Ongoing costs vary depending on site volume and features. Flat rates can range from $50 to $1,000 per month, says Atkinson, while fixed rates either are per transaction ($10 to $20 per job) or a commission (say two percent) on each job. "Read the fine print," he encourages, "in case your site really takes off!" A hosted solution is ideal for companies with little to no IT support, suggests InfoTrends.
Employing SaaS, Printable automates and integrates online ordering, personalization, production and fulfillment processes with a multi-channel web services solution. Its MarcomCentral (formerly FusionPro) product suite provides the full range of services including: job submission and tracking, development of customizable storefronts and template design, variable data publishing (VDP) functionality, campaign management, mailing list purchasing, digital asset management, inventory control and integration with production workflow.
Bitstream announced its externally hosted Pageflex SaaS solution at GRAPH EXPO. It competes with iWay from Press-sense, which Bitstream acquired last May. (Ricoh InfoPrint Solutions resells iWay as its web-to-print platform of choice.) It will be interesting to see how these product offerings shake out at Bitstream going forward. RedTie Limited, based in the U.K. with New York offices, provides web-to-print solutions worldwide that are sold directly and through partners, including HP, Heidelberg and manroland. Its latest offering, Red2Go, offers a pay-as-you go module with training available through the new RedTie Academy.
If, on the other hand, your firm has a strong IT staff, you may lean toward a buying a licensed solution off the proverbial shelf. The licensed software model, what Atkinson calls "web-to-print in a box," involves higher set-up costs in the form of a one-time purchase fee—let's say $12,000, for the sake of argument. "Software costs from $1,000 to $50,000, based on features," Atkinson points out. There's also an annual maintenance fee of about 10 percent but no ongoing, monthly fees like in SaaS.
So why would a printer want to incur that kind of initial cost on a licensed solution? The answer is customization and flexibility, which take longer: anywhere from one to three months. Licensed web-to-print is hosted within your facility on your own system/server, or you can rent a server. (Another option is as an add-on module to an existing MIS or workflow system.) In addition to server hardware, you'd also need to provide your own server software, database software, software licenses and a high-speed Internet connection, of course, with that skilled IT person to set up, run and back up. Your tekkie needs to be able to navigate through the complexity of hook-ups to existing, in-house MIS or workflow. This can be tricky, not to mention expensive, says Atkinson.
Some of the mammoth, super-high-volume printing firms take matters into their own hands and build their own systems. Look at RR Donnelley, which is making its own inkjet web presses. (Who needs HP or Kodak, right?) But when it comes to web-to-print, most don't aspire to be like Netherlands-based Vistaprint, says Atkinson. The online-only juggernaut, which caters to small businesses via a proprietary system, had annual sales last year of $670 million, up 30 percent over 2009.
Constructing your own web-to-print system from the ground up is time-consuming and expensive. How expensive? Well, that all depends, of course, but Atkinson says maybe $50,000 on the low end, with a median price tag of around $135,000. "A quarter of a million dollars is not uncommon," he notes. "I've seen some in the seven-figure range." The general programmers and database people required may not have print/prepress knowledge, Atkinson adds, "so you're paying them $120 an hour for weeks on end. It could take three to six month to develop, test and ramp up." But home-spun is the most flexible of all the web-to-print options.
If they're not using their own, homegrown technology, larger printers and enterprise organizations with multiple sites tend to gravitate to higher end, licensed web-to-print tools, such as the award-winning EFI Digital StoreFront (DSF), which delivers a complete, streamlined job management and workflow solution. For example, giant government in-plant DLA Document Services, which is part of the US Department of Defense, recently chose this customizable, Internet-based shopping and communication platform over its own system for 150 global locations. EFI also offers PrintSmith Site, an Internet add-on module that enables easy creation and management of storefront websites within the familiar PrintSmith costing interface—with no HTML knowledge required.