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Data Centers Merge and Move Ahead

February 2002
By merging or working closely with their data centers, in-plants are expanding their operations, saving money and ensuring their survival.

by SCOTT BURY

Across America, businesses and institutions are merging their in-plants into their Information Technology departments' print output organizations. It makes sense. After all, both operations use much of the same equipment: copiers, high-speed laser printers, powerful computer workstations and robust networks.

We've taken a look at how three organizations have made such mergers work using different approaches.

Georgia Tech: Rethinking Leads To Reorganizing

"Contrary to what we in the printing business want to believe, printing is going away," contends Paul Thomas, director of Printing and Copying Services at the Georgia Institute of Technology, in Atlanta.

Forms are being replaced by online data-gathering and transactions, he says, and course packs, long one of the staples for college and university in-plants, are being replaced by Web delivery of course material. Together, these trends have significantly reduced the volume for Georgia Tech's in-plant.

"Electronic communication is the wave of the future in academia," Thomas says. "Now we're struggling to pay for the equipment."

Nearly three years ago, Georgia Tech merged its in-plant printing department with its data center's printing department.

"We had four pieces of high-speed printing equipment for 'sys-out' (computer output printing) in the data center, producing 2 million copies per month. That's far too much equipment for that requirement," says Thomas. So when the graphics department decided to go digital, adding two Danka 9110 printers with scanners to its offset printing complement, the university took a long look at all the printing and copying on campus.

The physical merger three years ago was only the consummation of a longer-term organizational shift at the university. More than five years ago, Printing and Copying Services was moved under the Office of Information Technology. With the reporting lines re-drawn, the institution started to take a careful look at all printing. Management realized that the in-plant's walk-up copying services for students were competing with the same services offered by the library.

"Nobody was doing well in that scenario," says Thomas. "With a student population around 14,000, there wasn't a big enough walk-up market for two centers." So the copying department moved off campus.

The physical merger of the data center's computer output printing, or "sys-out," was a further rationalization of the printing capacity.

"The sys-out equipment was ancient. The choice was to replace it, move production off-campus to the printing and copying center, or outsource the printing totally," Thomas explains. "We did a careful study, which determined that outsourcing was not in Georgia Tech's best interests."
 

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