4 Benefits of USPS’ Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI)

By Paul Johnson, President CMS – Complete Mailing Solutions

Did you know that once you download postage onto your meter it becomes the property of the USPS?  The Postal Service is dedicated to helping you get the most out of your postage meter. 

To improve customer service, ensure mail flow is more efficient and cost-effective as well as data secure, the USPS is now requiring the use of the next generation mailing indicia – the Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI) – as new mailing systems are introduced into the marketplace.   

The Old Standard

Since 2000, the USPS utilized an Information Based Indicia (IBI) on metered mail.  The Information4-Based Indicia is a 2-dimensional barcode plus human-readable information. The barcode data contains information such as the amount of postage, origin zip code, destination,mail class, weight, and confirmation/tracking numbers: 

Old IBI indicia image
Old IBI indicia

While this was state-of-the-art in its day, IBI technology is no longer adequate.  One of its weaknesses is that when a mail machine user enters a specific postage amount, the Service Class is removed, which hampers the USPS from efficiently managing the movement of mail.

In addition, postage meters were required to connect with the USPS servers to download usage information every 90 days.  This made it difficult for the USPS to effectively manage mail flow and identify mailing trends in a timely or effective manner.

The New Standard

The next generation of metered technology was introduced into the marketplace in 2015 – the Intelligent Mail Indicia (IMI).  However, it has not been required to date, but will be with all new mailing equipment developed.  The IMI indicia:

  1. Captures significantly more data – in addition to information captured with the IBI indicia, the new IMI indicia also includes the type of mailing system and mail service used. 
  2. Gives the Post Office more real-time data on which to manage their logistics, identify mailing trends and optimize the movement of mail through the system.
  3. Ensures correct postage is used – Service Classes are required when using the IMI indicia.
New IMI Indicia

The USPS now requires that all new mailing systems meet the IMI standards as they are introduced into the market. 

IMI Benefits & Best Practices

1.Accurate Postage
Mailing system users have experienced mail or packages that are returned for insufficient postage.   Conversely, they have placed too much postage for the service class used.  With the new IMI, a Service Class is required for all mail and postage will automatically be calculated.  No more manual entry of incorrect postage amounts, ensuring the correct postage is used.

Best Practice: Utilizing IMI technology will save money and help avoid mail being returned.  This will ensure important mail (e.g., invoices, statements, etc.) reaches its destination in a timely manner, which improves cash-flow and customer satisfaction.

2. More Current Information
Mailing systems using Intelligent Mail Indicia are mandated by the USPS to connect to the manufacturer’s servers every 72 hours (vs. every 90 days for the old IBI).  This ensures that the USPS receives frequent postage use information on which to manage mail flow.  It also ensures that equipment is automatically kept up to date with rate changes and other software improvements.  If a connection is not made every 72 hours, the meter will be locked out.

Best Practice:  Your meter must have a constant Internet connection via a dedicated LAN line to avoid meter lockouts.

3. Enhanced Security
The new IMI indicia meets the standards of the Federal Information Processing for data encryption.  This ensures that information is transmitted securely to and from the postage meter.  The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced that IBI technology no longer meets its standard of security.

Best practice: Use Pin #’s and department codes to keep unauthorized people from using your postage meter and to better track who is using postage in your company.

4. Faster, Consistent Connectivity
Some mailers still use dedicated phone lines for their postage meters. These Dial-up connections cannot be used with the IMI due to the amount of data being transmitted and the speed of transmission.  Only dedicated LAN connections can be used, eliminating the need to check to see if the meter is hooked up to an internet connection as well as the expense of a dedicated phone line.

Best practiceURIs, along with their respective IP addresses, should be added as exceptions (whitelisted) if firewall rules currently block any sites of unknown origin.

Neopost is the first to launch a mail machine using the new IMI indicia.  Their new iX-3 is the first mailing system enabled with IMI, with additional models being introduced in early 2020.  Take a look at this easy-to-use option that makes IMI enhancements available to small businesses.  It will optimize your postage and mailing-related expenditures. 

If you have questions or to find out more about the benefits of IMI for your business, give us a call, (303-761-0681). We’re happy to help!

