Serverless Printing for Common Print Environments
By Brandon Gross
Serverless printing has become a trending topic the past couple of years. Thanks to COVID and remote workforces, the Microsoft Print Nightmare, and a slew of other high-profile hacks experienced by large companies and organizations, printing in general is under a microscope.
Considering the ever-rising costs of labor, tech hardware (servers, MFP’s, laptops, etc.), we are seeing a shift in consumer behavior. Before we dive too far into this shift, however, let’s define common print environments.
Centrally Controlled Printing
This is typically accomplished with one or multiple print servers, and in some cases even application servers to run additional management/security software. It seems simple enough; deploy printers and drivers to users and call it a day. Unfortunately, it is not simple! Servers are complicated, require technical staff for ongoing maintenance and management, are in the thousands of dollars to acquire, and require replacement upon failure or end of life. To put it simply, this is costly method of managing a simple task that day-to-day employees need to accomplish.
Serverless printing is basic in that a print driver is loaded or deployed to a user’s workstation, and printing takes place to a singular IP address assigned to each printer. Although basic, this method is also complicated to manage in that there is no central control, IP addresses must be assigned on the network and updates to print drivers and IP addresses must be made manually. Additionally, this method lacks security given that employees have free reign to print anything with zero accountability.
What IT Professionals Desire
So, if serverless printing is so archaic in management and security, why is it trending? To start, the management of print servers is overwhelming IT staff and budgets now more than ever. In a cyber world dominated by hybrid/remote workforces, allocating resources to printing isn’t a priority. However, simplicity and security are a priority. This is why over the past 5+ years, basic software solutions that can reside on a singular server and provide somewhat of a centralized print environment have begun to trend. Minimal IT resources are required both in the way of management (deploying and updating print drivers) and costly print server upkeep/acquisition.
With cloud platforms such as Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace taking over company’s applications and user domains, basic software solutions that reside on a server are taking a backseat to the new meaning of serverless printing: a holistic solution that does not require servers or IP address/print driver management. More specifically, cloud-based applications that simply integrate with the cloud platform in place and enable printing without IT or employee interaction. And who can blame them? The cloud is simple, secure, and easy to budget for ongoing IT spend.
Several on-premises print management providers have rallied over the past couple of years to create cloud hosted solutions that enable the new “serverless printing” need. These solutions vary in architecture, and in most cases can be hosted on a lightweight server in a private Azure or AWS type cloud setting, which several companies now have and manage, or onsite with a lightweight server. These solutions typically offer more advanced features and customization that about 20% of our customers require and in most cases are semi-print hardware OEM agnostic.
But what about those IT professionals that truly mean “serverless printing?” That is where the task has become more difficult for print management providers. Common employees that print have not only become accustomed to a consistent method over the past several decades, but they have needs (think stapling, paper drawer selection ,etc.) that generic web-based print drivers and agnostic solutions cannot provide. There’s also the fact that most employees are remote in some capacity and don’t have VPN or network access.
That’s why Toshiba has created a unique, fully cloud hosted, printing solution that seamlessly integrates with Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace via SSO. IT professionals have the true “serverless printing” solution they desire, and employees can continue to have the same printing experience they have become accustomed to and desire. Sound too good to be true? Check out e-Bridge Global Print and experience the true meaning of serverless printing.
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