by Henning Volkmer
If Windows Servers are not a focus piece of your offerings, you should reconsider. And fast. Why? In recent years, Microsoft has made major changes to Windows Server, and now is your opportunity to capitalize. Companies have gone through the necessary upgrades for their older print servers and they are starting to realize two important things: What is no longer available, and that new methods to fill this gap aren’t to their liking. As a result, this is the right moment to sell software solutions and possibly add a piece of infrastructure to your management portfolio that is traditionally controlled by your customer. Few things have better margins than software and services, making this an incredible opportunity.
What has changed? With Windows Server 2012 and the upcoming Windows Server 2016, Microsoft has eliminated the only built-in option that ensured print services were more highly available. In the past, this was never an all-encompassing offering, but it still delivered more functionality than the current reference design. This provides little more than an elaborate “have you tried turning it off and on” function. Hoping an error will not return after a server has been restarted should not be what an organization relies on for a critical function that can have a severe impact on company’s ability to conduct business.
What is the opportunity? Consider this straightforward question that any sales team member can ask: “Do you know that your print infrastructure is more at risk of failure than ever?” Most likely, the answer will be “no.” The quick and easy follow-up is: “Is it important for your business that printing is always available?” The answer now will almost certainly be “yes.”
Once you get that affirmative response, the next step is easy.
“Let’s have a conversation about solutions that can not only ensure that printing is always available, but also result in significant cost savings,” the salesperson can say. “What I have to offer can guarantee that printing is always highly available, along with easier deployment and management. You’ll significantly reduce the computing and network resources needed for printing and, at the same time, increase security through encryption or authentication before a job is released.”
What kind of solutions should you offer? Your software offerings should be based on a centralized print infrastructure. Provide printing as a service – in the same way your customers receive applications, databases, email, etc. Managing those services on user workstations is no longer “state of the art,” and the same applies to printing. Users should connect to a print service that can benefit from scale and professional management tools rather than managing myriad drivers and configurations on user workstations, many of which the company doesn’t even own in bring your own device (BYOD) scenarios.
You have an opportunity not just to restore functionality that was lost with recent changes to Windows Server, but to also offer cutting-edge technology that provides a safeguard against print-specific health issues. Servers can easily be bundled to form a high-availability group and add load balancing for optimal performance should be required.
Each of your customers is different with specific requirements. That means you need to seek out solutions that define the threshold at which a server is considered to be too unreliable to remain in service. This flexibility avoids undue load on the print environment through printer re-mappings. It also prevents unnecessary workload for IT or your staff when known factors, like very large print jobs, could cause servers to respond more slowly than in other environments.
Desktops are no longer static; they are dynamic instruments. Between such options as traditional PCs, virtual desktops, desktops offered as a service, BYOD programs and mobile devices, you need a solution that can provide highly available printing to any kind of device. Your solution must offer a wide range of additional benefits around automation, optimization and print management as well.
In the end, the upsides from embracing this opportunity are good for both the client and your business. There will be cost savings from reduced infrastructure requirements (servers, networks, etc.) and time savings, which free up both customers and employees to work on other projects and allow you to serve more clients without increasing staff.
Quite simply, software solution sales and related services are highly profitable. They are also a great way to diversify and grow your existing customer base while staying close to your core expertise. If you’re ready to provide the right software and your sales team is ready to ask the right questions, the opportunities are immense.
Henning Volkmer is president and CEO of ThinPrint, a leading provider of print management software and services for businesses.