How to improve customer communications and reduce costs

By Paul Johnson, President Complete Mailing Solutions


Are the number and type of documents you need to send to your customers growing? Are you pressured to do more with the same or fewer resources without compromising quality? Would you like to improve the customer experience while reducing costs and increasing efficiency?
If you answered “yes” to any or all of these questions, then a communications management solution is worth considering. The key components of an effective communications management system are: 1) communications management software, 2) folder inserter(s) and 3) address validation software. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of the role and functionality of communications management software and provide a case study with hard data on the results one organization achieved by implementing a communications management solution.

Communications Management Software

This software is at the core of the solution, the brains, if you will. Communications management software electronically gathers documents such as invoices, statements and reports from a variety of sources (billing, ERP, CRM system, etc.), processes them (more on this in a moment) and routes them to the appropriate communications channel including email, mail, web portal or fax.
linked communications
An example of this type of software – Quadient’s OMS-500 – provides centralized administration and distribution of documents from different departments (in different locations if desired) to be custom-processed and routed through the appropriate communications channels for each document. OMS-500 opens up a whole new world of possibilities in the way that you communicate with customers (or others you send documents to).

What are the results of communications processes optimized with OMS-500?

  • Time & Cost savings
    • Multiple documents can be consolidated into single, rather multiple emails, envelopes or faxes
    • Paper documents don’t require manual sorting, folding, etc.
    • Documents sent via USPS® mail receive the lowest rates
  • Improved Accuracy & Confidentiality
    • Recipients never receive documents not intended for them… thereby increasing security and reducing compliance and privacy risks
    • Bad addresses are corrected prior to mailing
  • Improved Customer Relations
    • Customers can choose how to receive communication: email, mail, web portal or fax
    • Documents are appealing and easy for customers to understand
    • Bills can contain personalized messages or offers/promotions


To read about a real-world scenario, check out this case study on how Seattle Children’s hospital uses a communications management solution to get the following results:

  • 88% reduction in labor costs.
  • Improved job satisfaction for employees doing the work.
  • Ability to re-assign existing staff to higher-value and more fulfilling tasks.
  • Improved data quality and deliverability of mail.
  • Improved mail handling including grouping documents by recipient instead of sending multiple documents per recipient.
  • Postage savings achieved from combining reports for the same recipient.

For more details on OMS-500 software you can download a brochure here or watch a video on OMS-500 here.

Would your business survive a malware attack?

By Paul Johnson, President Complete Mailing Solutions


If your business were struck this afternoon by a malware attack, how would it fare? At first brush, most executives would be inclined to say they’re prepared. Upon digging further, many would find that they have vulnerabilities that could be quite disruptive and costly.

data-protection-small
When it comes down to it, there are two primary issues to consider:

  • How well are you protected?
  • How would you recover if successfully attacked?

The former has to do with protection and prevention and the latter with recovery or what is often referred to as business continuity. Each of these is an extensive topic and can’t be given their just due in one article. However, we’d like to provide insights into business continuity, helpful resources and actions you can take to move your company closer to the ideal of being able to recover without missing a beat.

The frequency and effectiveness of malware attacks are growing at an alarming rate. This is placing ever more importance on business continuity to the point where it is now a business imperative.

Is a good backup strategy sufficient?

This is an important point to consider. It primarily boils down to what you define as sufficient. How long would it take to recover using on site backups? Hours? Days? What would that cost you in direct and intangible costs? The eBook, CEO? Here’s Why You Care about Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, is a helpful guide for executives to assess the risks and costs of downtime.

What is the difference between backup and business continuity? A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s an infographic, Traditional Backup vs Intelligent Business Continuity, that does a nice job of
comparing and contrasting the two.

If you want to learn more about business continuity solutions and/or get an assessment for your business, call or email Paul Johnson at 303-761-0681 or Paul.Johnson@comp-mail.com

Privacy Compliance… are prying eyes viewing private information?

By Paul Johnson, President Complete Mailing Solutions


Compliance
The current privacy compliance pressures facing businesses in many industries, from healthcare to finance and manufacturing, have resulted in a heavy focus on the high-tech areas of IT and data security. But there is an often overlooked low-tech area that represents a prevalent risk, and it’s one that can be mitigated relatively easily and inexpensively.

