The problem with print servers: using the cloud to improve security and compliance

In recent years, growing data risks and tightened legislation has highlighted the need for greater security and compliance across the enterprise, especially in industries that keep sensitive records about health or other private details. Securing the network is obviously a priority so it’s vital to be aware that everything and anything connected to the network presents a potential vulnerability. With a survey by analyst firm, Quocirca, revealing that 59 percent of businesses report a print-related data loss in the past year, it must be recognised that an unsecured print environment, comprising printers and multifunction printers (MFPs), can create an open target for would-be hackers and intruders trying to access the corporate network.

The problem with print servers

While most organisations recognise that securing the print environment is of vital importance, many focus solely on the device itself and fail to address other infrastructure elements that create far more risk than one might expect. This is because in most enterprises, print environments are more complex than they were just a few years ago. Digital demands mean today’s print environments are made up of multiple devices connected to numerous servers dispersed throughout an organisation.

The scattered, disconnected nature of this typical infrastructure creates challenges for IT and risk for the organisation. Required technology updates are likely to be out of sync with IT security policies. Servers may be physically located in an unsecure location such as a manager’s office in a retail store or an unlocked closet in a bank branch. In some cases, servers are simply forgotten.

Security and compliance challenges

The increased complexity of print environments due to the disparate and scattered character of multiple print servers, makes them difficult to maintain and manage, resulting in the devices and the information they output becoming vulnerable to security breaches and potential non-compliance. Printer fleets comprising multivendor devices is also a factor. A 2017 Quocirca survey found that while 67 percent of respondents operating a multivendor fleet reported at least one data loss, this dropped to 41 percent for those that were operating a standardised fleet.

When devices miss their technology updates they become an open target for would-be hackers and intruders. Where access controls are lax or non-existent, unclaimed printouts sitting on output devices also become a security issue. Confidential documents piling up in your office print centers and copy rooms can be easily misplaced or land in the wrong hands, putting an organisation in breach of compliance regulations.

The answer’s in the cloud

The solution to removing these frustrating complexities and security upkeep requirements, is to move to a print solution designed for the digital age.

At Lexmark, we recently launched a cloud-based print management solution to enable stronger access controls, security and compliance for our end customers. This is based on the premise that with device management located in the cloud, technology updates and monitoring become easy. When there is no longer a requirement to be on site to perform updates and analyse device usage, the responsibility for these vital tasks can be outsourced to a trusted technology partner who can ensure that every single printer has the latest security updates in a timely fashion.

Printing from the cloud also helps ensure user and business security by preventing unwanted or forgotten pages from sitting at the printer unattended. We all know that sometimes it’s difficult to retrieve documents immediately after they have been printed out and that this can be a security risk if the documents contain sensitive information. With cloud-enabled print release, it becomes possible to send print jobs from any device, in any location, to the cloud. The printouts can then be retrieved at a chosen printer at a specific time, significantly reducing the chances of someone seeing it, or taking it, when they are not meant to.

Best of both worlds

Within an enterprise, certain groups or departments may prefer to keep documents on their own side of the firewall. In this instance, a hybrid cloud configuration provides a flexible solution which combines cloud-based print management with networked servers to suit different user groups and employees. This hybrid option enables control of exactly how, when and where cloud capabilities are used so that you benefit from the best of both worlds.

In addition to improved security and compliance, cloud-based print management services can generate powerful, aggregated analytics when implemented across an enterprise. This gives IT managers the insight to uncover potential security gaps and find areas that could be operating more efficiently. Armed with this ‘intel’, better decisions can be made such on which devices to place where to optimise the print environment.

The sky’s the limit

Even if you have the staff and budget to devote to it, the process of maintaining, supporting and securing a print and document management infrastructure can be complicated and expensive.

While printers and the cloud may seem like an unlikely partnership, cloud-enabled print eliminates the complexities of maintaining a server-based environment. Using secure cloud technology, cloud print management delivers a simplified, streamlined print infrastructure that’s more secure and easier to manage. For us at Lexmark, the business case is clear – becoming cloud enabled will arm your print infrastructure, processes and users with the means to handle today’s challenges while proactively preparing for tomorrow’s complexities.

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