With technology advancing at an unprecedented pace, the print and imaging industry is poised for profound change. In order to consider what this landscape of change may look like by 2025, Quocirca Research conducted a sweeping survey of enterprises and industry solution providers. The results are presented in Print 2025, a report published by Quocirca in March 2018. 

Over a series of seven articles, we will take a closer look at Quocirca’s findings, and in this, the first article, we discuss private, hybrid and public cloud.
In the Quocirca study, respondents identified seven core areas of Digital Transformation which captures their attention. Y Soft has anticipated these trends and developed solutions that meet customer’s digital transformation lifecycle needs, both today and in the future.

A little history of cloud at Y Soft

We supplied the first private cloud solution in 2008 to a large Central European banking group operating in more than 10 countries. Although cloud was yet to become mainstream at that time, we already saw the pattern begin to emerge. Customers were looking for a large scale deployment which would be consolidated, easily deployed and managed from a single interface, creating one, global enterprise view of the entire printer fleet.

We have enabled employees, both IT staff and end users alike, to focus on more sophisticated work and leave the manual steps and burden of local infrastructure and IT backoffice to our products, while delivering other benefits typical for our solutions. So, for us, building a cloud solution was not a hype, but a natural answer to emerging customer needs. Or more expressively, instead of thinking: “here is the new cloud thing, how can we do it to look cool too” we just delievered on what our customers needed as their needs were organically growing.

Drivers for change

The biggest response in the Quocirca’s survey related to private/public/hybrid cloud, with 46% of respondents stating that this is of interest to them. (Full survey graphic can be found below.)

The accelerated move toward the cloud can be seen across the business world and understanding the drivers for change is a critical component to the change itself. The most frequently occurring motivation for the interest in the cloud is to reduce costs associated with IT infrastructure. Other drivers include, according to Gartner, improving security and simplifying print driver management, supporting mobile print and badge release printing (although these additional drivers, it can be argued, are already addressed with on-premise print management).

One of the most technically complex drivers mentioned by Gartner is print driver management and ways to simplify it. I believe that the best way to manage print drivers is not to have to manage them at all – I firmly believe that is the future of printing.

Microsoft has significantly improved the Windows print driver model in version 4 and continues to make changes in this direction. Microsoft introduced support for Mopria Alliance standards as part of its Windows Server Hybrid Cloud Print feature in Windows Server 2016 and YSoft SafeQ is the first and only Mopria certified Print Management solution to date. With the adoption of PDF and XPS as the new de-facto generation of PDLs (Print Definition Languages), replacing PCL and Adobe PostScript in many scenarios, IT Administrators do not have to worry about print drivers and printer deployments as users can use new, more ubiquitous interfaces to submit documents for printing and they can do it without having to use print drivers and the required underlying infrastructure.

We have created the YSoft SafeQ Mobile Print module to enable users to submit documents in their original formats and familiar and convenient interfaces. Our system handles conversion and any required pre-processing internally. And when you are not happy with the automated conversion, you can always convert the document to PDF yourself. Many applications, such as Microsoft Office, have that capability and you can achieve the same level of fidelity without using the print driver. Most printer vendors have done an exceptional job supporting PDF and XPS in their MFDs and printers. Getting rid of the print driver management pain point is not only justification for transitioning to the cloud, but also is an accelerator of adoption among employees.

Infrastructure costs, the main cloud adoption driver

As we have witnessed first hand, in large organizations, the transition to a cloud-based solution can remove some of the administrative tasks and related costs which have traditionally been carried out by internal IT teams, saving time and freeing up IT resources to focus on more important strategic elements. It can also add value by eliminating or vastly reducing maintenance costs.

Smaller organizations may not have an IT team or may outsource most of their IT needs. For these organizations, leveraging the cloud, especially through a cost-effective subscription service, may give them access to tools and technologies previously cost prohibitive. This is not limited to server instances; advanced concepts, like high availability and failover which were previously unavailable to smaller organizations are now achievable by leveraging YSoft SafeQ architecture with Microsoft Azure or Amazon AWS offerings. Nevertheless, we have started to see even large enterprises switch over to subscription-based offerings which we fully support with our products and business model.

