As digitization has increased, the quest for the paperless office remains a goal for companies around the globe. However, organizations, especially those in financial services, insurance, healthcare, higher education, and government still need to print documents for review, signature, and offline storage.
With hybrid work now increasingly the norm, printing presents layers of complexity. What used to be handled in the office now happens anywhere an employee sets up their laptop, including their kitchen table. Organizations today must rise to support the range of workflow scenarios, whether their hybrid workforce is ten or 10,000 employees.
Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is powering this transition, and is a primary reason employees can work from anywhere. As long as they have access to an internet-connected device and a web browser, it’s likely an employee can accomplish most, if not all, of their daily tasks securely and efficiently.
Printing is another story. Printers output documents with content that can be highly sensitive or confidential. With more and more employees working remotely, enterprises need a reliable printing strategy to enable printing from home — while also ensuring data privacy and document security.
What Is a Hybrid Workforce?
“Hybrid workforce” is a broad umbrella term that covers workers who hold various designations and statuses. This includes full-time and part-time employees, independent contractors, and consultants. They may be in-office, work-from-home, mobile, or a combination of these.
Long before the pandemic disrupted the day-to-day work environment, the workforce was becoming increasingly hybrid. An NPR/Marist poll from January 2018 found that one in five jobs in the U.S. is held by a worker under contract. Within a decade, contractors and freelancers are expected to make up half of the American workforce.
Additionally, COVID-fueled shifts have forced organizations and their employees to reconsider their in-office working requirements, and some companies, like Amazon, have extended their work-from-home policies indefinitely.
Companies of any size and in any industry can find value in an enterprise-grade, robust print management solution for their employees. Most will find that a cloud-based solution removes confusion and streamlines operations. Below are five considerations when crafting your enterprise print-from-home policies and programs.
What to Consider When Supporting Enterprise Printing from Home
1. Comply with Your Corporate Device Policy
Different organizations implement different policies regarding device ownership. While these mostly relate to the main devices employees use to perform their work or communicate—such as laptops and smartphones—they can also extend to printers.
In a bring your own device (BYOD) work environment, employees purchase and use their own devices for work, including printers. This can be the most cost-effective strategy because employees may already own a compatible home printer.
The choose your own device (CYOD) policy, in which employees receive a list of approved devices they can purchase, offers less risk than BYOD and also standardizes printer use across the enterprise.
In a company-owned, personally enabled (COPE) business model, the printers are owned by the company. However, the employee can still use them for personal purposes.
The strictest of these policies is company-owned, business-only (COBO), in which a personally owned printer cannot be used for work and the company-owned printer is strictly for work use only.
2. Determine Connectivity
Aside from making sure employees use an approved printer model, another factor to consider is connectivity. How will the printer connect to the desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone where the content to be printed resides?
Printers can be connected to the USB port of a desktop or laptop. This is the traditional way of printing documents and what most employees are accustomed to in a home environment. However, open USB ports can also represent an unmanaged risk, and many employers lock these down.
Printers can also be connected to a network via Wi-Fi. But this solution also brings risk. If the employee working from home uses a home router that doesn’t have the latest firmware or security updates, the router can serve as an attack vector. Cybercriminals can intercept a print job and gain access to the sensitive information contained not only in the printer but also in the devices to which the printer is connected. Ensure employees have updated their routers and are using an encrypted print solution.
VPN or ZTNA
Employees may also connect to their employer’s network using a virtual private network (VPN), which has to be configured properly so print jobs can proceed smoothly. Employees working remotely will need to lean on their IT team to ensure that the VPN is secure and configured properly. Beyond this, VPN solutions are relatively expensive when deployed at scale to cover all employees, and many organizations are migrating to Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) solutions.
3. Create a Security Mindset
Printers are notoriously no secure. Outdated firmware can slow down the printer or, worse, turn the printer into an attack vector for cybercriminals. A cloud printing solution enables visibility into the “printer fleet”—doing double-duty to ensure that all output devices meet the organization’s security requirements and that users have the requisite authorization credentials to access them.
The biggest security gap in printing at home is often not the printer, however, but the printed documents themselves. Confidential information may be left unattended on a home printer and accidentally distributed, used as scratch paper, or submitted with homework.
Companies should establish an approval process that includes security training. Require employees to use a shredder if they are allowed to print at home, and train employees on precautions to prevent accidental distribution of sensitive information. We’ve found that simply requiring employees to read and agree to a “security checklist” can dramatically reduce risky behavior.
4. Standardize Settings When Possible
Employees working in disparate offices or remotely at home should not have to worry that their printers’ drivers and settings are incorrect. A cloud-based printing service can discover the employee’s printing device and help enforce your organization’s print policies. This is especially important if your company is reimbursing employees for supplies.
For example, an employee’s home printer may have print to color set as default, instead of black and white. A cloud print management solution can flag this employee’s printer as configured incorrectly and help the employee make the necessary adjustment. Preventing employees from printing in color when it’s not necessary reduces costs.
Additionally, some cloud-based, enterprise printing solutions incorporate toner reduction technology, which reduces toner usage to the desired level without any noticeable difference in output quality. Companies can define toner reduction levels for specific applications and customize print settings for their employees’ printing devices based on the toner output needs of individual departments and job roles.
So as not to disrupt workflows or ask employees to make these decisions themselves, administrators can also create alerts or notifications that automatically inform employees of the organization’s policy when print jobs exceed predefined cost limits. These messages help to continually educate the workforce and establish more mindful and cost-effective printing habits.
5. Monitor Printing for Security Gaps
Printed documents can easily fall into the wrong hands, compromising the security of the organization. Even for employees working from home, printed documents of a confidential nature that are not handled properly can expose the organization to compromise.
Instead of wondering how many times a document has been printed, and by whom, an enterprise-grade print management solution delivers analytics and insights that can:
- Discover and track every device that employees print to, including home printers
- Capture the print activity at the user and job levels in any print environment to identify who is printing what and determine outliers and savings opportunities
- Provide reporting for managers needing to control document distribution
Just as IT can use tools to track device and app access across the organization, an enterprise-level print service can note any unusual or suspicious activity. It can also monitor human error, such as when an employee prints material that they should not.
Make Printing from Home More Secure and Convenient for Your Employees
The hybrid or distributed workforce is here to stay. Although working remotely provides convenience for employees and reduces overhead for organizations, security and adherence are often issues when attempting to manage printing across an entire fleet of devices.
Cloud-based print management for the enterprise reduces costs and anxiety and can make your workforce more productive. It removes any confusion related to device security, configuration, and printing volume, so employees can focus on other tasks throughout their workday.
Your organization can strike the perfect balance between security and convenience. For your printing processes, you can shift into a “no limit” mindset using a printing solution with built-in security and monitoring features. Employees can do their work as needed—intuitively with minimal hassles.