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From the ethereal to the physical


Article Type: Strategy          Published: 05-2014         Views: 1720   

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Arron Fu, VP of Software Development, UniPrint, discusses ways to remove the diverse obstacles to enterprise printing via the cloud

Printing and the cloud are seemingly at opposite ends of an organisation's infrastructure spectrum. Printing remains one of the last bastions of an organisation's infrastructure that cannot be completely virtualised since the whole point of printing is to take something virtual and make it physical. The cloud allows businesses to be more efficient and printing should be one of those business processes, in fact, it's arguably one of the most basic business process that could be simplified with the cloud.

The big benefit of cloud printing is that it drastically simplifies intra-organisational printing structures and flattens the complexities of coordinating hardware across a widely distributed system of computers. Of course, not all cloud printing is created equal, and - as with any new technology - the cloud brings with it a slew of new challenges. Among these are the differences between public and private cloud printing and the ease of implementation to achieve these benefits. Figuring out these differences is central to understanding how to successfully implement a cloud-printing solution for your organisation.

DANGEROUS DRIVERS
Cloud printing is particularly useful for large organisations with complicated computer network infrastructures such as government departments, financial corporations, and healthcare companies. Many of these institutions connect hundreds (if not thousands) of devices and printers, sometimes across multiple locations. As work becomes more mobile, an employee may need to print from multiple locations in different parts of a building or of a country. Struggling with installing different printer drivers each time that an employee needs to print from a new printer is not just annoying, but also time-consuming and a drain on productivity.

Public cloud printing services can smooth out some of this chaos. They connect printers to the web so that they can be accessed from anywhere and at any time from web-connected devices. Instead of installing unique drivers for every new printer, you could print from anywhere, as long as both the printer and the device are linked to the cloud printing service. Even more, with cloud printing services, you could print from virtually any device that can connect to the service - including tablets and mobile phones.

OVER-SENSITIVE?
However, many times, organisations also have high levels of security concerns that preclude them from using a public cloud. And, the problem with many third party cloud printing services is that they use the "public" cloud. While these cloud printing options do simplify the printing process, all the print data must travel through the public cloud as it makes its journey from device to printer. This prohibits those organisations who deliberately do not use public cloud services for the express reason that it is public. Though some public cloud services have a privacy policy and a guarantee in place, many companies seek greater control and oversight of the sensitive data they handle. Moreover, these organisations are also often large enough to merit their own clouds. As such, they prefer to create in-house private clouds so that they can leverage the advantages of cloud services while also maintaining their own security over sensitive data.

But implementing a private cloud printing solution has its own complications. Consider the infrastructure of government agencies as just one example. Every agency has its own structure for printing, each with active directories, and hundreds of thousands of users dispersed over wide geographic areas. Consolidating printing in this situation requires aligning all the printers, drivers, devices, and users within the system; something that can't be done easily or efficiently.

Even more, this system is routinely bogged down with driver updates creating a giant logistical headache. Every device needs to be updated for every driver update for every printer when the updates crop up. For the devices that don't have printer drivers? Those will never be able to print at all. As such, a great resolution to this organisational hazard is to deploy a universal printer driver solution that can seamlessly connect and manage all printers within complex enterprise environments.



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