For more than a generation now, digital communication has been crucial in maintaining a sleek, efficient workforce, and mobility has been key to building the best, most agile teams. In fact, 10,000 employees surveyed by the Becker Friedman Institute for Economics said they were just as productive at home as at the office, and 30% of those thought they were more productive and engaged at home.
Additionally, the 2020 State of Remote Work by OWL Labs and Global Workplace Analytics found that after COVID-19, one in two employees will not return to jobs that don’t offer remote work, while eight in ten people expect to work from home at least three times per week. This means increased reliance on connectivity. At first glance, it may seem that digital documentation is usurping good old-fashioned printing.
The truth, however, is that printing remains as crucial to mobile workforces as ever. Some studies have gone so far as to suggest that smartphone and tablet users print more—not less. This indicates that network printing capabilities are crucial for businesses more than ever, both with and without thriving central offices.
But printing from mobile devices, whether done remotely or in-office, presents issues for IT managers. Most important among these concerns are usability and security, which can butt heads if not properly managed. Luckily, there’s a straightforward way to implement mobile printing properly.
What Is a Mobile Workforce?
Long before the pandemic, decentralized teams were on the rise—and for good reason. A mobile workforce can mean sales teams who travel to meet with prospects, developers working from home across the globe, team members at a regional office, or consultants and contractors without assigned office space or network credentials.
Some industries have a substantial mobile workforce dependent on mobility. Using connected mobile devices, they get work done on-site that previously would have been done in the office, saving everyone time and money.
Many experts agree that the future holds more mobilization and employees will take advantage of mobile systems and tools to make the most of their time. IDC predicts mobile workers will be 60% of the total U.S. workforce by 2024. COVID-19 only sped up this process.
Key Factors to Consider for Mobile Printing
Whether it’s providing a sales brochure to a potential customer, preparing contracts for clients to sign, or handing out flyers to promote an event, a distributed workforce needs to print documents quickly and easily.
Still, hybrid businesses with a robust mobile workforce are more complex than one person with a smartphone printing at home. Making mobile printing available to a whole distributed team and keeping the system secure requires smart planning and great minds. This is where secure cloud-based print management comes in, and offerings in this area continue to grow and improve.
Since both in-house and mobile workforces are tied less and less to their workstations but still require the ability to print, IT professionals should consider a number of factors to optimize printing from mobile devices.
Security is chief among concerns when building a robust printing solution. Despite their ubiquity, printers are often overlooked by IT professionals when building secure systems. As far back as 2015, a Ponemon Institute survey found that 60% of IT pros reported security breaches traceable to printers. But only 44% of IT managers included printers in their security strategy.
Both the mobile devices connecting to the network and the printers themselves, which come with their own vulnerabilities, should incorporate best practices for device security. Printers should support encryption and, ideally, authentication as well. Protect wireless printer ports, and firewall them the same way you would any vulnerable devices that call for constant monitoring. This process can be challenging, so it’s crucial to implement printing solutions with built-in security.
Mobile devices, especially phones, should take advantage of encryption, password enforcement, network control, and other mobile best practices—for example, allowing only up-to-date operating systems with current security patches, or maintaining remote wipe capability.
2. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) vs. Managed Devices
Any company looking to implement a solid mobile printing strategy needs to decide on BYOD versus managed device policies. Will employees be allowed to use their own phones and laptops and print on the network? Or should only company-issued devices be allowed to print remotely? Whatever the strategy is, a solid plan for BYOD vs. managed devices needs to be clearly delineated.
If a BYOD policy is appropriate, several decisions have to be made. Will you manage BYOD devices with a mobile device management (MDM) solution? If so, which controls will be available to users, and which will be locked? In addition, BYOD users will bring a variety of devices like iPhones, Android phones, iPads, tablet PCs, laptops, and Chromebooks. Each operating system has its own security considerations, and each has its own native print functionality. Ideally, a robust printing solution interfaces with all operating systems behind the scenes, without effort from the user.
3. Ease of Use
There’s no bigger bottleneck than odd workflows that leave employees confused. After security, ease of use must be a top priority. A robust network printing solution should make use of workflows native on any device. For example, Android users are accustomed to the integrated print workflow on their devices, and an supported print workflow should leverage that interface, rather than force users to open a separate app or learn a new workflow to interface with the print network.
Similarly, PC and Mac users should be able to print just as they would at home. For all devices, the print process should allow users to use the native print features of their device. In other words, mobile printing solutions should be seamless from a user perspective.
Preparing for the Future of Cloud Printing
There’s good news in mobile printing. Standards are coming into focus, and the experience of printing from a smartphone or tablet is becoming less distinguishable from printing from a desktop or laptop. For example, as of 2020, anyone running Android 8.0 or later on a smartphone can find and securely connect to a compatible printer, which is about 97% of all models sold.
Going paperless isn’t a reality for most yet, so cloud print management is growing. According to Quocirca, seventy-five percent of organizations expect to see greater use of cloud print management by 2025.
This overall trend toward agility and flexibility will continue and mobile printing will need to adapt. Keep a close eye on the two major considerations mentioned here: ease of use and security. Any mobile print management service that keeps these two things in mind will have the advantage, and any business wanting to stay competitive will be smart to partner with companies that do this well.
Strengthening Your Mobile Printing Program with Pharos
Even if your workforce is still mostly traditional, chances are they’ll become more mobile in the months and years to come. Workers will still need to print documents, but instead of sitting at their desk to do it, they’ll pick up smartphones and tablets and expect to send print jobs where they need to go with no hassle.
Meanwhile, with more connections, more demand for BYOD support, and ongoing threats from the outside world, you’ll need to make print security a top priority. Any node on your network is a potential inroad to bad actors. Securing your print management system should be job one now, not after a breach.
Fortunately, Pharos has been providing print management solutions for over 20 years, and supporting the increasingly mobile workforce with intuitive printing is a primary area of focus. Find out how you can sustain your mobile printing program for years to come by requesting a demo of Beacon, our secure, comprehensive cloud-based print management system.