Managed print services or MPS are quickly becoming one of the largest and most-sought-after solutions for commercial print.

However, for organizations looking for the newest options, many traditional MPS providers are beginning to integrate cloud services, offering cloud print infrastructure and cloud managed print services in addition to basic MPS.

If you’re looking for a managed print solution, there are advantages to all three. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of each and why you may or may not want them.

Your MPS provider should be able to help you with the specific advantages and disadvantages of each option they have and should be able to help you choose a solution that best fits your business in regards to their specific services.

This article will give you a general overview of the industry as a whole, so you can make a general decision before seeking out a provider.

Managed Print Service Solutions

Managed print services are typically broken up into traditional infrastructure and cloud print infrastructure. Each of these solutions is intrinsically different but with a considerable amount of overlap in services and features offered.

Traditional Print Infrastructure

Traditional print infrastructure includes a classic hardware setup, on your business premises. This means your business is home to print servers and a print network, typically running on LAN on its own IPv6.

This infrastructure offers the most in terms of local access, restricted access and local control of the print architecture. It is maintained and updated on premises, either by the organization or by an MPS provider depending on installer.

Physical hardware also offers disadvantages in that it must be maintained, replaced, and updated. Organizations typically need at least two print servers to prevent single-point failure. They will spend money on ongoing maintenance and updates, even when this is completely handled by an MPS provider, although fees are integrated into the total fee.

Cloud Print Infrastructure

Cloud print infrastructure moves print infrastructure to a cloud. This offers advantages in that you save time and money on print installation and server installation, reduce maintenance and local updates, and add a great deal in terms of scalability, functionality, and accessibility.

Rather than hosting your own print servers, you simply access existing print servers set up for your network. This does mean you lose local control, cannot always move print to a private IP or LAN, and may have to access cloud over broadband, which could greatly increase total bandwidth costs.

However, there are some options that could reduce this. A cloud print infrastructure receives the print server, print drivers, clients, and support from the cloud.

Most importantly, everything is already in the cloud which means that setup is often as simple as a few clicks.

  • Local Hosted Cloud – Local hosted cloud means that your cloud is hosted locally on private servers. This means you get the advantages of cloud and cloud access, with the option to maintain more security and privacy and likely benefit from greater speeds than hosting on remote servers. However, you do lose some of the benefits of cloud in that you will have to maintain local servers on premises.
  • Hybrid Solutions – Hybrid solutions allow you to utilize cloud-print infrastructure alongside traditional print infrastructure. Microsoft’s hybrid-cloud utilizes this solution, running with Azure servers and local print infrastructure, and attempting to offer the best of both worlds.

In either case, there are sacrifices and considerations to be made depending on what your needs, budget, and business goals are.

Cloud Managed Print Services

Cloud managed print services is a different service than cloud print infrastructure but may sometimes be sold as a cloud solution. Here, cloud means that you have access to a cloud dashboard to manage print and the printer fleet across locations.

Cloud managed print services typically offer the advantages of online cloud access without the advantages of cloud infrastructure and services. So, you can typically update drivers, clients, and servers online, can manage the fleet online, and can access print services from anywhere with cloud access. However, you also have to maintain local print servers.

Choosing a Managed Print Solution

While there are several options for print infrastructure, most have a considerable amount of overlap. The differences primarily lie in where servers are hosted and how they accessed. However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Here, you likely want to consider several key aspects when deciding.

Security

Organizations with high-security requirements or compliance issues likely want to maintain private print servers rather than moving to cloud. If you do move to the cloud, you want to look at hybrid or local-hosted cloud solutions to keep as much data on premises as possible.

You also want to ensure your MPS offers high security with encryption standards meeting industry requirements or organizational SLAs.

Access

One of the primary reasons to switch to cloud is ease-of-access and ease-of-management. This can matter a great deal to organizations spread across geographic locations or those with a considerable number of printers in their fleet. The smaller your organization, the less access matters. However, access may be a bad thing if you don’t have quality user access management in place. Make sure you have tools to control how and where individuals access print solutions before switching to the cloud.

While cloud print infrastructure is relatively new to the market, it’s already being quickly adopted, and for good reason. Cloud print infrastructure offers flexibility, scalability, and affordability to organizations that want to quickly and efficiently add print capability.

Cloud servers require less maintenance, less on-premise updates, and are easier to update, change, and expand as the organization grows.

As a result, it’s highly likely that cloud will become the standard for most types of organizations. However, many will still benefit from standard and hybrid solutions, so it’s important to look at specific business needs.