How does your software track print jobs?
(Too) Many print tracking software use the Windows printer spooler information to get the number of pages that have been output by a printer. Unfortunately the Windows spooler gives rather inaccurate information especially when it comes to Excel or Outlook print jobs. The spooler information is also unable to report correctly a mix of color/b&w page count and a paper format mix (Letter/B size or A4/A4 mix). If your software relies on the Windows spooler you will get significant mismatch between the printer counter and the software reports.
To get an accurate job tracking information it has to come from the printer or MFP, from the engine itself, that’s what is called the “embedded tracking” (note that not all printers and MFP have that capability). High-end office printers are the one where you will find such capability, lower-end won’t expose such API. If your software is getting the embedded tracking information from the printer or MFP (like what Celiveo Business and Celiveo Enterprise do) then it can even count correctly partially cancelled print jobs and internal pages such as config pages. This is definitely the best option, but you will still see a counter mismatch (read below).
For printers that don’t provide embedded tracking API some software then use a print job analyzer, reading the print flow and calculating the number of pages in b&w, color, and the paper format. The accuracy really depends on the quality of the software, on the printer language that’s used (PC5, PCL6, Postscript, PDF etc) and on the driver itself as it manages attributes such as multi-copy. Such analyze won’t be able to detect partially cancelled print jobs and reading SNMP counters may provide a wrong allocation for the pages as multiple users may be using a printer nearly at the same time, ie one user doing a copy but someone printing right before or after.
What else can explain the mismatch between software and hardware counters?
Best solutions use embedded tracking but that won’t eliminate the page counter mismatch. The printer internal counter tracking method varies from vendor to vendor and often even varies between the various printer models offered by a single manufacturer. These variations makes it impossible to describe all of the potential differences between embedded tracking and tracking using printer internal counters, however the following examples help to illustrate the types of differences that are possible.
Examples with Celiveo Enterprise:
- Celiveo Enterprise tracks an A3 (B-size) 3-page duplex document as a 3-page duplex-enabled job, whereas some printer internal counters track the same document as a 4-page duplex-enabled job.
This difference occurs because the logic of most printers and copiers is based on sides rather than pages.
Most printers first process the backside of each sheet for duplex print jobs. This leads to side 4 being counted by the printer internal counters before side 3 (the other side of the same sheet of paper), even if the page is empty. If the default setting for the printer driver is to have duplex enabled, all 1-page documents will be tracked as 2 pages by the internal counters of such printers.
- Celiveo Enterprise tracks A3 (B-size) pages as A3 (B-size) pages whereas some printers track A3 pages as 2 A4 (Letter) sized pages.
- Celiveo Enterprise analyzes and tracks page-per-page information for each document, thus Celiveo Enterprise tracking is capable of differentiating black & white from color pages within the same document. This is in comparison to how some printers will consider an entire print job as color if only one of the pages in the job is printed in color.
- Some printers store page counters in flash memory. Such memory is at risk of wearing out after approximately 100,000 writing cycles. To avoid this issue, it is common for those printers to keep the internal counter information in volatile memory and only write it to flash memory after certain number of pages are printed. If the printer is switched off when the values are still in volatile memory, they are lost. Relying on embedded tracking will not have such a loss of information as it is sent to the tracking software after every copy, print or scan job.
These examples illustrate why it is often not possible to do a one-to-one match of printer internal counter tracking data to embedded tracking data. Printer internal counters refer to sheet sides when advanced print tracking software refer to documents, pages and documents the paper physical format.
If you have additional questions about tracking methods, we strongly recommends asking printer vendors how their printer internal counters operate so their response can be compared with the embedded tracking data supported by your tracking software vendor.
It is also recommended to do in-house analysis of embedded tracking VS printer page counters by printing a small subset of documents and correlating information from this test suite between the printer internal counter information that is normally available on printer web page and the your print jobs tracking software reports.