PrintFleet Blog

What do you do when your DCAs keep losing their connection?

Posted by Dennis Kramer on Mar 6, 2018 9:00:00 AM
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DCA Pulse for Raspberry Pi

What do you do when your data collection agents (DCAs) keep losing their connection? It is a common problem in the managed print services (MPS) industry, especially with small and medium-sized business (SMB) customers. Once in a while, with some clients, you stop receiving data from your managed print devices. As a result you cannot bill meters, your customers do not receive their supplies in time, and you cannot provide the proactive services that differentiate you from your competitors.

On average, in the SMB market, 10-20% of DCAs stop working at some point in time, which is the main cause of devices losing their connection to back-office systems. In most cases this is not because of the DCA itself, but is caused by the Windows PC the DCA is running on. The reason may be as simple as the client trashing the PC that had your DCA running! Or the client just updated the PC’s operating system after which your DCA may have disappeared. You can create a Stale DCA alert so at least you are informed about the issue, but then the real work starts.

You now need to contact the client and ask them to check their data collection agent. With larger clients, IT will typically have a good handle on making sure the DCAs are running properly. This is not always the case with SMBs. There may not even be an IT manager to contact, and if you manage to speak to the ‘right’ person, they may not know what a DCA is or that there was a DCA running, let alone what to do to fix it. In this case, it remains your problem.

Disconnected devices in the SMB market is an industry-wide challenge for all remote monitoring software running on a client’s PC or server. A growing number of MPS providers serving the SMB market are realizing they need to address the issue. With margins as low as they are and a high level of competition in a saturated market, there is not much room left for time-consuming and costly fixes to reconnect devices.

Unfortunately, only a few multifunction peripherals (MFPs) can run an embedded DCA. An alternative solution like providing clients with their own PC and Windows OS license that you then manage is simply too complex and too expensive. There is a connection-savvy solution that is simple to manage and very cost-effective to deploy: the new PrintFleet DCA Pulse running on Raspberry Pi with Linux OS.

The Raspberry Pi is the size of a small phone but is in fact a computer. There is no need to purchase additional software licenses, and a complete plug-and-play Raspberry Pi kit can be sourced from an IT distributor for just under $50. You can easily set up a Raspberry Pi at your office in just a few minutes using an image download from PrintFleet with Linux software and pre-installed DCA Pulse software.

You simply flash a microSD card with the software, insert the card in Raspberry Pi and you are done. You then ship the unit to the client, ask them to connect the network and power cables, and just power it on. You can also stick the Raspberry Pi to the back of an MFP when you install the machine. That’s it – there’s no DCA configuration required at the client location. Clients are less likely to accidentally turn off the Raspberry Pi than a PC, so it guarantees a solid connection.

You can then log in to your PrintFleet Optimizer portal to remotely adjust IP scan ranges, and set separate scan intervals for meters, supplies and service status. Meters are typically collected twice a day and supplies data every two hours. The scan interval for service status can be set to just 30 seconds without impacting the customer’s network traffic, allowing you to guarantee higher device uptime and to meet your service level agreements (SLAs).

Looking for more information on DCA Pulse? Download our free DCA Pulse Whitepaper Series.

Download DCA Pulse Whitepaper Series

To learn more about DCA Pulse for Raspberry Pi and Linux, contact us at marketing@printfleet.com. For more information on device management, check out the following blogs:

Topics: MPS, Data, Device Management