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ThinPrint 2017 Predictions: If Productivity and Security Matter, Put Printing on Your 2017 To-Do List

VMblog Predictions 2017

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2017.  Read them in this 9th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed by Henning Volkmer, President and CEO of ThinPrint Inc.

If Productivity and Security Matter, Put Printing on Your 2017 To-Do List

With the networked world constantly growing more complicated, 2017 will be a year when attention to detail proves essential. While it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, printing is a key business area where focus needs to be razor sharp.

Why? Because printing is not only business critical but it is also very relevant when it comes to the hot-button issues of security and compliance.

Depending on your role in an organization, you may not personally be involved in any of the business-critical processes that rely on printing. However, be certain, they are all over the place. In the healthcare space, patients need hard copy files, charts and prescriptions. Elsewhere, logistics departments create inventory lists, bills of lading, customs documents and more. Financial service and real estate companies develop mortgage documents, insurance documentation, receipts, client statements and many other documents. Long story short, chances are that there are vital parts of your organization that absolutely depend on printing working flawlessly and reliably.

High Availability Printing: The Details Matter

Some might assume that printing is an easily taken care of task, but don't be so certain. The landscape is changing, with key Microsoft Windows Server OS software upgrades or re-inventing data centers. Even the basic print server cluster is no longer available, and the move to server virtualization is nowhere near an adequate replacement to ensure printing is highly available. That's because you can't monitor print-specific health indicators. Instead, all you can do is simply check if a server used for providing print services is still running and restart if it is unstable. This doesn't address the fundamental issue.

In 2017, you need a solution that provides highly available printing for both the virtual desktop infrastructure in your organization, as well as anyone or anything else that needs to print. That includes all your traditional desktop and laptop computers and often overlooked enterprise printing like managing inventory and production on a factory floor through fleets of label printers.

Printing can only be truly highly available through a centralized architecture that delivers printing like other services throughout the organization. Managing printing for each workstation, desktop and application just multiplies the number of points of failure that may require time-consuming troubleshooting.

Companies that possess detailed print high availability can monitor print-specific health criteria. These include: spooler responsiveness, successful mappings or printers to a user or application and, of course, the overall availability of the servers providing the print services within your organization.

This means if one of those criteria exceed a stress-point threshold set by your organization, indicating printing is not stable, all users are automatically and transparently re-mapped to other servers. This ensures printing remains reliable and available while IT is alerted about the server that needs attention.

The list of possible nightmare scenarios is practically endless, but nearly two decades in enterprise printing has taught us a lot about the importance of highly available printing. Thanks to meaningful dialogue with our customers, we know this importance has only grown in recent years because of increased pressures for organizational performance.

Printing: The Missing Link in Security and Compliance

Beyond the technical burden, regulatory demands are also changing user expectations. When it comes to security and compliance, printing must meet high safeguarding standards.

Almost everything we print contains some form of sensitive information. That could be proprietary data about customers, products or business planning, or personally identifiable information (PID) in either the healthcare and finance fields or just about every HR department in any industry.

This data is at risk through all stages of the print process - and that information is worthy of your attention in 2017. The three danger zones to consider are:

  • The print process itself. If printer assignments are not sufficiently easy, reliable and flexible, sensitive material may fall into the wrong hands because an employee incorrectly sent a document to the wrong printer. The solution: Using either algorithms based on their location or implement self-service options that make it easy to identify the nearest printer so users can easily sidestep incorrectly assigning a print job.
  • When print data is in transit to the printer. Printing uses an unencrypted and largely standardized data format that, if captured, can be easily reverse engineered to reveal a print job's content. This also means bad actors can modify the content - like the amount or recipient for a check - and even submit it to the printer. The answer is a small hub or hardware device. The printer is simply plugged into the hub device, which connects to the local network and receives an SSL encrypted print job using your organization's security certificates. This provides an end-to-end encryption that can easily be added to any printer in an organization, regardless of make or model.
  • After a document has been printed but hasn't been picked up at the printer. At this point any confidential or proprietary information included in the document is clearly visible to anyone who - intentionally or unintentionally - picks up the paper. Follow-Me/Secure/Personal printing are great options to eliminate the need for pre-set printer mappings or selections. It also alleviates the risk of print jobs sitting in a paper tray, making them accessible to anyone. The best news: These options don't require adding individual printers to the offices of those printing sensitive information. Users simply print to a universal printer object using the familiar print process of their application. The document is submitted to a central server, which securely stores the job far away from prying eyes, releasing it only after the user authenticates at the printer by using a PIN code, an RFID smart card or a smartphone application that scans a QR bar code on the printer.

As you plan for 2017, it will be essential to know what parts of your organization rely on printing and what would happen if printing was not reliable or highly available. Also, make sure you identify how much and which kind or sensitive data is being printed in your organization and what would happen if it fell into the wrong hands. The right comprehensive printing solution, at an affordable price point, can fix any efficiency issues and pressing risk factors. Addressing your printer needs may be the easiest detail you handle in 2017.

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About the Author 

Henning Volkmer is the president and CEO of ThinPrint Inc. and Cortado Inc. He drives the execution of ThinPrint's strategy as the leading provider of print management software and services for businesses and Cortado Mobile Solutions' business class of cloud desktop services across the Americas Volkmer has been at the forefront of technology trends for the past seventeen years, helping to shape both the virtual desktop as well as the enterprise mobility industry. In addition to holding various positions within the Cortado group, Volkmer served as part of a project team focused on reducing costs in the network infrastructure division with what is now Nokia Networks. Under Volkmer's direction, ThinPrint brand has increased its lead as the premier print management software, while Cortado brand has become recognized as a pioneer business solution, shaping the future of the cloud desktop. Originally from Berlin, Germany, Henning currently resides in Denver, CO.

CT Volkmer 

Published Friday, December 30, 2016 9:04 AM by David Marshall
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