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Office Machines Link to Cloud to Improve Productivity

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Businesses find themselves increasingly using the cloud, a metaphor for the internet’s capacity to store, manage and process data instead of relying on their local servers or PCs.

And they’re linking their office equipment – printers, telephones, fax machines, scanners, copiers – to the cloud expecting the technology to result in cost savings.

“Everyone wants the full range, the print, the scan, copy, fax, everything,” says Bryan Higgins, vice president of Team Office Technologies in Austintown. “Multifunction printers are becoming more of an office essential and a network device.”

Team Office is one of four companies The Business Journal interviewed about office technology. The others are American Business Center Inc. in Boardman, Pro Business Systems in Boardman and Crosby Mook Office Equipment Inc. in Warren. All noted how equipment is rapidly changing to create more efficient and productive workspaces.

The most popular office machine today is a color multifunction printer, or MFP, the president of Team Office, Tom Reevely, begins. “It has become the central communication tool for a business.”

Team Office, which has a full IT department, sells and maintains office equipment and technology. Toshiba manufactures the MFPs it carries. All have software built into them that allows businesses to scan a file on the MFP, which automatically stores it in the cloud with a touch of a few buttons. “It’s saving huge amounts of time for clients,” Reevely says.

That’s because rather than having to manually scan to a file, which can result in a mistake, an employee simply uses “the MFP touch screen, touching the exact folder where they want to file it and it goes right there,” he explains.

In addition to saving time, the cloud makes it more secure to send a document through the MFP than regular email, he adds. For instance, Team Office MFPs have a secure PDF function built into each, allowing a business such as a hospital or law firm to send password-protected documents that contain confidential information.

Noting the frequency of cybersecurity breaches, Reevely says, “Security is one of the biggest hot points right now and most businesses are reviewing their security from their network all the way down to their MFPs.”

Besides linking MFPs to remote services in the cloud for reasons of efficiency and security, they also reduce costs.

“The issue is that storage of documents has a cost to it,” says Syl Frazzini, vice president of sales and production print specialist at American Business Center. With the cloud eliminating the need for numerous file cabinets, companies need less office space.

Moreover, ABC offers an electronic document management program where its employees visit an office, remove all the stored paper documents and take them to a secure location to be scanned, Frazzini says. They return the scanned documents after storing them on a PC hard drive, a compact disc or in the cloud.

“It’s more cost-effective than prohibitive, so that the company isn’t using internal man-hours,” Frazzini says, adding that most businesses want to avoid the hassle of converting their paper archives into the cloud on their own. And once the documents are scanned, the cloud makes it easier to share them.

ABC, a dealer of Ricoh office equipment, has a Smart Op Panel touch screen on its MFPs, which looks like a smartphone and can access the web, he continues. The MFPs can also be connected with smartphones through the Smart Device Connector 3.0, a mobile printing app an individual can use to find and print documents from the MFP directly from his phone, no matter where he is.

The touch screens on the MFPs and the software that runs them is some of the most advanced office technology that Pro Business Systems has seen, says general manager Tony Perrett. Pro Business Systems, a Savin office equipment dealer, offers network and server solutions.

Perrett says the MFP touch screens are so advanced that Pro Business Systems can help a client on such a screen even if the client isn’t nearby. “We can log onto the machine and walk them through remotely by showing them how to use it on the screen,” he says. Other help the MFP provides is monitoring office machines remotely. Should a machine register an error, it alerts Pro Business Systems often before the customer becomes aware an error occurred. And with new enhancements to the MFPs, businesses can now get reports of equipment problems emailed to a smartphone.

With frequent technology upgrades in the machines, the initial cost is usually higher, Perrett says, but saves businesses money over the life of a machine. “The more you spend on the machine the less it costs to operate,” he says. “The parts that need to be replaced last longer. And just like a car that needs maintenance every so many miles, MFPs are very much the same.”

When choosing the MFP best for a business, price shouldn’t be the biggest determinant, says Rocky Mitolo, president of Crosby Mook, which works with several large area companies that make significant purchases of big equipment.

“Some people might think, ‘Oh, they’re a big company and that’s why they buy big equipment,’ ” Mitolo says. “But that’s not why they buy big equipment. They’re watching their pennies as much as anyone else. They get that type of product because it gives them higher productivity and greater flexibility.”

Crosby Mook, which carries Toshiba MFPs, has a software program, Re-Rite, that allows a paper document to be scanned before converting it into a text that can be edited in Word or Excel so it’s not just a PDF file.

“It helps a business with productivity,” Mitolo says. The scanner can also read a barcode or a name on a document and know the correct cloud file where a document should be stored without an individual touching a screen. “The scanning side of it is incredible,” Mitolo marvels.

“Some of the neatest technology is right here in the area and people don’t always realize that.”

Pictured: Touch screens on multifunction printers enable automatic storage of documents to the cloud.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.