Buying a system which you cannot support with your current staff can mean a huge loss and having to start over in the future. Many providers write off their systems and end up on the sideline because it’s just too complex for their staff and counter intuitive for traditional press personnel. Buying the cheap solution that doesn’t meet your needs and your customer’s needs is just as big a mistake. If you own a digital press and have a substantial client base, a system can greatly benefit you. If you’re simply using your high end digital press (IGEN, HP Indigo, Nexpress, Richo, Canon) for short run digital output, you’ll never sell enough to make it worth it’s while. Consult an unbiased consultant with real experience who can sit down and work out all the details with and for you. (One client requesting a store front does not justify the expense unless they have thousands of employees who are ordering frequently.) Don’t take advice from digital press sales staff, software sales staff or anyone else who is hawking product or services. A good referral is someone who has deployed systems and lived inside a print service provider’s walls. They must be business savvy, understand the print trade and have technical expertise as well as operational and process expertise.
The components of a web to print system are crucial and need to be considered carefully. The last time I made a major purchase of an SaaS system, I vetted 83 products & only three made it to the short list! The system must fit your needs, your client’s needs and support your business model moving forward. Web to print has very little in common with traditional print. You may find out it’s not for you after you go through discovery.
Systems range from cheap online SaaS systems, to server based systems which will reside on your backbone, to complex SaaS systems. Price ranges can be from five or ten thousand to several hundred thousand by the time all is said and done. Key factors include not only the platform you choose, but IT costs for maintenance and upgrades (if you choose server based), communications costs for bandwidth (heavy payloads are associated with graphic file formats and require cable or fiber speeds), engineering costs for developing storefronts, templates and managing the user base, monthly maintenance fees for SaaS systems, e-commerce service fees as well as a technical architect to design your architecture for the long haul (integration for shipping, automated press delivery, MIS integration, accounting integration, backup, real time reporting, etc.). If you don’t consider all of these costs for outlay, buying a system can be a huge money drain in a very short time.