Cortado's ThinPrint Printer Dashboard is a cloud service that allows IT managers to monitor the status and cost of enterprise print services via a web browser. Since the service runs in the cloud, print management can be performed from anywhere with an available internet connection — at the office, on the road or at home.
Printer Dashboard is a free service that requires the installation of the Silverlight runtime — Microsoft's application framework for rich internet applications. This limits you to Windows or Mac OS X platforms — Linux and Moonlight are not an option. As with Adobe's Flash, some may baulk at installing either Silverlight or Moonlight on their machines due to security concerns.
Cortado highlights the simple two-click purchase of print consumables as a notable feature of Printer Dashboard. This feature appears as a vertical selection bar on the right of the Printer Dashboard, displaying relevant consumables as icons and pictures. Unfortunately for UK customers, clicking on any of these icons at the moment opens a consumables purchase page on Amazon.com. There's currently no way for UK users to reconfigure this feature to link to their preferred UK supplier, or even to Amazon.co.uk.
Prospective users can register for Printer Dashboard by visiting https://pdregister.thinprint.com/ and entering their company name, their own name, their email address and choosing a password. Clicking 'Register' will automatically redirect to the Microsoft Silverlight web page if Silverlight is not detected as installed. Registration generates an automatic welcome mail containing a URL including a 128-character confirmation string that must be copied into the browser address bar and the page selected to complete registration. You're then redirected to the login page at http://printerdashboard.thinprint.com, where you can log in using your email address and password.
Following registration, installation of Microsoft's Silverlight (if required), receipt of the Welcome email and successful entry of the confirmation URL and key string, Print Manager will display the Printer Dashboard login
We had some difficulty logging in on our test machine, Printer Dashboard refusing to accept our user name and password. Eventually, having contacted the company, Cortado confirmed our registration manually on its servers. It appears that our registration string was not being accepted. It's a long string, so we copied and pasted it, and it's possible that, because of the particular system configuration used, some invisible characters may have become added to the string, causing it to be not recognised by the Cortado servers.
After entering the confirmation string, you're given the choice of installing the Printer Dashboard Agent as either x86 or x64 (Windows 32-bit or 64-bit). The Printer Dashboard EULA is then displayed, followed by the download and run messages for the agent itself.
Having successfully logged on, you're presented with the Printer Dashboard, which has four tabs — Home, Printers, Costs, Agents and Configuration.
With the Agent running, the Print Manager Dashboard Home tab will display the overall summary of print system status
The Home tab displays a status overview of Material alerts, Last event, Errors, Print statistics and Most used printers. A list of printers — gathered by the agent from the installed printer lists on the various machines on the network — is displayed on the Printers tab. Print running costs, based on user-entered details, are calculated and displayed on the Costs tab. Consumable unit costs can be entered under the Printers tab, but only in euro, US dollar, Hong Kong dollar, Japanese Yen or Chinese Yuan denominations. There is no provision for GB pounds at present. The Agent tab shows how many instances of the Printer Dashboard Agent are active in the local network and the Configuration tab allows you to set a log file on or off, set the auto refresh interval, change the user password and displays a list of unknown devices.
The Dashboard's Costs tab shows a running table of print costs calculated from user-entered details of consumables and associated prices
The number of agents required depends upon the local network environment. If the network has a print server, then only one agent is sufficient to monitor all network printers and printer objects (non-network printers installed on individual machines and print shares). On networks without print servers, a single agent will monitor the printer objects on the machine running the agent and all networked printers. In this case further agents must be installed to monitor any printer objects installed on other machines in the network, and these additional agents will be limited to monitoring only these local objects.
In addition to the free Printer Dashboard, Cortado sells 11 print network and cloud-centric document management products, and also provides the free Cortado Workplace app for Android. Workplace includes 2GB of free storage and allows Android device owners to display, manage, email and control printing to any printer they can access, of any of their stored files. Previously known as ThinPrint, the company changed its name to Cortado in August of this year.
The Cortado ThinPrint Printer Dashboard is a potentially useful cloud application — if you're prepared to accept the generic cloud concerns of placing security and integrity outside your direct control in return for the convenience of global monitoring and access. However, there are issues with installation, and at present the two-click consumables purchase feature only points at Amazon's US web site, while the consumables costs denomination cannot be set to British pounds. These issues have been reported to Cortado, which has promised they will be addressed in an upcoming release of Printer Dashboard.
Editor's Note: Cortado has now released version 2.0 of this product. See this blog for more details.