Are your document handling and billing systems putting you at risk?

Mail handling, billing and customer communications are functions that have been around seemingly forever. Consequently, companies often mistakenly believe that they have these areas “handled”. Yet these are areas where customer privacy can be put at risk on a daily basis.

What if these risks could be fairly easily and inexpensively mitigated? Further, what if addressing them also resulted in reduced costs and increased operational efficiencies? Implementing processes and software to properly handle customer information and customer communications can deliver these results.

Here a few examples of commonly overlooked areas of exposure:

  • Mail processing systems that do not prevent combining statements or invoices for two different customers.
    • You’d be surprised how often this happens and how easily it can be avoided.
  • Mail being handled in a publicly accessible area by a secretary or receptionist.
    • If so, you’re not alone – this is a common practice and one that often puts customer information unattended within public view.
  • Mismatched or “problem” mail left exposed in a public area while problems are being solved.
    • Not only is this process out of compliance but wastes valuable employee time to correct.
  • Manually handling client documents with different numbers of pages and inserts.
    • This not only exposes private information to workers but is extremely inefficient and error prone.

These are just a few of the many areas where businesses put themselves at risk on a daily basis.

Want to do a quick check to determine areas where you might be at risk?

Download this free compliance checklist to identify often overlooked areas of exposure that may need attention. Another great resource is the white paper from Quadient on How to Ensure Your Organization’s Mail Process is Compliant. It includes 8 best practices for mail compliance.

Interested in digging deeper? Learn more with our complimentary document handling compliance and cost reduction assessment.  Call us today at 303-761-0681.

Ransomware – Brief Highlights, How It Works, How To Avoid It

By Paul Johnson, President Complete Mailing Solutions

Ransomware utilizes malware (malicious software) to make data or your computer’s operating system unreadable or inaccessible. It demands payment to unencrypt affected files or systems. However, even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee ransomed items will be released. According to the FBI, Ransomware attacks are not only proliferating, they’re becoming more sophisticated. Read the full FBI article here.

Brief Highlights

In its simplest form, Ransomware has been around since 1989 represented by the AIDS Trogan virus, which was distributed via floppy diskettes (remember those?) sent to World Health Organization’s international conference attendees. When the computer containing the virus was rebooted, files were encrypted and the ransom demand was made. Users paid $189 in ransom. It didn’t take long for decryption tools to recover the files and stop the attack.
Ransomware became more prominent around 2006 with a Russian-based extortion plan by organized criminals called TROJ_CRYZIP.A. This version placed files of a certain type into a password-protected ZIP folder and deleted the originals. Victims were directed to pay $300 to an E-Gold account (a precursor to Bitcoin).
Ransomware really began to explode in 2013 with the first widely-recognizable crypto-ransomware called CryptoLocker. This form of ransomware made the recipient’s computer virtually unusable by encrypting all files. CryptoLocker was delivered through downloads from compromised websites, phishing and email attachments. It was extremely sophisticated and utilized Bitcoin for payments.
Spinoffs of CryptoLocker, Onion, Reveton, Jigsaw, KeRanger (the first official Mac OSX-based ransomware), CryptXX and others, make it clear that that ransomware will continue to increase in sophistication and range. Delivery methods will expand as will types of machines affected and ransom amount. In fact, reports this year indicate Android phones are now at risk. There’s no end to the extent cybercriminals will utilize to take your money.
How to protect yourself
There are some basics to follow to protect yourself:
1. Keep your system backed up on a regular basis so you can restore your computer to a known clean state.
2. Utilize a strong and reliable security system that can identify and block ransomware threats.
3. Keep your software updated. Patches are constantly being added as viruses and ransomware are being identified.
4. Perform a full network scan to identify infected computers – isolate compromised equipment until they are complete clean before putting back into service.
5. Show hidden file extensions so you can spot a potentially suspicious file. Often “EXE” files can contain a virus. Always be wary of EXE files sent via email attachments.
6. If at all possible, don’t pay the ransom. This not only encourages the cybercriminals, but may place you in an even worse situation. There have been plenty of cases in which a decryption key was never provided or did not encrypt all files.
To learn how to protect yourself, get your free copy of the The Guide to CryptoLocker Prevention and Removal today.