Cloud printing makes sense for today’s work environments.
It’s a fact of life in IT these days. The vast majority of businesses now rely on cloud computing in some form or another. And its widespread adoption has led to significant changes in how companies work and manage their data.
Printing is one of the operations that has benefited significantly from the cloud. Thanks to cloud printing services like Google Cloud Print and HP’s ePrint, users can now print documents from virtually anywhere and at anytime—as long as their device and the printer they’re using are connected to the Web and the cloud printing service.
Cloud printing is especially beneficial for larger organizations, where the task of coordinating hardware, including user-owned mobile devices, can be challenging, to say the least, particularly when workers are spread out across many locations. Users no longer need to install unique drivers for every printer they use—saving time and hassle and increasing productivity.
But printing from the public cloud is not for everyone. While cloud printing services use secure HTTPS web connections that delete documents from the cloud as soon as they are printed, they are not totally secure. After all, the servers that hold the printing data are shared with many other users and organizations—that’s the nature of the public cloud.
It stands to reason that many enterprises, especially those that handle highly sensitive and confidential data—including government agencies, healthcare organizations and financial services companies—are averse to printing via the public cloud for fear of security breaches.
So what do you tell your customers as their trusted business advisors and IT partner? What advice can you offer those organizations that are particularly concerned about the security of cloud printing? Here are some insights on what they can do to ensure the safety of their documents as well as the data on their networks.
Encryption is the first line of defense.
With public cloud computing, data travels over open Internet connections to a cloud print provider. To make this safer, it’s best to ensure that both the outbound and inbound data are encrypted. That way, the data will be protected from the moment a user presses “print” until the document comes out of the printer on the other side of the cloud.
Encryption is usually achieved through the use of software applications like SecureJet and Thin Print, which in turn use the Internet Printing Protocol to create the encrypted text, also known as “ciphertext.”
In addition to these software solutions, printer manufacturers such as HP and Lexmark have introduced hardware solutions that facilitate encryption. The printers have slots into which cards are inserted to control the print job queue and all its accompanying processes.
A private cloud is the best way to ensure secure printing.
If a company has the money and the IT resources to create a private cloud in-house, that’s definitely the way to go to ensure safer and more secure printing. With a private cloud, the servers that host the data belong to the company alone. This makes cyberattacks significantly less likely, as the company controls the servers along with access to them. With a private cloud, the company’s vital information lives behind a secure firewall.
But implementing a private cloud printing solution is not without its challenges. Consider the infrastructure of government agencies, for example. Every agency has its own active directories and its own structure and protocol for printing, not to mention thousands of users dispersed over wide geographic areas.
Consolidating printing in such a scenario requires aligning all the printers, drivers, devices and users within the system—something that’s not that easy to accomplish. Then there’s the issue of driver updates, which can create its own logistical headache. The best way to address this is to deploy a universal printer drive solution that can seamlessly connect and manage all the printers. With a universal print driver, users can easily identify the right printer without hassle. Ideally, it should be set up so that only a few devices out of all the printers in the cloud are exposed to each user in various locations.
Virtual private networks add another level of security.
A virtual private network (VPN) is essentially a point-to-point link using the Internet as a network, but it’s protected by a firewall at both ends. This closed loop means that a company’s data is never exposed to the Internet, creating a safe and secure printing network that’s not shared by anyone else. And because the VPN encrypts Internet traffic, it helps keep outsiders from capturing passwords and snooping on web activity.
VPNs are also useful for connecting multiple networks together securely. All kinds of companies rely on them to share servers and other networked resources among multiple locations across the globe.
Implementing a VPN, which has become standard operating procedure for many large enterprises today, can be done cost-effectively for smaller companies too. You’ll want to advise your customers on the most cost-effective way to implement a VPN that makes sense for the size and nature of their organization.
Reaping the rewards of cloud printing without the risks.
Cloud printing is definitely an easy and efficient solution for today’s enterprises. As more and more organizations migrate to the cloud, following the suggestions offered here— implementing encryption, private cloud and VPNs—can help ensure that your customers enjoy the benefits of cloud printing without compromising the security of their data and networks. With your advice, they can be smart about the way they go about it.