Mobile Printing: Understanding Your Options

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The explosion of iPhones, Driods, Blackberries as well as iPads and other tablet based computers, has led to an ever increasing mobile work environment. Being tethered to a desktop computer on a traditional network is slowly becoming the past. The Cloud and services delivered through it are now becoming the standard, which makes it vital that you have your printing needs addressed, or you will find yourself with all this great content and nowhere to output it!

So, what is out there to help the changing enterprise deliver solid printing resources to their employees, consultants, clients, students and visitors? Well, it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish and how important document and network security is within your organization.

Wireless Printing
Wireless printing has been around for several years now and is typically deployed in home and SOHO (Small Office, Home Office) environments. It is not very secure and shouldn’t be looked at as a viable environment for busy enterprises. It is also very limited since you need to be in the same location as the actual printer in order to print your jobs.

Follow Me Printing
“Follow Me” type printing is a solution offered by major manufacturers of office equipment and is either available through a 3rd party software application or native to the devices themselves. This allows for any corporate user to send a print job to a “Virtual” print queue and then release the job at any device on the corporate network that shares the same platform and is part of that queue. For instance, you have a Canon imageRUNNER on the 1st floor and one on the 3rd floor and you send your print job to the queue. You forget to release your job at the Canon on the 1st floor before you go to your meeting so, when you get to the 3rd floor, you login to the device and now print your job. This typically only works when all equipment is from the same manufacturer or when you have installed a 3rd party software application that works with multiple OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers.)

Cloud Printing
Then there are Cloud Based services that first became popular in public spaces like airports and hotels. This also involves a 3rd party service and is either embedded into the manufacturer’s hardware or employs a print release terminal attached to the device that allows users to release their print jobs with a PIN code. The two major players in this world of solutions are PrinterOn (also rebranded by Ricoh as HotSpot Printing and HP as e-Print and e-Print Enterprise) and EFI’s PrintMe. Both solutions offer secure cloud based services for mobile workers and both claim to have tens of thousands of enabled devices throughout the world.

The major differences with these cloud based solutions as opposed to the earlier ones described are that they do not require a print driver, they do not require the user to be joined to any physical or wireless network and that they have built in security via SSL, HTTPS and PIN codes. A user needs to only send an email to the respective service with the document they want to print or upload the document to a secure online portal, obtain a PIN via email and then walk up to the device that is enabled and release their print job. Additionally, these services are available on a paid subscription only basis, as opposed to a one time capital investment.

PrinteMe, PrinterOn
The difference between PrintMe and PrinterOn lies in a few minor details. What is the real world application for cloud based printing? The best way to describe this is through an example. A professional services firm has clients and outside consultants that typically come into the office periodically and are not given privileges to the network. They have the need to print reports, supporting documentation, presentations, etc. In the current model, the user has the option to email a file to an employee with rights to print the information out or they can place the document on a flash drive and give it to that same employee to print out. Inherently, both disrupt the employee’s regular workflow and are terribly insecure when it comes to network security.

By offering a cloud based printing solution to these important visitors to your firm, you bypass all these concerns and provide a secure and easy way for documents to get printed from any device to any PrintMe or PrinterOn enabled device. Additionally, you present a much more professional image to these important guests and alleviate any undue stresses surrounding print.