it (although we should). we've moved a lot of printers to networked ones but the added benefit of pcounter is we have swipe cards on our general access photocopiers (colour and mono) which pcounter monitors/controls also.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jsnetman View Post
    I think print managenet is more to do than who prints what. It is about controlling what they print, when they print, from where they print and limits their weekly or monthly print allowance. Papercut covers all that and for a reasonable cost, within I would say 2 months recoups its cost.

    By the way I don't work for them, I just found they do the job for a very reasonable cost, just like all other solutions from down under.
    I agree completely, you can audit printing easily, controlling it is also easy and cost effective, getting the SMT/SLT to agree to changes, especially to staff controls is the hard part.

    Controlling students with quotas should yield a 15%+ reduction in costs, add in staff and that can easily become 30%+ savings.
    Remember...it's not just the toner cost, it's the obvious paper, replacement and ongoing maintenance of devices, updating and management of queues as well as more which can be reduced by reducing the load and usage of devices.

    Pcounter has had a clean up of the controls ~ 12 months ago but it's development is prioritised towards functionality. It's also more advanced on the copier control (multiple manufacturers), non-authenticated printing and print room controls.
    It does much more than can be document on a simple datasheet - if in doubt, ask!

    Happy to answer any questions here or via PM - have supported or worked with Pcounter for over 12 years now - positive and negative feedback welcomed!

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    We use Pcounter here. All is does is prevent the kids from printing anything over 50 sheets at a time (we impose an initial 50 copy limit on them which obviously reduces as they print). Aside from that, when they run out of credits, we just give them some more, no questions asked. Agreed, it's badly managed by us, and therefore has been a complete waste of money, as per usual. Just the opinion of a humble observer. It could work, but even if we managed it better, we'd still get teachers moaning students can't print in lessons and can 'little johnny' have some print credits. I guess the crux of it is, we probably don't have the time to manage it, or the support of efficient classroom management (i.e Teachers) to assist us let alone a supportive SLT. If it's not your money being wasted on printing, then I shouldn't bother, no one else really is.

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    I use Pykota which is open source and brilliant! see PyKota's Home — PyKota's Home

    There is a dated HOWTO at CUPS and PyKota - Wiki which l will be updating this summer when l move it to new hardware.

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    Quote Originally Posted by techtopia View Post
    We use Pcounter here. All is does is prevent the kids from printing anything over 50 sheets at a time (we impose an initial 50 copy limit on them which obviously reduces as they print). Aside from that, when they run out of credits, we just give them some more, no questions asked. Agreed, it's badly managed by us, and therefore has been a complete waste of money, as per usual. Just the opinion of a humble observer. It could work, but even if we managed it better, we'd still get teachers moaning students can't print in lessons and can 'little johnny' have some print credits. I guess the crux of it is, we probably don't have the time to manage it, or the support of efficient classroom management (i.e Teachers) to assist us let alone a supportive SLT. If it's not your money being wasted on printing, then I shouldn't bother, no one else really is.
    Here's a few suggestions:

    Control:
    Change it to Money - it makes more sense and the teachers often don't see credits as "budget"
    Deposit every Monday for the students, enough for say 25 Mono Prints
    Give the teachers the ability to update balances via the web tool - it's dangerous but initially makes them see money being spent
    Stop duplicate jobs (Tick box in Options)

    Report:
    Run a weekly report on prints done - it will let you name and shame wasteful students, give you a reason for the lower allowances when it's mainly waste (if need be increase allowance if not)
    Run a report on weekly deposits - it will show you and the SLT how much the teachers abuse what should be controlling this.
    Unless they see whats being spent, they won't let you enforce control.

    Alert
    Enable the Popup feature - Any job over 50p (the cost of 10 prints @ 5p) so they have to confirm they want it, include their balance on the message. (Can be used for staff alternatively, anything over 40 pages)
    Send a message after each print job when their balance falls below 50p - then they know to not waste it. (Not Staff)

    Just a few idea's, does anyone else use these?

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    We actually charge back to departments which makes people more accountable. When we started implementing this, we gave the departments £X based on the size of the department. This gave them a year to cut down their usgae.

    The idea needs to be supported by SLT. Maybe spend a year recording print usage (use PyKota or something else free intially) and let departments know exactly how much they spend. Then charge them and see how their attitudes change!

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    From what I have seen as we are currently looking into this PCounter is worth the money, I didn't find it too over priced and it can integrate with our MFP's which is what we want. I've just had my business case approved at work so within the next month we will have it all setup and working and new devices

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    Quote Originally Posted by jsnetman View Post
    I think print managenet is more to do than who prints what.
    Indeed - it's about getting people to print less in the first place. Handily, the system I outlined above can just as easily produce a PDF document to be placed in a homework pickup area or sent to the VLE instead of being sent to a printer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by techtopia View Post
    We use Pcounter here.
    You'd have been better off with Papercut if that is all you're doing (based on the information in your post, t&C apply, your house may be at risk etc) as its considerably cheaper. We're doing loads with Papercut now. Staff have to charge back to their departments (based on their membership of AD groups) which we then cross charge monthly to the head of department. We're seeing if we can work with Papercut on an API to set it so that student printing goes to the department for that lesson as well using the "override" function.

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