4 Useful Ricoh Integrated Cloud Environment (ICE) Features

Ricoh Integrated Cloud Environment

Why Ricoh Integrated Cloud Environment?

As the workplace evolves, the technology supporting document management and printing will change with it. Today, mobile printing and cloud access are must-haves for businesses looking to maximize workplace efficiency and productivity. Unfortunately, many businesses are dismayed either by the cost or the lack of all-in-one print software solutions available.

That’s where Ricoh’s Integrated Cloud Environment (ICE) comes in. ICE is a basic all-in-one solution to a number of modern office document management and printing needs. Below are four useful Ricoh features your office can put to use immediately.

Scan-to-Cloud

If your office is moving towards storing documents on the cloud, Ricoh’s Integrated Cloud Environment offers a convenient scan-to-cloud feature. With it, you can quickly scan your documents from your MFP directly into cloud programs including Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Office 365, Evernote and SharePoint.

Optical Character Recognition

ICE’s optical character recognition feature is great for both companies with an extensive electronic document filing system already in place and those just looking to dip their toe into electronic document management. ICE’s optical character recognition feature will convert the text in your physical documents into searchable and editable digital documents, making it easier to manage, share, and secure these documents.

Secure Print Release

Ricoh ICE also provides basic secure printing without additional access cards or fobs. Simply email your documents to print@iceprintcloud.com and enter the release code you receive back into any Ricoh ICE printer. ICE’s secure print release feature is great for office’s looking to avoid printer waste or install a simple secure print solution.

Mobile Printing

The email method outlined above also allows you to easily print documents from any phone or laptop, even if you aren’t connected to your office’s network. Simply send these documents via email to the printer, and pick them up whenever you are ready. No need to worry about someone else taking your documents before you arrive.

Where to get Ricoh Integrated Cloud Environment

ICE’s features extend far beyond the four components outlined above. Ricoh also has designed specialized packages for numerous industries, like legal and education, that offer unique features needed in that field. For example, ICE can provide a Bates stamping function for law firms.

Are you ready to see how Ricoh’s Integrated Cloud Environment can benefit your business? Contact our office technology experts today by filling out our contact form or call (612) 861-4000 for immediate assistance.

5 Low-Cost Tips to Improve Color Print Quality

improve color print quality

Can I Improve Color Print Quality Without Buying a New Printer?

Customers commonly ask if we have any low-cost tips to improve color print quality. While investing in a new multifunction printer is the quickest way to improve color print quality, there are some other low-cost measures you can institute today to increase color quality. Here our five tips you can use right away to get more consistent color production from your current office printer.

Print Resolution

This technique one is pretty simple. Most print jobs you create on your computer default to a standard print dpi, which may not be the highest quality your printer has available. To fix this, increase the print resolution to the maximum dpi option in the print dialog screen.

Software

Software can also make a huge difference in improving color print quality. Certain print software packages feature settings designed to maximum color production quality. Ask your office technology dealer what software and print drivers they recommend to increase color print quality.

Color Mode

Furthermore, when printing documents on CMYK printers, it is important to ensure that you are creating your documents in CMYK color mode. How you change this setting depends on the software program you are using to create the document, but you can usual find directions online using a simple Google search.

Monitors

This tip may not directly improve the quality of your document, but it can help you get more consistent color results. Often the differences between the colors you see on your computer screen and the final printed document are caused by inaccurate color production on the monitor itself. This is especially true for older monitors. One cost-effective solution to this problem is to calibrate your monitor color settings to match the colors on a printed test document. Doing so ensures that the colors you see on your screen are the similar to those on your color prints.

Paper Type

Don’t overlook paper quality; substandard paper leads to substandard color print quality. Often, excessive color bleeding or dullness can be attributed to poor quality paper. Regular copier paper, for example, is ill-suited to production-quality color documents. Talk to your paper supplier about the paper options that are available.

Additional Strategies to Improve Color Print Quality

Looking for additional strategies to improve color production? Contact our office product specialist to learn more about our printing software and color devices. Fill out our contact form or call us at (612) 861-4000.

How to Convert Paper Documents to Electronic Files

Convert Paper Documents to Electronic Files

Best Practices to Convert Paper Documents to Electronic Files

You have finally decided that it is time for your office to go paperless. Maybe the triggering event was a lawsuit that required you to comb through your files for one document or the sudden realization that fire could destroy every important corporate record that you own. In any case, having decided to go paperless, you’re left with one important question: how do I convert paper documents to electronic files?

