Delivering Print As It Should Be
By Paul Reddy | February 4, 2016
Print has been around a long time—since about 1040 AD if we include the movable type system from China. The first distributed printing system was arguably the modern laser printer, which was commercialized in 1976 and has since become a staple of almost every office in the world.
Today, practically every company, regardless of its size, has printing devices of one type or another. And every one of these printers is essentially a manufacturing plant; raw materials go in, and it outputs a product of your design. Modern printers are very reliable, but this is still a technology that was designed in the last century, and as such it retains much of the complexity and limitations from those early days.
Therefore, printing is something that must be managed—especially in mid-size to large organizations. And yet there are colleges and companies all over the world that don’t have the right print management solution, if they have one at all. As a result, their printers consume a vast amount of resources, not only paper and toner but energy and human resources, all of which are expensive.
Print is too often stuck in yesterday
Just as all costs associated with print are ongoing, all efforts related to print are ongoing, too. This includes print driver deployment and maintenance, device servicing, support requests, and many other IT-related tasks.
Today’s “universal” print drivers are not really universal at all. Even the different models of a single manufacturer can require different drivers. These are complex pieces of software that require downloads and installs of hundreds of megabytes in some cases. These drivers can also be obtrusive, initiating notifications that are often of little value to the end user.
On top of all that, users typically have multiple print drivers on their computer—for example, one for the inkjet at home, one for each of the workgroup laser printers in the office, and another one for the high-end color printers that your organization might use for special occasions and materials. Furthermore, users need to find and establish network connections to each device, which can be time consuming and difficult, even when IT resources are assigned the task.
All of these print drivers and network connections require most workstations in an enterprise to be configured uniquely, adding to the challenges of desktop rollouts. This becomes even more challenging for IT managers when employees need to print from their mobile devices.
Printer manufacturers make great devices that do a terrific job of producing high-quality documents quickly. But 99% of office print volume involves 2 or 3 simple print attributes—paper size, number of copies, and single- or double-sided. So, you would think it’s fairly simple to switch device makes and models with little fuss or re-training. Sadly, this is not the case.
Outdated security standards
Print was designed in a time when security was less important than it is today. Unencrypted FTP and SMTP/POP (email) was commonplace at the time. IT managers would put up a firewall, and that was considered enough. No one had heard of RATs, LoPHT, Wireshark, boot viruses, and so on.
Of course we know now that old security practices are insufficient. Strong encryption must be deployed everywhere, layered protection is required, and all network devices must be hardened. This has happened across the board—servers, desktops, routers, etc. but with one exception, print.
Your office printers still run on unencrypted protocols. They have many open network ports and can be remotely interrogated to reveal all sorts of information, including the data being shown on the display, the documents in the queue, the name of the documents that have been printed and the owners of those documents. This level of openness comes from the previous era, and has no place in corporate enterprises today.
If office printing had been designed today
What would office printing look like if it were introduced today? It would be every bit as focused on security, usability and sustainability as it is on document quality and output speed. It would operate using modern principles of openness and adherence to standards.
Printers should be secure right out of the box, and end users should not need to be involved in establishing a default level of security. When I install a new Windows or Mac computer on my network, I know that it will be secure from the get-go. The same is not true for printers. All network traffic and print data should be encrypted, all devices locked down with no unnecessary ports open or facilities available. SNMPv3 only should be supported with encryption (via SSH or TLS) and authentication should be easily enabled.
In addition, we should not need a large body of print servers—they are a relic of the past. Instead, local desktops or cloud services should provide all the service coordination and storage required. It should also be possible for all employee workstations to be configured identically.
Data transparency and analytics
Data tells a story, and the story that your print data tells is typically one of inefficiency and unnecessary costs. Organizational leaders and IT managers should be able to easily access key metrics from their print environment to determine how efficiently print services are running, how well the workforce or student body are being served across different regions or departments, and what opportunities exist to streamline the device fleet and reduce the demand for print.
Data is the lifeblood of today’s IT landscape, and data analytics plays a critical role in effective decision making.
Delivering print as it should be
You don’t have to settle on a print environment that is complex, difficult to maintain, and not secure. You don’t need a vast network of servers that are expensive to provision and require constant care and feeding. Employees shouldn’t have to think about the underlying technologies that enable their printed documents; they just need a simple, secure and flexible workflow to quickly and reliably print their documents so they can get on with business.
IT teams shouldn’t be bogged down with support requests from print operations, and IT leaders should be able to easily report on print usage and expense trends so that they can identify opportunities to improve operational efficiency and reduce costs.
Making print the way it should be for our customers means that we work together to discover the best solutions to help them reach their most important goals. This often means an emphasis on creating secure print workflows and realizing significant reductions in waste and operating costs while lowering the burden on IT resources. When we deliver print solutions, it’s as if print were designed to today’s standards.
For employees, it means a simple, secure print workflow using their ID cards or employee login credentials to protect the confidentiality of their documents—whether they print from their workstations or their mobile devices.
Printing shouldn’t be the problem that it is for many organizations. Printing should support your organization, not steal from it. Let us help you make print the way it should be in your organization. You will be surprised at how quickly you can achieve a positive return on investment while making your office print workflows more secure, cost-efficient, and user-friendly.