Tuesday, November 30, 2010

ThinPrint works to take cloud printing to mainstream

With companies putting more applications and data into Internet clouds, cloud printing is gaining momentum in the enterprise.

Vendors large and small are getting into the game. HP has made major announcements while Google has hinted at the future. Apple has begun services for iOS devices. Smaller companies like HubCast and ThinPrint have entered the fray. Yet, for all the attention, though, cloud printing is still not mainstream.

BriefingsDirect recently caught up with Thorsten Hesse, manager of Innovative Products for ThinPrint, to discuss the business drivers of cloud computing, the various options available, and the obstacles to wider-spread adoption of the technology.

BriefingsDirect: What are the business drivers of cloud printing adoption?

Hesse: In general, talking about printing is quite boring for most people. But people want to print. They need to print. They don’t want to talk about it, but they want to use it. They just want it to work.

Companies spend a lot of money for new printers, for printer management and print driver administration, for unused print outs, unnecessary paper and toner consumption, and for support and help desk. Printing is one of the most cost-intensive things in IT. Many companies also don’t want to be locked in with a specific vendor.

Increasing use

Another aspect is the increasing use of cloud applications and services. How do you print from cloud offerings like Salesforce or Google Apps? Mostly you create a PDF. Well, then you need a device that can print PDFs. Additionally, the use of smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices becomes more and more common, and these devices can‘t do that, or only in limited quality.

Altogether, there are at least six business drivers for cloud printing:
  • Printing is one of the most cost intensive IT services—and cloud printing can save cost and enhance productivity at the same time.
  • Printing technology today depends highly on printer manufacturers.
  • Companies want print on demand.
  • Companies use cloud applications, very often unplanned.
  • Employees are becoming increasingly mobile.
  • Employees use new types of devices.
BriefingsDirect: What are the different options for cloud printing in terms of delivery?

Hesse: There’re three different delivery models. First, there is private cloud software. The first delivery model is that we sell software to our customers that they install in their environment, for example in their data center or on an Amazon server in the cloud.

This might sound far off, but as soon as customers manage their internal desktops from the cloud with Microsoft Intune, it will be a logical step to do the same with the printers.

They buy, own, and control the software. The other end of the spectrum is a pure cloud printing service. And then in the middle we've got the hybrid cloud, where some parts are run internally in the private cloud and others in the public cloud.

BriefingsDirect: Is cloud printing secure? What makes is it secure?

Hesse: First of all, the user can print content without needing to store it on the device, which brings all the advantages of central data storage -- secure and updated data in one place, no files lost when device is lost, and availability of service. The user can trigger the print job to the printer. He can also identify the printer.

BriefingsDirect: How is cloud printing evolving?

Hesse: Our solution is evolving in many directions. On top of offering print management as a software product that the customer can purchase and install internally, we’ll offer it as a cloud service. This will be a public cloud service. Customers can run it from the cloud. They can then control their internal printing environment from the cloud.

This might sound far off, but as soon as customers manage their internal desktops from the cloud with Microsoft Intune, it will be a logical step to do the same with the printers. This will evolve into a complete print management solution that can then be used not only to control the printing environment, but to build in policies to enhance it along the way.

BriefingsDirect: What is holding businesses back from adopting cloud printing?

Hesse: They mostly don’t know what’s possible, as the discussion is fogged by limited public cloud printing solutions.
BriefingsDirect contributor Jennifer LeClaire provided editorial assistance and research on this post. She can be reached at http://www.linkedin.com/in/jleclaire and http://www.jenniferleclaire.com.
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