The move to electronic document management can seem daunting. After all, how are you supposed to convert, index and organize the thousands of files currently sitting around your company’s office? Furthermore, after you’ve converted these files how can you securely dispose of sensitive paper files and records?

Below, we’ve outlined our best practices to make it easy to convert paper documents to electronic files.

Stage One: Backfile Scanning

The conversion process begins with backfile document scanning. In this phase, you will want to scan, index and organize all your existing documents. The easiest way to do this is to engage a document scanning service to do the work for you. A document scanning service will take your documents and scan them into the electronic format of your choice.

What to Look For

Inquire about secure shredding services beforehand. Not all document scanning service will shred your documents for you. Some require that you dispose of the files on your own. Look for a scanning company that offers in-house document shredding. This way, when the service finishes to steps necessary convert paper documents to electronic files, they can securely shred your sensitive documents on-site for you.

You will also want to find a scanning service that makes it easy to ship your files or will pick your documents up on site. This reduces the logistical headache of trying to to get your files to your conversation partner.

Finally, you should consider beforehand whether your industry has any special document security standards, such HIPAA compliance. If it does, then you will want to find a document scanning service that meets those unique compliance standards.

Stage Two: Add the Files to an Enterprise Content Management System

After a scanning service has converted your documents, they will need to be added to an electronic document management system. This will allow your employees to search and edit your files electronically. There are a few options available for this process and you will want to consultant with document management expert in order to find the best solution for your office’s unique needs. For example, a common solution we often recommend for businesses is ImageSilo.

Stage Three: Day Forward Scanning

You finally have all of your documents scanned, indexed and stored in your new electronic document management system. Now what should you when you create a new physical document that you need to convert into an electronic file? In this case, you have two options available.

First, you can add an OCR capable device to your office. Many of these devices, when coupled with the appropriate document management software solution, will enable you to convert your own documents and index them in your electronic document management system. This is ideal for organizations looking to convert the occasional physical document into an electronic file.

If you have a lot of documents, or you’re creating new physical documents on a regular basis, you may want to partner with a document scanning service for timed document conversions. This allows you to convert your newly created document to electronic files at regular intervals and add them to your electronic document management system.

Now What?

After reading this article, you may be thinking that that process required to convert paper documents to electronic files requires a lot of vendor management, contract negotiation, and bid requests. While that’s true if you use a traditional company that specializes solely in either document scanning, document management software, or office printing devices, it doesn’t have to work that way. The key is to look look for an all-in-one partner who can guide your scanning project from start to finish. Not only does this make the billing process easier, but it also increases accountability and simplicity.

If you’re looking for that unique vendor with significant expertise in each area, then look no further than Metro Sales. With over fifty years of experience and knowledgeable experts in each of these three critical areas, we are uniquely positioned to help you with any scanning project, no matter how large or small.

Contact us today at (612) 861-4000 or via our contact form. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

6 Vital Questions to Ask When Choosing a Print Software Program

Print Software

Print software can have an enormous impact on your business. From reducing printing costs, managing print permissions or monitoring device usage, print management software has a variety of possible uses. However, this broad array of functionality can make choosing the right print management software package daunting.

That’s why our print software experts put together a list of questions you can ask when looking add a print management software program to your print environment. By answering these questions, you will be able to clearly communicate your needs when talking to a potential software provider.

What do you want to track?

Are you looking to monitor basic usage across your whole fleet or do you want a program that can track use by device and/or department? Certain software solutions have more in-depth features that add greater tracking capabilities.

What is the size of your print fleet?

If you have just one printer in your office, then the software you will need will be much different than an organization with 500+ devices.

Is secure printing important?

Compliance is an important word in today’s business world. With everything from HIPAA to privacy standards, many organizations have realized that their printers are the weakest link in their security chain. If this is a concern you have, then your best-fit print software needs to have features like secure print release or pull printing.

Do you have environmental sustainability metrics?

Organizations looking to go green or reduce paper waste often use print software to monitor usage and look for opportunities to eliminate paper waste. Furthermore, fleet management options often include the ability to enforce fleet-wide options, such as default black and white or duplex printing. If environmental impact is important to you, ask for a software with these features.

Do you need to convert existing documents into a digital format?

Keeping track off a trove of paper documents can be time and space consuming. Converting your records into a digital format with OCR technology can prevent headaches down the road when you are trying to locate a specific document. If you have a lot of paper document or records you want to convert, you will want a software package with built-in OCR capabilities

Does your industry have unique compliance standards?

