Print as a Service: Where the cloud meets the ground
By Joe Ruggiero | March 1, 2019
The cloud provides a long list of benefits to businesses, and this value is becoming more widely understood. The adoption rates for cloud services are consistently exceeding analyst expectations. We see these benefits in the enterprises around us where we live and work and also in our personal lives. IT leaders in organizations large and small are actively identifying ways to leverage the cloud to:
- drive technology management efficiencies,
- improve business outcomes, and
- deliver a strategic advantage to their internal & external customers.
Strategic Reduction of Infrastructure
Reducing infrastructure and data center dependence is a high priority for IT leadership, and for good reason: managing applications in your own data center (“on-premises”) is an expensive and risky endeavor! Beyond the applications needed to support your business functions, and the associated servers and database resources they require, consider the entire ecosystem an IT team must build and manage to responsibly deliver highly available solutions to their stakeholders:
|Data center facilities||Virtualization solutions||Big-data storage solutions|
|Power, infrastructure & environmental solutions||Operating systems & application software||Infrastructure & application monitoring|
|Networking & communications||Physical servers & database infrastructure||Load balancing & high availability solutions|
Subject matter expertise at all levels of these interoperable technology categories is critical to the design and delivery of high-performance systems. An entire security strategy must be developed, deployed and managed, protecting this ecosystem at every attack vector against an ever-growing landscape of cyber threats.
The “building costs” of hosting your own applications are significant, including design, implementation services, hardware acquisition, software licensing, maintenance agreements, etc. The ongoing “operating costs” (and risks) are also a substantial burden, as each element of the eco-system requires ongoing administration, patching, testing, evaluation and continual refresh. Then there’s the critical requirement of disaster recovery, which requires a strategy, solutions and ongoing administration all its own.
In a world that presents ever-evolving technology advancement and security threats, administering for today while designing for the future has become a daunting and expensive task. As a result, companies are increasingly offloading these burdens to the cloud.
Partnering with cloud resource providers like Amazon, IBM or Microsoft may allow you to move your on-premises applications over to their resources, thus reducing the number of servers in your data center. This “lift and shift” strategy enables you to reduce server expenses and shrink other data center-related requirements. However, even with cloud hosting, the management responsibility for a large portion of application performance remains with your IT department.
This includes ongoing management and administration of all components: operating systems, application software, configuration, version control, solution interoperability testing, development environment management, production implementations, solution scalability, etc. So while there are benefits to “lift-and-shift,” IT retains many time-consuming management responsibilities including the need to retain all necessary skill sets to do the job to perfection.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
In the SaaS model, it’s the solution provider’s responsibility to ensure all elements of the system are maintained, secured and optimized. This includes the application, along with the underlying physical and systems infrastructure, data storage, fault tolerance and scalability. Users simply access and utilize the system, which is always available and up to date.
With SaaS, IT is relieved of the administration and maintenance of the application as well as the entire supporting ecosystem. Version control, development-test management, scalability planning, etc. are all the responsibility of the SaaS solution provider.
This represents a major shift in a great many responsibilities for IT, with most organizations achieving measurable efficiency gains and business advantages. For this reason, businesses are increasingly adopting a “Cloud-First” strategy, with SaaS being the preferred target for all applications. And with a great many CRM, HRMS & ERP solutions available via the SaaS model, organizations are not hindered in their pursuit of this strategy.
What about SaaS for Printing?
As the data center sheds its role as the physical home of application and database servers, the option to physically reduce or close data centers is becoming a reality. But wait, what’s that in the corner – a rack of print servers? What do we do with those? Sure, you could lift-and-shift them to the cloud, but why not the better option and go the SaaS route? Is there SaaS for printing? The answer is YES!
It’s now easier than ever to secure employee printing workflows, (often called “pull-printing” or “follow-me printing,”) via the SaaS model. At Pharos Systems, we have been innovating in this area for years and now the Print-as-a-Service model is a reality on our Beacon cloud platform.
Printing in the SaaS Model:
Where the cloud meets the ground
In the print-as-a-service model, the solution lives in the service provider’s cloud. Applications & data are managed like any other SaaS offering: no servers, applications or database administration for your IT department to manage. Browser-based user access and mobile device application components are key.
However there are differences when it comes to print in the SaaS model, the most critical of which is the unique requirement to interface with physical printers and multi-function devices. These devices don’t live in the cloud—they are very much on the ground!
Today’s printers are highly complex computing systems. Beyond printing documents, many serve as business kiosks, capable of running embedded business applications (much like apps on your cell phone). Every printer model from every manufacturer presents a wide array of standard and proprietary technology layers, including operating systems, firmware, communications and security protocols, embedded application platforms, functional capabilities and configuration options.
The need to successfully integrate with a practically unlimited combination of variables introduces a complexity that is unique to the world of print. Consider the stack of technologies that directly touch the printing process and the complex variability it presents…
Workstations and mobile devices, operating systems, user applications, print drivers, PDLs, secure document transport & storage, printer hardware, printer firmware, embedded applications, system configuration, etc.
To be successful in this realm of print, one had better have expertise in the entire technology stack. This is not for everyone!
Pharos has been a provider of secure printing solutions for over 25 years, helping organizations optimize their technology environments, reduce costs, improve user efficiency, and secure data and document content.
At Pharos, we reflect on the extraordinary value of our strategic partnerships across the globe. Among them are the operating system providers Microsoft, Apple, and Google, and the premier printing manufacturers including Canon, Hewlett Packard, Konica-Minolta, Lexmark, Ricoh, Sharp, Toshiba, and Xerox. It is through the depth of our collaboration with these valued technology partners that we are able to help define the next chapter of the secure printing solutions space, for the benefit of all organizations looking to improve security, efficiency, and all the many benefits that “as-a-Service” has to offer.
We are helping organizations all over the world become more efficient by eliminating the need for internal printing infrastructure and management. Start the conversation today. You’ll be surprised to see how much more efficient your printing operations can be, and how much money you can save your organization every year!