Cloud printing is a relatively new technology but one that is quickly taking off, as large organizations ranging from Google to HP and Canon now offer it. Print servers are already part of standard fleet integrations for many managed print service providers, largely because they allow easier and faster implementation, setup, and control.

If you’re considering implementing cloud print servers or cloud print services, there’s a lot to consider. Most notably, you’ll be implementing yet another SaaS program, essentially paying for monthly access.

Plug and Play Print Servers

Cloud print servers offer numerous advantages for implementation. The first is that installing them is as simple as hitting a button on a computer and installing software into printers.

Cloud print servers are immediately available and online and can be quickly scaled up and down to meet organizational needs. This flexibility contributes to business agility and cost control, because organizations can always quickly scale services up or down to meet existing needs.

  • Near-instant print availability after installation
  • Reduced downtime, if your server goes down, you’re simply moved to another
  • Extremely flexible print network capabilities. Most services allow you to easily scale up or down
  • Reduced hardware costs (consider comparing printer rental and maintenance costs with cloud before making a decision)
  • Integrated security measures such as encryption, firewall, and access management

Cloud print servers mostly allow organizations to quickly install a sophisticated print network without having to hire on internal experts, invest in costly software, or invest in changing existing infrastructure. Your managed print services provider will install the cloud print network onto printers, ensure your existing IP network can handle the load, and your network is in place.

Reduced Physical Hardware

Organizations without dedicated IT teams or without large IT teams often struggle with print server maintenance, security, and upkeep. Cloud print servers reduce the need to have hardware at all, typically utilizing IP technology to connect clients and printers, instead of using fixed WAN connections.

This reduces internal costs in terms of IT maintenance, IT infrastructure, and actual physical hardware maintenance. This same switch to IP rather than fixed WAN can also reduce printer security risks, although this depends on how and where networks are attacked.

Reduced Costs

While the total reduction in costs will completely depend on what your organization spends on print, what you intend to pay for a cloud print network deployment, and your managed print services fees, it’s likely you can save money.

Gartner estimates that the average IT team spends up to 15% of their time responding to print related inquiries. In addition, the average company spends 1-3% of (total) revenue on print, 9% of which relates to server maintenance.

This data will vary considerably depending on your organization and your print fleet, but switching to a predictable monthly fee will likely reduce total spend on print hardware.

Central Management

Most print servers and networks offer some form of centralized management if they are installed and designed correctly. Moving to a cloud solution makes this even easier, because all tooling is automatically rolled into one cloud tool. This results in measurable time-savings for IT because items like driver updates, profile edits, printer deployment, and even individual device updates can be managed from the tool, without group policy objects or scripts.

This means your entire print network will operate in a uniform virtual environment, where all drivers are up-to-date. Cloud print servers neatly roll into virtual environments such as Citrix, creating truly secure virtual management. Plus, with all printers on the same platform, features like self-service printer installation, print auditing, SNMP monitoring, and print auditing implement into the program, and are typically provided as part of the tool.

Standardized Workflows

Moving to cloud print networks means that your organization can create standardized workflows across the organization, even if that spans multiple geographic locations. These might range from file saving and backup to transcription to data imaging or even print-queues.

However, implementing this standardization typically allows for better security, allows organizations to better manage and maintain quality (especially of stored and digitized files) and allows organizations to create standard processes to control items such as font size, print volume, and margins to reduce waste in print.

Cons of Implementing Cloud Print Servers

While cloud print servers offer a lot of advantages, they aren’t for everyone. Many organizations benefit from physical print servers and others from hybrid solutions. Some of the considerations include:

Internet

Cloud print solutions typically require more bandwidth and a more stable internet connection. Without it, print services will go down and may slow down.

Mobility

Physical print servers allow it to simply redirect the flow of traffic when users are overloading a server. Some cloud servers don’t allow this same level of control. If you need it, make sure that your solution offers network management and manual control. However, for the most part, you will lose control over server mobility.

Security

Cloud print servers typically have the same security risks and benefits of other SaaS solutions. At the end of the day, you lose control over data and security measures. If your organization requires strict compliance for regulation, cloud servers are not a solution.

Cloud print servers can complicate IT networks in terms of bandwidth usage. Organizations with older printers will definitely want to utilize physical print servers, because older printers are quite often not optimized for cloud and will consume too much in terms of bandwidth. Organizations wishing to stay in control of servers and mobility will also prefer to retain at least some physical servers.

Cloud print servers are increasingly popular for organizations of all sizes. Managed print services make implementing them easy, with full installation, integration into printers, and management for both the servers and your print fleet.

Moving to cloud offers numerous advantages, but most organizations see opportunities in reducing the burden on IT and possibly cutting internal printer costs by reducing responsibility. This can also result in an increased quality of print services, as solutions, management, and maintenance are moved into the hands of printer specialists who can remote manage and update solutions, keep everything up-to-date, and change solutions as needed to ensure the entire system stays optimized for your organization.

At the same time, there’s no one-best-solution for every organization. Your best option is to likely perform an internal needs analysis, review security and compliance needs, review budget, and perform a hardware analysis.

Most managed print service providers will provide this sort of analysis for you as well, although costs vary. In either case, it’s important to ensure that your organization is suited for cloud print services before moving to the cloud.