Organizations looking to upgrade or install printing solutions have more options today than ever before. With new technologies, an increasing range of managed print services, new software, and new hardware tools, businesses can get in control of print like never before. While many technologies do have a significant implementation cost, many also improve business efficiency to reduce costs, cut time-waste, and reduce environmental footprint.

Most new printer technology is available through managed print services, which typically specializes in optimizing print processes. These technologies vary greatly and can include everything from Internet of Things devices to very specific security applications.

3 new printer technologies your business should look into include cloud managed print services, digital workflows, and smart printing.

1) Cloud Managed Print Services

Cloud managed print servers allow organizations to move printer management out-of-house to expert managed print services providers. These services are similar to existing managed print services, in that the MPS provider will typically provide software and hardware solutions, optimize both for the organization, and manage solutions long-term.

Unlike traditional MPS, cloud managed MPS move management to remote cloud. All printers are connected via the cloud where remote managers push updates, manage security, handle ink replacement requests, and schedule maintenance. This can extend to cloud print servers, where print servers are managed through the cloud, and host to printer requests are managed over IP rather than fixed WAN.

Cloud managed print services are offered by most major printer companies, like HP, as well as a wide range of smaller companies. Each of them offers their own variations or personalized services. Most also offer hybrid solutions, so organizations can keep print jobs behind firewall for compliance or security, while minimizing the quantity of hardware necessary to maintain the network.

Cloud MPS reduces total implementation, cost of management, and involvement in management for most businesses. Unlike with a hardware network and local print management software, cloud solutions mean organizations don’t have to have any dedicated print IT at all.

While you can still access cloud tools, view reports, and make changes, doing so is optional, giving organizations as much or as little control as-is desired.

2) Digital Workflows and Automation

Digital workflows and automation are increasingly popular, but are not quite mature in the print market. These tools range from simple workflow applications to full software solutions like Xerox’s ConnectKey.

Digital workflow tools typically function around processes such as sending documents directly to printers from hosts, creating digital documents, digitizing files, file backups, inviting users to edit, requesting integrations, and so on.

These workflows streamline processes that are typically handled manually or that require additional collaborations, allowing other applications and other users to seamlessly collaborate, even across workflows that would have previously required manual intervention and collaboration.

This seamlessly integrates into new automation tools, which automate processes for print queuing and file transfer, file encryption, and storage. Automation protocols can typically be applied to nearly any process in the print fleet, including automatically backing up files, digitizing scanned documents, sending request for approval or validation, or otherwise involving other stages of a workflow.

Streamlining and automating print workflows is especially valuable in industries such as medical and legal, where print files typically require multiple stages of approval, so a file can automatically be moved to the correct individuals for approval and notification before moving to print.

The largest business benefit of workflows and automation is that businesses can save time, enforce standards such as print size and quality, or otherwise restrict printing to standards or validation. It’s also extremely valuable for organizations that are digitizing or which need strict records including of print processes, because everything can be handled automatically.

3) Smart Printers

Smart printers have increasingly saturated the market but are still a relatively new technology. Modern smart printers typically offer tablet or tablet-like interfaces, smarter computers, and touch interfaces. This offers numerous advantages for business in terms of new and better features, faster processes, and better integrations.

For example, smart printers are typically cloud native, allowing seamless integration with cloud apps and print servers, supporting cloud print solutions. This means employees can directly print from cloud storage apps like Dropbox or Drive, right from a printer.

App support can also enable dozens of other business-friendly features, such as integrated document sign. Here, users can submit print requests for digital files at the printer, add their own signature via a tablet, and push the file to another printer.

This replaces traditional processes of “create a digital file, print it, sign it, scan it, and send it to the client” with “create a digital file and sign it digitally before sending to the client.” This process naturally greatly reduces waste printing in most organizations, because many files require multiple authors or signatures, especially in finance and HR.

Smart printers also make it easier to manage and control access management, to offer faster and simpler secure access such as mobile phone and RFID or app access. This improves user experience and improves user adoption of security protocols over using passcodes, which greatly benefits the organizations implementing the measures.

Print solutions are rapidly changing. Most global print trends are moving towards managed print services, cloud applications, and smarter solutions that automate both IT processes and workflows. The result is more efficient, more eco-friendly, and more secure printing, with fewer hardware and management costs for the organizations implementing them.

While not every organization should upgrade or migrate to new technologies, many organizations can benefit. If you’re considering, it’s important to implement a needs analysis to determine if solutions will offer value or return on value for your organization.