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Are businesses ready for mobile printing?

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Two years ago, an IDC study on print services found that a third of companies already allowed employees to use their own personal smartphones, laptops, and tablets at work. Some businesses may not like the idea of using mobile devices in the workplace, but it goes without saying that they open up a whole new world of possibilities.

What’s more, recent IDC research indicates 75 per cent of Europe’s workforce will be mobile by 2018, with employees requiring the “ability to access and process information quickly and securely in order to maintain and increase productivity.”

While solutions like the cloud can help members of staff access and share digital data, how can the printing world adapt to the increasing wants and needs of mobile workers?

Although the main printing manufacturers have already developed mobile printing solutions featuring countless connectivity options, many businesses are lagging behind in terms of adoption and implementation.

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The current state of play

IDC’s research isn’t the only evidence that suggests mobile printing will exponentially take off in the coming years. A TechSci Research report entitled Global Mobile / Portable Printers Market Opportunities & Forecast, 2020 predicts that the booming retail sector, rapid growth in mobile workforces and increasing IT spending will cause the global mobile/portable printer market to exceed $13bn within the next five years.

 Even so, Quocirca research has revealed that 83 per cent of organisations are interested in mobile print capabilities, but only 14 per cent have actually deployed a mobile print solution.

This could be explained by a “rather nebulous market, a lower priority in the overall IT agenda and the reluctance to pay for mobile print solutions.” However, another major stumbling block is a potential lack of understanding on what mobile solution meets business needs.

Thankfully, today’s fragmented market means businesses can choose from abundance of different hardware, software, and cloud-based services. This might be confusing for some, but it enables organisations of any size or sector to identify a suitable solution.


Manufacturer solutions

At this moment in time, printer and copier manufacturers as well as independent software vendors (ISVs) populate most of the mobile printing ecosystem. Nonetheless, operating system vendors are becoming increasingly influential too.

Manufacturers such as Canon, HP, Lexmark, Ricoh and Xerox offer mobile printing services as part of their managed print services (MPS) portfolio. The benefit of this is that businesses can manage and track printing across both desktop and mobile environments.

Some printers are also cloud or web-enabled, such as HP’s ePrint or Ricoh’s HotSpot range of printers. These machines allow mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets to be registered for HP and Ricoh’s respective cloud printing services.

The mobile print solutions of independent software vendors like Breezy, EFI, Cortado, PrinterOn, and Pcounter are best suited to organisations operating a mixed fleet, as they avoid the need to implement multiple solutions for each and every platform and printer or MFP. You sometimes find that hardware manufacturers will partner with ISVs to deliver multi-vendor support too.

Last but not least, mobile printing support is also available through operating system vendors. Two of the most popular solutions include Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. AirPrint is easily discoverable, features automatic media selection as well as enterprise-class finishing options. Cloud Print on the other hand offers smartphone and tablet printing with supported apps and cloud-enabled printers.


The issue of security

In spite of the benefits that a mobile workforce enjoys, the proliferation of smartphones and tablets also raises several security questions. For example, without a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy in place, cyber criminals can target the unprotected smartphones and tablets connected to your printers, and by extension your network, to compromise important or sensitive data.

On top of that, Quocirca research has also revealed “70 per cent of organisations have experienced one or more accidental breaches through printing.” This can be as simple as confidential information being left in output trays for anyone to see. One possible solution though is secure job release or ‘pull-printing,’ which uses authentication to release print jobs but also maintains a full audit trail.

In order to safeguard your most valuable files and folders, you should limit access to printers and MFPs to known uses only. Measures such as passwords, smartcards, and two-factor authentication can be managed by an external server, features imbedded within mobile devices, or software that works with the MFP on a PC or workstation.

Even though the majority of cloud-based services from printer manufacturers and software vendors will no doubt employ the latest in online security, it makes sense to double check. After all, cyber criminals possess the ability to infiltrate even the most impenetrable of systems.


Recommendations on mobile solution implementation

Perhaps the most critical consideration for a mobile print solution to work is that it tightly integrates into an existing enterprise print management strategy. Therefore, costs can be contained and security risks can be mitigated. A centrally managed system enables print jobs from mobile devices to be subject to the same controls and scrutiny as those from desktop too.

Owing to the all-encompassing capabilities of smartphones and tablets coupled with the flexibility they give users, you should also look for a solution featuring the ability to submit print jobs via numerous methods, which can include email, web browser, and an app.

Unless you operate a standardised fleet environment, you should explore third-party solutions using a universal driver that allows jobs to be printed on any machine via any device. You may even want to consider cloud-based options, as remote servers go hand in hand with mobile technologies. However, recognise the differences between private and public cloud print services.

Finally, don’t overlook or ignore managed print services either, as they can reduce the cost, complexity and risk of an unmanaged print infrastructure. But in order to work, MPS will require “a process of fleet assessment, device consolidation, implementation of document workflow tools and continuous management,” in the opinion of Quocirca, and the team here at OfficeXpress.

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