Some professions, such as healthcare or legal services have special compliance or document management procedures. For example, legal services often require a print management software, like GlobalScan NX™, with built-in Bates stamping abilities.

Are you ready to add print software to your office’s arsenal of tools? Our office technology experts will work with you to find a print management software tailored to your individual needs and budget. Contact us today to get started!

2 Crucial Reasons Why Color Management Matters

Why Color Management Matters

Have you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up late and rush to work, only to arrive wearing two different socks? Once you notice the mismatched socks, it’s difficult to ignore them. Color consistency functions the same way; once your customers notice color inconsistency, they won’t be able to forget it.

What is color consistency?

“Color consistency” has been a staple of marketing lingo for years and means two things. First, that you’re using the same exact color shade across all documents of the same type, no matter where or on what device they are printed. Second, it means using the same shade of your corporate color across all documents. These two goals are achieved by using a color management solution, either on your computer or printer.

Why does color management matter?

So why should you care about color consistency? Simple, it speaks to both your professionalism and your brand.

Professionalism

The number one reason that color management matters is professionalism. Mismatched colors on documents of the same type look sloppy. If you’re meeting with two potential clients and each one of their supposedly identical documents has a different shade of blue, it makes your organization look unprofessional and unprepared. You could be a Fortune 500 company, but for all they care it looks like your work out of your basement.

Consistent color creates an aura of professionalism. It communicates to your clients that you pay attention to details, even ones as small as color. As a result, customers will be much more comfortable trusting you with their business.

Brand recognition

Branding is another obvious example of the impact color consistency and color management can have on your business. Most major brands have a specific color that they’ve chosen to make their own. Just ask Coca Cola, Pepsi or Android. When you see these colors, your mind instantly goes to the brands they represent. And if you think these colors were chosen haphazardly, then think again. Coca Cola spent consider time and effort choosing their distinctive color and ensuring that it was consistently used over the years.

Still not convinced? Take a look at this interactive graphic to see what when these recognizable corporate colors are switched. Something just feels inherently wrong when these notable brand colors are swapped.

Having different shades of your corporate color contradicts the brand message you are attempting to convey. That’s what color management is so important. It conveys a unified branding message and helps customers immediately identify your brand across all mediums.

Color management made easy

Alright, so you’re convinced that color management matters. Now what can you do about it? If you’re a commercial printer, our color specialists can work with you to find a production device or color management software package for your specific needs and budget.

If you’re a business or nonprofit that does a lot of in-house printing, we have solutions for you too. We can show you affordable color management software options that will help you manage your print jobs across your entire print fleet. To learn more, contact an office technology specialist today at (612) 861-4000.

We also have a full-service overflow print center that can alleviate your printing burden by handling your print jobs for you. To find out more information about our copy center, fill out our information request form.

Three Levels of Print Software

Three Levels of Print Software

Whether it’s a simple analysis of current waste or improved document security, every organization can benefit from print software in some manner. However, with so many software solutions on the market, it’s often difficult to decipher which one is the best for your office.

We find that when you divide software solutions into three general categories based on functionality, it becomes much easier to narrow down your options. When you think of print software in this way, you’ll be in a better position to gauge whether or not a proposed solution will meet your needs.

Level One: Analysis

The first level of print management is all about measuring your current costs and production needs. No matter what your end goal, this is an important first step for any organization. While everyone wants to cut printing costs, a surprising number of businesses don’t even know how much of their budget is currently going towards print expenditures. Investing in print software solves this problem by providing the tools necessary to measure your current production and usage. With these analysis tools, you’ll be able to determine your overall print volume, optimize in-office device placement and even discern how many machines your building requires. How do you know if you’re ready for a level one software option? Consider the following three questions:

  1. Do you know how much you’re spending on printing?
  2. What’s your print volume?
  3. Are your printers being overworked or overused?

Level Two: Basic Tracking and Automation

An initial audit is a great place to start, but you’ll want to track your printing long-term if you’re really serious about slashing costs. Additional software features can be used to improve client billing procedures, restrict color printing permissions and even enforce duplex printing. In doing so, these solutions create a culture of continuous improvement and cost reduction.

Another useful facet of this level is process automation. Print software can help streamline your workflows by providing automated meter readings, service call notifications, supply alerts and remote adjustments. These capabilities save you time, prevent inopportune supply outages and keep your office running at peak efficiency. To determine if you require level two features, consider the following questions:

  1. Does your office spend a lot printing unneeded color documents?
  2. Are your employees using duplex printing or other cost-saving options whenever possible?
  3. Are you having trouble tracking your printing costs or maintaining supplies?
  4. How much print downtime can you afford?

