Developing a Print Strategy

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.

Pillars of Printing Strategy for the Modern Office

When your company is developing or optimizing your office printing strategy, build your staffing, technology and budget plans around these 5 tenets:

  1. Improving the experience for IT
  2. Reducing the cost of office printing
  3. Improving document and network security
  4. Supporting a hybrid workforce
  5. Practicing sustainable, smart printing practices

1. Improving the experience for IT

A traditional print environment can become inefficient to maintain, pose security issues, and make detecting issues challenging or almost impossible. Such complex environments often consume too many IT resources.

IT teams too often often spend their valuable time solving print issues that businesses could have avoided with fewer print management servers.

Improving the day-to-day and big-picture experience for IT teams frees up valuable resources of time and know-how, keeps up morale, and ensures this department (among others) functions at the highest level.

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2. Reducing printing costs

Printing is a hidden cost that many organizations find hard to quantify, which makes reducing them even more challenging.

Beyond the price of physical materials such as equipment, paper and toner, there also are costs associated with IT’s time to conduct regular maintenance, departments “doing their own thing” and even potential cybersecurity risks posed by some printing environments.

Our customers see printing costs drop by 40% after deploying tools like print insights and secure release printing.

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3. Enhancing security and compliance

It’s an unfortunate fact that printers are often overlooked when it comes to a company’s security strategy. Far too many companies have viewed printers as machines for processing paper and ink.

Printers are an endpoint, and the documents you print can expose your company vulnerabilities and compliance issues.

Cloud printing solutions can alleviate many of these issues, but companies must remain diligent about following best-practices and thinking outside-of-the-box to improve security.

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4. Supporting a Hybrid Workforce

Printing in the office had been changing long before the coronavirus pandemic. Companies are increasingly seeking to offload technology services to the cloud while exploring every opportunity to save money and secure their business print workflows.

With these realities in mind, IT managers can shift the burden of managing print to the cloud, equip employees with mobile printing capability, and leverage print analytics for insights into how people are printing and the costs associated with this printing.

As companies prepare to bring employees back gradually, IT managers can also provide touchless secure printing capability so that people have options when it comes to touching shared surfaces like printer control panels.

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5. Sustainability

From 2011 to 2013, the percentage of Standard and Poor’s 500 companies publishing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reports rose from 20 percent to 72 percent. The message was clear: Disclosing information on sustainability performance is no longer just a way for business leaders to get ahead of the competition; it’s a requirement to avoid falling behind.

Investors today demand more than clean balance sheets and quality products. Today, the product is only as good as the production methods behind it; if it’s not sustainable, it might not fly.

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.

Printers consume a vast amount of resources, not only paper and toner but energy and human resources, all of which are expensive.

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.

People just need a simple, secure and flexible workflow to quickly and reliably print their documents so they can get on with business.

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.

If print were designed today, it would be every bit as focused on security, usability and sustainability as it is on document quality and output speed.

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.

For employees, it means a simple, secure workflow using their ID cards or employee login credentials to protect the confidentiality of their documents.

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.