Cloud computing and storage have been adopted by UK businesses en masse, with other IT services like unified communications following hot on their heels. 

Yet something that many have neglected to even consider sprinkling cloud gold-dust onto – an IT function that is absolutely critical to business processes at all organisations large and small – is printing.  Print always seems to be left until last for some reason, but this situation could be about to change radically.

First, let’s get past this misconception that print related considerations don’t add up to a hill of beans in the typical IT department.  Gartner analysts estimate that up to 3% of an organisation’s total revenue is spent on print, which can work out at thousands, if not millions, of pounds.  Make no mistake – printing represents a perfect opportunity for the cloud to add new value and support the business imperatives of increased service levels, productivity, and agility, all while reducing costs and carbon footprint.

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This is done by leveraging a managed cloud print service (MCPS) – an enterprise-wide print management system that is hosted in the cloud and helps to create a controlled print, copy and document environment.  If properly deployed, this will save time and money, but also strengthen an organisation’s ability to control risk.  As well as helping to avoid loss of valuable data and preventing unauthorised access, it can also ensure confidential documents don’t end up in the wrong hands, limit device access to particular users and departments, and clearly identify key users.

An MCPS uses a cloud-based print network to manage the printing needs across the entire organisation.  For organisations spanning several offices nationally or globally, this is ideal. For smaller ones, it enables complete scalability. It’s flexible, it’s responsive, and reduces the administrative headache of managing a printing network spanning tens, hundreds or even thousands of printers. It also helps to reduce paper, ink and energy consumption, saving money as well as the planet.

Like other managed cloud services, cloud printing is developing to meet changing business needs. As printer fleets have evolved and expanded, many organisations find themselves operating multiple print servers to support their individual printing requirements. This brings advantages, by providing a more resilient network and avoiding heavy network traffic, but it also creates specific challenges, including a substantial IT cost and administrative burden.

Typically, for each site a business operates from, it needs one server and one print server for every 100 print devices. This heavy dependency on physical print-servers can lead to higher costs, device and driver deployment, poor print management, and redundancy issues. By virtualising the print infrastructure, an MCPS replaces the traditional physical print server, hosted on-site, with a private print network that uses ‘virtual print servers’ hosted in the cloud.  As well as large financial savings, this means higher security, control, agility, productivity and network resilience.

Unless you work within a typical IT department, you may fail to appreciate just how much of a drain on resources is it to operate a large print estate and its attendant on-premise server infrastructure. Alleviating these resources contributes to the 40 percent of so in cost savings that can be achieved by migrating print to the cloud. Many IT departments comment upon the benefits they’ve unlocked by allowing skilled internal staff to be redeployed to more strategically valuable duties than print server husbandry.

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Of course, there are some organisations that remain concerned about the security issues raised by giving their print infrastructure over to cloud technology, using it as the reason to decline or defer this next leap forward. Again, as with the broader evolution toward the cloud, this resistance to cloud printing is rapidly dissipating.  With the right safeguards in place, increased digitisation and mobility should not compromise the security of data and documents.

One of the more challenging objections relates to data residency and the need to understand the specific location of print data for compliance and governance purposes.  Rather than go the AWS/Azure route and leverage the public cloud, KYOCERA’s approach to reassuring customers with this concern is to provide a UK-situated private cloud environment situated within a recognised colocation facility with a very high level of resilience and availability.

Whilst cloud printing is a relatively new concept, it is certainly fit for purpose within every business sector. The efficiency improvements offered to both large and small organisations, combined with the lessened security risks, will inevitably drive greater adoption.

It may be the greyest part of your IT infrastructure today, but it could yet become your most golden.

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Eddie Ginja, Head of Strategic Business and Innovation at KYOCERA Document Solutions UK Eddie started his IT career as a mainframe programmer. After working in banking for several years and having concluded many projects for some of the world’s leading banking institutions, he joined Capgemini in 1997.  In his 15 year career at Capgemini Eddie progressed through the ranks from a programmer/systems analyst, to project programme manager, bid manager and finally as Head of Infrastructure Management, ITICS UK and North America. Eddie joined KYOCERA Document Solutions UK Ltd in 2012, where he is currently Head of Strategic Business and Innovation. Eddie continues to work on producing cloud-based solution roadmaps and products.