Level Three: Advanced Features

The solutions outlined above provide a lot of general functionality that any business can benefit from. However, certain institutions have unique workflow needs that require specialized solutions. For example, healthcare facilities and human resource departments deal extensively in confidential documents. As a result, they require a software solution that will keep their documents secure. Law firms, meanwhile, need e-discovery functionality to manage evidence and court files. Here are some common advanced elements to consider when shopping for print software.

Improved Security

Confidential information is increasingly under siege. Organizations today have to strike a delicate balance between increasing digital workflows and maintaining document security. If you’re handling confidential employee files or patient charts, then you also have an obligation to keep those files secure. One way this can be achieved is through secure print release functionality. This feature allows you to print your document and then pick it up at any office device by authenticating your user credentials. Requiring you to be at the machine before your job prints ensures your confidential information won’t end up in the wrong hands.

Document Management

From lost files to mishandled documents, paper files can really drag down your business productivity. Print management software alleviates this problem by adding digital document management to your arsenal. Tools like optical character recognition will allow you to convert old files into secure digital documents. These editable files can help improve workplace collaboration, streamline the document search process and keep your information secure.

Cloud & Mobile Print

Today’s workforce is constantly on the move. How well is your print fleet keeping up? With employees increasingly working from mobile devices like tablets, phones and laptops, it’s imperative that companies have the ability to print from any device. Mobile print is a simple solution that allows users to print from their devices without complex network setups and workarounds.

Cloud print, meanwhile, enables printing from a number of Cloud-based applications, such as Office 365, Google Drive, or DropBox. It also comes with standard Cloud scanning, which allows your employees or students to quickly scan your paper files directly into Cloud applications. This function is especially beneficial for educational institutions looking to integrate learning tools like Blackboard into their daily processes.

Some questions to consider:

  1. Are you consistently printing lots of confidential documents like employee files?
  2. Do you have physical documents you’d like to store digitally?
  3. Is mobile printing important to your business?
  4. Do you create a lot of editable PDFs?
  5. Are you intensively using Cloud applications like DropBox, Blackboard or Office 365?
  6. Are you in the legal, healthcare, education fields?
  7. Do you currently have a way for employees to print from mobile devices?

Conclusion

Picking the right software package for your business doesn’t have to be a confusing endeavor. When you know what you need to achieve with your software, the process will suddenly become a lot less complex.

It’s also important to note that a lot of print solutions, such as PaperCut and Ricoh’s Integrated Cloud Environment, provide capabilities that straddles all three of the levels mentioned above. These software packages will allow you to monitor your fleet and access some of the advanced features outlined above without investing in multiple solutions. If, however, you are looking for specialized features like Bates stamping, a more narrow solution, like Nuance eCopy, might be a better match for what you’re trying to achieve.

In the end, these three categories provide a good baseline to start your search. Once you have considered what sort of features you’ll need, we recommend discussing what available solutions will best help you achieve your goals. As always, our office technology experts are ready to help you find the ideal solution and can be reached at 612-861-4000 or by filling our contact form.

 

What is optical character recognition?

optical character recognition

Chances are that at some point you’ve had to make a document electronically accessible. Whether you were looking to enable digital editing or just make the document obtainable for multiple employees, you probably had to do one of the following; either you manually typed the information into a new Word document or you simply scanned that document into a PDF.

While these options can work, they’re both severely limited. Creating a new Word document is time consuming and runs the risk of typing errors. And if your materials have images you want to add? Well, those would have to be scanned, cropped and inserted manually.

Scanning to PDF, on the other hand, renders a document that has limited editing options. In either case, you end up losing important functionality and time. The good news? The printing industry has developed an easy solution to convert documents, something called optical character recognition (OCR).

What is optical character recognition?

Optical character recognition is an innovative technology solution that allows users to convert physical materials into editable Word files and PDFs. OCR’s unique approach has numerous practical purposes across a broad range of industries.

Before diving into the technical details, however, it’s beneficial to actually define optical character recognition. According to Wikipedia, OCR is “the mechanical or electronic conversion of images of typed, handwritten or printed text into machine-encoded text, whether from a scanned document, a photo of a document, a scene-photo or from subtitle text superimposed on an image.”

