As more and more services switch the cloud, businesses looking for managed print services (MPS) are increasingly interested in sourcing cloud solutions for print. But, while cloud is a viable option for MPS, you might be wondering if it’s the best way to go.
Managed print is typically available in on-premise, cloud, and hybrid variants, meaning you have numerous choices in terms of how your print services are provided. While there are advantages to each, most businesses should choose based on specific needs relating to control, access, scalability, and personal preference.
If you’re trying to choose an MPS, comparing on-premise, cloud, and hybrid solutions will help you make the right decision.
On-Premise MPS means that hardware and software is handled on-premise. This typically means that you have maximum control over your print system, but with some drawbacks. For example, hosting your own local print-servers means that you are limited to the storage volume of those servers. You’re also limited when something goes wrong, because if your servers go down, your entire print system will go offline. You will have to wait until your MPS provider sends a repair technician to get your system back online.
At the same time, localized hosting and hardware means that you maximize control over your system. Everything is on a local server, can be accessed and managed by your own IT, and is secure in your own building. This can offer a lot of benefits, especially if your organization is in an industry with strict security standards, you’re handling high-level organizational secrets through print, or otherwise need extra security. Here, industries such as healthcare, finance, surveillance, public, and government will greatly benefit from on-premise solutions.
Depending on your print-volume needs and server, local servers may also reduce latency issues and reduce bandwidth usage across your networks. This will be advantageous across your organization if you frequently print very large files.
Cloud MPS means that your printer software and files are hosted externally, through the cloud. This is advantageous in that you have access to an extremely scalable network, external security, and complete external management, but can have disadvantages. One of the largest drawbacks for many organizations is loss of in-house control. A cloud network is operated on external servers, which are typically distributed across a wider geographical area to ensure reduced latency for customers.
However, this does mean that local IT will have no control and new updates to internal security, hardware, or software will not immediately reflect in the print server. It also means you won’t have local tech support when something goes wrong, and you will always have to call an external line and wait for support. Many organizations also feel that the lack of in-house security standards can be limiting for external compliance reasons.
Cloud MPS offers a great deal in terms of scalability, easy maintainability, reduced costs, and reduced up-time. Most cloud systems can scale up or down instantly, allowing individual users to simply use as much as-is needed. While this will change depending on servers and packages, cloud services are ideal for organizations with changing needs, and growing organizations that may have to scale-up.
Hosting print services on external servers also means you won’t need servers on your premises. This reduces need for technical support and maintenance and typically reduces costs because you will be operating on a shared server rather than maintaining your own.
Finally, cloud-servers are hosted across several locations, with numerous servers in place. If there is an outage, it will likely only affect part of the service, meaning you still have access to your print servers. This is advantageous over on-premise hosting, where your servers might be down for some time before they can be repaired.
Both cloud and on-premise MPS offer a lot of advantages, which is one reason why hybrid solutions exist. The largest advantage of hybrid solutions is that they allow strong security and localized access, while providing scalable support, especially across organizations with multiple offices.
Here, available solutions will depend a great deal on the MPS vendor but will likely include on-premises hardware and software, plus an on-premises server. However, the print-network will also have access to a cloud server, which will function to back up services, deliver seamless updates, and allow data-and file transfer across the server.
Making the Right Choice
Most organizations have significantly different needs, but in the case of cloud, on-premises, and hybrid MPS solutions, the differentiators largely relate to security, customization, and scalability. Here, hybrid solutions serve as a middle ground for each.
Cloud – Cloud-servers are typically priced at a monthly fee based on users, usage, or data (or all three). Plans can be scaled up or down, so you have complete control over costs and always know what you’re paying. This is typically cheaper in the short-term and may be cheaper in the long-term because you won’t have to handle maintenance, local IT, or upgrades.
On-Premise – On-premises MPS require a large upfront investment, plus ongoing maintenance. You will likely pay an ongoing service fee to your vendor as well.
Here, cloud MPS clearly wins in that it greatly reduces risk, while removing maintenance costs. However, it may cost more over time for a high-volume user.
Cloud – Businesses with strong security needs often avoid cloud services, simply because they have no control over security protocols. Instead, the MPS vendor handles security. Most will do so to a very high standard, and often more-so than a smaller organization can afford.
On-Premises – Hosting your server on-premises means you are in full control of your security. This can be advantageous if you have strict security protocols and the practices in-place to maintain them.
On-premises MPS offers more opportunities for businesses to strictly control security and access – providing they have the resources to do so. If control is an issue, on-premises solutions make the most sense.
Scalability and Customization
Cloud – Cloud MPS allows you to frequently scale your plan up or down to adapt to the volume or bandwidth needs of your organization. This would be extremely costly to manage with physical hardware. Cloud systems also typically include automatic updates and new technology. However, they do not allow organizations to make or choose changes themselves. You will be forced to use what your vendor provides.
On-Premises – On-premises solutions are more difficult to scale to meet volume needs, but easier to upgrade in that new security protocols, software, and updates can be implemented on-demand.
What’s the bottom line? Both offer pros and cons that are suited to different business needs.
Choosing the right MPS solution means reviewing your needs relating to growth, security, control, and long-term personalization. If you’re unsure, going for the middle ground of a hybrid solution may be ideal.