Regardless of company size, the journey into the cloud may well be dictated by infrastructure, with footprint and costs playing a part. With existing hardware sitting as a tangible asset and generating costs, organizations may look to remove this and move to the cloud, renting hardware and connecting to a third-party data center.

The drive to reduce infrastructure and infrastructure costs applies to print services too. So, let’s look at cloud options as it relates to print services.

Public, private and hybrid cloud

The three typical forms of cloud infrastructure are: public cloud, private cloud, and hybrid cloud. Each form offers its own set of benefits and ultimately it is up to an organization to decide how much of its data and infrastructure it wants outside their area of control.

The public cloud is relatively inexpensive to set up and manage, however it also means that data is stored elsewhere and out of direct control of the organization which may not meet security governance policies. In terms of your print environment, all print jobs, job metadata and print management services are available and stored in the public cloud. As a fast, low-cost option, this allows for fast scalability, but as previously stated, security can be a concern and your internet connection will slow down your printing too. While this may be acceptable for smaller locations, sometimes this may impact employee productivity in a negative way.

A private cloud is where the infrastructure and services are maintained in a dedicated datacenter. The organization controls how the datacenter is constructed and managed. In this option, the company can decide which services use the cloud and whether the cloud manages the entire print job processing or just receives metadata for reporting purposes. The private cloud option offers the greatest level of control and security but incurs related costs of owning the servers and their maintenance. This option is popular in large organizations driven by concerns of security and compliance, as the use of all infrastructure resides in company’s network, protected by elements such as IDS/IPS systems, Network Behavior Analysis tools and advanced firewalls.

Some companies need or want to store confidential and sensitive data on their premises, but are comfortable storing less sensitive data in the cloud. They may also be concerned about print job data traveling over the WAN or Internet connection, increasing the infrastructure costs or impacting user experience as WAN connections may have limited bandwidth and cloud connectivity may suffer from increased latency. We should also not forget that cloud infrastructure cost often contains a charge for amount of transferred data. Data from one customer is shown below to demonstrate bandwith cost savings.

The answer to these concerns is the hybrid option and for many it offers the best of both worlds, and in fact, is seen by many as the end state for the cloud. For enterprise workflow solutions such as YSoft SafeQ, a hybrid cloud environment is a popular choice. Only part of the print management is in the cloud, such as authentication or job metadata (for reporting purposes); the actual print job stays behind the company’s firewall.

YSoft SafeQ Authentication in the cloud

Many companies are moving to cloud-based services for a variety of enterprise applications. As with on-premise, cloud-based services can utilize single sign on which removes the need for signing in to multiple cloud-based applications individually. This is done via a verification process using a cloud-based identity management service.

Even with an on-premise print infrastructure or with private or hybrid cloud, YSoft SafeQ’s authentication system supports cloud-based authentication for accessing networked print devices.

YSoft SafeQ allows customers to use their cloud-based databases to authenticate in the cloud, without requiring a duplicate on-premise database.  For example, YSoft SafeQ manages cloud authentication by using Azure Cloud Services for verification against Azure Active Directory Domain Services held in an Azure cloud infrastructure. This allows employees to use an ID badge or username/password or PIN to access a printer and, behind the scenes, the verification is done in the cloud.

To find out more about how Y Soft is ready to support the top seven areas of digital transformation, download a free copy of the Y Soft executive summary of the Print 2025 report. Here at Y Soft, we are defining the future of digital transformation in cooperation with our partners and customers.

In Part 2, we will look at the second highest survey response topic: Mobile Printing.

Ondřej “Ondra” Krajíček
Ondřej “Ondra” Krajíček
Ondra is Y Soft’s go-to guy when it comes to Information Technology and its potential in Y Soft products and services. He has passion for matching state-of-the-art technology with customer needs, especially when we are speaking about complex qualities: reliability, scalability and availability. Besides that, Ondra loves teaching and tries to spend some of his time as a guest lecturer at his alma mater, Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic. Ondrej also serves on the board of directors for AmCham (American Chamber of Commerce, Czech Republic) and has worked with the organization for several years.
View all posts by Ondřej “Ondra” Krajíček

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