For our purposes, optical character recognition technology can be understood as software that converts physical text and images so that they can be stored and edited electronically. Additionally, while OCR can be used for imaging, our primary focus in this article will be OCR text conversion.

How does optical character recognition work?

Without getting bogged down in too much terminology, there are two aspects you should understand about the OCR conversion process.

The first is pre-processing. This phase includes any initiatives undertaken to improve transcription success. These efforts can be either manual or software based. Manually, for example, you may make a copy of the document first to improve the contrast between the text and its background.

Often times, OCR software itself also includes extensive pre-processing protocols. Programs might take steps to remove blemishes, tilt the document so that it’s straight and convert the document into a black-and-white format. The goal in every case is to streamline the transcription process and improve accuracy.

After pre-processing is complete, the actual text conversion process begins. Due to the plethora of available typefaces, this step involves using one of two methods to read the physical text. The first, pattern recognition, essentially programs the OCR programs to recognize a variety of common fonts. The goal being that with this background knowledge, the program can then recognize an A in a lesser known typeface due to shared patterns.

The more common approach, feature recognition, uses rules to train the OCR software to identify letter traits. For example, the program can be taught to know that when it sees two angled lines slanted to a point with a line horizontally between them, that this is a capital A. These sorts of rules, when created for every capital and lowercase letter, then allow the program to identify a multitude of typefaces without much trouble.

What are the benefits of OCR?

OCR provides enormous benefits. For example, while most companies today uses computers to create and share new documents, many still use an old paper filing system or documents that were created by typewriters. Documents stored in this way are only available offline and thus, in order to use them, you need to first locate them.

OCR can be beneficial in this case because it allows companies to digitize these documents. Doing so turns them into editable and collaborative files. It also prevents someone from manually having to type up the information contained in these documents and thus saves time while also minimizing the potential for user error.

Additionally, optical character recognition can be used to help you save office space. Digitally archiving your documents allows you to do away with space eating filing cabinets or stacks of papers. This is especially beneficial when the average filing cabinet takes up nearly 15 square feet.

There’s also the benefit of document security. Converting a document for digital storage allows to you avoid issues related loss, theft or natural disaster. In the end, this is a major cost-saving and productivity advantage.

Who benefits the most from OCR technology?

What’s wonderful about optical character recognition is its adaptability. So while optical character recognition has some definitive benefits in certain industries, it still has a very broad applicability. Two of the more notable examples of its use, however, have been healthcare providers and the legal services industry.

Those in healthcare often use a HIPAA compliant document scanning provider to convert patient records into digital files. This allows them to be easily transferred among healthcare providers and allows doctors to update information in real-time as they meet with patients. Transcribing these documents, of course, has the added benefit of securing these patient records electronically. Records can be stored in a secure server off-site or in the cloud to protect against natural disaster or theft.

OCR is also popular in the legal industry, especially when it comes to eDiscovery services. Firms use OCR conversion to streamline their workflows and remove precious time from the document discovery process. Digitizing files eliminates the need for manual searching and boosts productivity levels.

How to get started with OCR Technology

Alright, so now that you know how OCR works and are aware its benefits, how can you start profiting from it? Generally, we recommend two different options to organizations looking to put OCR technology into use.

Device Software

This is the most obvious solution and the one that works the best if you’re planning on continuously converting materials. The benefits of this method are that it’s convenient and affordable. However, if you’re looking to convert a whole bunch of documents at once, or have a one-time conversion project in-mind, you may want to explore our second option.

Document Scanning Service

If you’re planning on converting an entire filing cabinet, document scanning services are the way to go. This is especially true if you only plan on using OCR capabilities once or twice. The main benefit of doing so is higher conversion accuracy and less work for you; a document scanning service will usually pick up your documents and then convert them. They’ll also process and review the document metadata to ensure it is accurate and searchable.

Using a document scanning service, therefore, sets you up quite nicely if you’re looking to create an electronic document management system. When the project is completed, you’ll receive your files via the electronic method of your choice. Scanning services are hassle free and the preferred choice for companies looking to modernize their old office files.

You can also use day-forward scanning services if you anticipate the continued creation of large numbers of physical files. Day-forwarding essentially converts your documents after specific time intervals. Using day-forwarding allows you to continue to create physical documents and convert them as you go.

Do you have questions about OCR technology or want to explore your technology options? Our office technology consultants are here to help! Contact us today and one of our experts will happily answer your questions and provide personalized recommendations.

Fill out our information request form or call us at 612-861-4000 to learn more.