Track Your Paper Use For Cost Efficiency

As a business owner or manager, you are responsible for the never-ending task of keeping your paper cost within budget. Printer paper is one of the most expensive items in an office, aside from ink and toner, and you always want to look for ways to better control its usage.

Password Protect Your Printing

One way to combat excessive use is to install a software program designed to require a password before a document will print. This is helpful in avoiding unauthorized individuals from using the printer paper (and while they are at the printer, potentially walking away with sensitive and confidential information). One program available, Printlock , is ideal for both home and office. Any document sent to the printer will cancel itself if the correct password is not given.

Printlock is functional on an entire network, or just one computer. It works with any type of printer, since it installs on the PC itself. Any office or organization would benefit from using a program similar to this, especially one that leaves any computers unattended.

Note: While the use of passwords should be a requirement for any home or business, password protection alone does not guarantee the proper use of your home or office’s paper. There might not be unauthorized users, but you may still have approved users who exploit the company’s paper and ink supply.

Track Paper Use Through Auditing

Another option to save on paper, ink, and toner is to track your paper use.  Windows has a built-in printer auditing function, but it can be difficult to read the results, and the effort can be time consuming (particularly if you do not have printing centralized, and have to visit every computer to get results). It is also not as detailed as what is required to have an accurate idea of everyone’s paper use. Those who are tasked with tracking paper use will want to easily figure out who is using more paper than necessary, with minimal effort.

There are some great software options available to assist you in tracking everything from who uses the most ink and paper, and which documents are being printed, to generating reports on how many documents print from a specific user account or computer, and when.

These reports are especially useful in planning your paper budget, as you will have an idea of the average amount of paper used on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. With these reports, any business or home will have a better chance of keeping the proper amount of stock on hand; running out of paper before a delivery, or buying too much paper when it is not on sale will not be an issue.

In order to pinpoint an accurate average, the unnecessary print-jobs will need to be taken care of first. The reports will indicate and track the person (or persons) who are making excessive use of the printer, and a supervisor or manager will rectify the situation.

Paper-Tracking Software

Most of the software available requires the use of Microsoft Windows, an operating system already used by most businesses and organizations. A few of the great programs available are accessible on other platforms, and do not require anyone not using Windows to change. There are many paper-tracking programs to choose from; some programs are free and open-source, and others require you to purchase a license.

Free Version

If you are only interested in tracking whoever is using the most paper during printing, a free, open-source version may be suitable enough. PaperCut Print Logger , currently only available for Windows users, is an ideal choice.

  • A free version, it tracks details such as time of printing, the user, the number of pages printed, document names, and even the paper size used. You will find specifics for further analysis by accessing the print audit logs in HTML, CSV, or Excel formats.
  • This program is a large step above the print audit logs included in Windows, but is still a basic paper-tracking program. For a manager simply looking to reduce waste in a small environment, this might be a good fit. It is worth keeping in mind however, that most free software programs offer no support, or a very limited amount of support.

For any managers operating in a large environment, or any offices with a large number of printers, buying a license for a comprehensive paper-tracking software program may be a better idea. These versions will come with support from the company, and an upgrade from the basic, free programs.

Advanced Version

For advanced print-management features, PaperCut MF is an excellent option.

  • This version is supported on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Novell platforms. All the basic features of the free version are included, along with full support, and options such as tracking the usage of the printer’s scanner, copier, and fax capabilities.
  • Tracking the photocopier use is as essential to staying within budget as tracking your printer’s paper use. They both use the same paper, ink, and toner, and both run the risk of misuse.
  • To further save money and keep printing costs low, PaperCut MF also provides the ability to allow only a pre-determined amount of pages for printing, per user. These set amounts are changeable at any time. This generally keeps printing to a minimum; no employee will ask for unnecessary printing privileges if he or she has to answer to a supervisor or manager.
  • This concept also applies to having a password-protected printer where the employees or users do not know the password. They will be less inclined to waste paper if they are required to seek approval beforehand, but it does not reflect good time-management in a larger environment where many people are printing frequently. Waiting on a manager to approve the printing of every document is just not feasible in many cases. It may be a viable option in a smaller environment, if costs and chronic paper misuse are an issue.


Using any of the above techniques is a great start to cost savings on paper, ink, and toner. Most people do not realize how expensive these items are, and a simple memo or quick staff meeting to make people aware may make a huge difference.

Try Before You Buy

If you are unsure as to whether you will benefit from any of the software programs available, trying out the free program to track your paper use first, before purchasing a license for one of the more advanced programs, is a non-committed way to decide if they are right for your company. In the end, if your company is large enough, the savings on your paper and ink bill will outweigh the cost of the software itself. If your company is smaller, the free version may even offer enough features to satisfy your business and cost reduction needs.