Two Post-COVID Printer Challenges Within the MPS Market

The post-COVID workforce is full of new layouts, experiences, and strategies that affect office operations and interactions. It has also led to a disruption in the vertical managed print services market. 

While each modern workforce change comes with various benefits and detriments, one department is absorbing a large portion of the work required to create a reliable backbone for businesses to keep moving forward.  And, while we focus most on the dealers and suppliers within the managed print vertical market, it is important to keep in mind those that are struggling the most in the “new normal.” One such group  is information technology departments; another is self-employed IT service contract providers. 

Along with office configuration and remote server access, printing is one of the biggest parts of standard office life facing countless and seemingly never-ending changes. And on top of all of the other technological changes, IT workers and service providers are often tasked with figuring out how to meet the fluctuating needs of a company. 

Print service providers and employees within IT departments are tasked with implementing new printer hardware, features, and functionality. Printer and network security, along with limiting or reducing print-related expenses, are the prime print-related concerns that businesses are facing, and are pushing IT service providers to address and overcome. 

Printer and network security

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic response forced businesses to change how they manage their workforce and to rethink business operations going forward, printers were an often-overlooked risk. In 2018 printers were already 68% more likely to be a point of breach or external threat than two years prior. Back then, the best solutions included firmware updates, admin tools, and hard disk encryption – solutions that still go a long way to success today.

Allowing remote access to any business equipment can open a can of worms when it comes to the security of a company’s network. However, this is a risk that most businesses will have to face and manage. It is also a risk that print service providers will need to be able to address. 

Creating a secure remote printing or mobile-friendly printing environment is no different. Unfortunately, while this functionality is becoming almost essential to support the growing hybrid workforce, it causes endless headaches for IT professionals and managed print service providers that must block cyberattacks on business servers.

Creating a more secure hybrid office

One of the best ways to improve security today is by making it a full team effort, especially as it relates to IT departments. Rather than relying on excessive hardware lockdowns and layer upon layer of encryption, IT can work directly with employees to help provide behaviors, alternatives, and solutions that dissuade and prevent potentially risky behaviors. For example, employees educated about the dangers of using consumer-grade printers or connecting to equipment that is not owned and secured by the business are more likely to modify their behaviors accordingly.

The team effort approach works well for print service providers too. While an internal IT department is better suited for a team approach, a service provider can work with employees within a company to educate on best practices, make sure everyone is aware of risk factors, and provide the needed solutions.

Implementing security best practices 

Another way to ensure security in a remote printing environment is to implement secure formats and practices. Encouraging employees to only print at the office can be an easily workable solution for strictly hybrid workspaces. Even better, options like NFC printing can allow employees to stop in throughout the week to securely trigger print jobs directly from their phone or tablet. 

Other advanced options include using the business’s VPN connection or cloud-based printing. The VPN option uses rails that are generally already created to support the remote and hybrid office environment. As long as there is heavy confidence the VPN is entirely secure, this solution is excellent for strapped IT departments. However, printing through Windows still requires certain TCP ports to remain open and may create additional vulnerabilities within the firewall.

On the other hand, cloud-based printing moves the onus of operating secure print servers to a third-party system that is still able to route print jobs to office-based hardware. Many of the platforms available even offer additional monitoring of endpoint security events and enhanced security. Print industry experts in printer leasing and printer maintenance, as well as managed print services providers, can usually provide or recommend the best software to facilitate a cloud-based printing solution.

Addressing ongoing print-related expense concerns

In addition to concerns about maintaining security, IT and print service providers are also faced with additional ongoing expenses from updating print for the post-pandemic office. Those ongoing costs can include increased power consumption to supplies, updates, maintenance, and service.

Power consumption is one of the most often overlooked parts of office printing. As offices reconfigure their printing configurations, some may choose to upgrade older equipment for hardware with more remote-work friendly features. And those upgrades might even lead to energy savings from more efficient machines. But more features can often mean more power usage, increasing the savings created through more economical power usage. The average office printer typically runs at 30 to 50 watts on standby mode. When printing, they can use up to 500 watts. Those numbers can quickly ratchet up as “standby” becomes more intensive to receive and queue remote print jobs and perform other operations.

But it is not only electricity that has the potential to make ongoing expenses a concern for IT. The time and energy spent on supplies and maintenance can also be daunting. In a hybrid workspace, employees are often only in the office two to three days per week. Without access to secure printing at home, they are likely to save up their print jobs to queue when they are in the office. Thus, it becomes imperative that in-office printers are operational while employees are in the office. Even temporary inoperability can impact organizational efficiencies across multiple days.

For this very reason, most printing experts recommend coupling a service contract or even managed print services with any printer lease or purchase. Businesses that provide these options are entirely focused on printers and their supplies and can provide faster, more knowledgeable service and maintenance to keep printers operational when needed.

Offering a better solution

While print service providers, dealers and information technology professionals are facing more challenges and headaches when managing the security and expenses of office printing, some solutions can help alleviate that pain. Print service experts can offer innovative cloud-printing technologies, energy-efficient hardware recommendations, and access to services and supplies that can fit needs, timelines, and budgets.

For the IT professional working within a company that is tasked with tackling the security and cost concerns related to printing and printers, finding an all-in-one solution might be your best option. This would free up time for you to address other technology needs and challenges, and it would give the company peace of mind with security and more transparency and control of expenses.

If you are a print service provider, offering a solution that combines more services within the print vertical market will not only increase your profits, but it will also ensure that your customers don’t look elsewhere for providers that can offer more. An all-in-one solution will also give you the power to ensure that you can meet and overcome the challenges that the post-pandemic modern work environment presents. 

alex-cribby
Alex Cribby
Founder/CEO at PowerMPS | Posts

Alex is the CEO of PowerMPS. Alex brings over 20 years of industry & channel experience, owning and operating in the imaging supplies, services and distribution space before moving into full-time consulting and working with a number of enterprise managed service providers and VARs developing and building MPS divisions and programs of their own, before shifting to pursue the development of an All-in-One SaaS platform for the channel. To learn more about PowerMPS Software, please visit www.powermps.com.