The future of corporate documents management is in the Public Cloud and Universal Print by Microsoft is definitely a game changer in 2021.
Universal Print by Microsoft will most probably disrupt the print management business by offering deep integration into Windows, high security and simplified usage at a low cost, and therefore threatens a significant number of “me-too” solutions that have bet on the idea that paperless office may never happen. Such solutions often capitalized on their high-quality, heavy, features-rich Windows/Linux server-based software.
Universal Print by Microsoft also boasts a “Universality” that relates to the fact it is a brand-agnostic Print Management solution, clients can purchase the printer of their choice, no more lock on one supplier.
For all those reasons Universal Print by Microsoft will refresh that market and expand the scope from printing on Intranet to printing over public Cloud. Our estimate is that within 10 years the print usage will change from 80% paper, 20% digital documents to 20% printed documents and 80% electronic documents as the Covid-19 pandemic is a serious and long-lasting catalyzer for that transformation. Since March 2020 many companies have been able to operate without printing much and most will try to continue that way. What has decreased is the number of printed sheets, what has increased is the number of documents shared between all employees. The multi-function printer is then rapidly changing from being an output device to being an input device, like a kiosk, to inject scanned documents into the information chain and that requires much more security than for printing. Personal devices such as smartphones, tablets and becoming part of the documents exchange chain and are connected to the public Internet. At a time IT security it also becoming a pandemic, handling such security alone is foolish as securing information every minute and reacting swiftly requires thousands of dedicated experts.
Two possible strategies for print management software publishers
- One strategy is to fight evolution and continue with a full-blown print management software, on-premise or in a VM in the cloud, with a mere plug-in to recover print jobs from Universal Print and claim interoperability. That’s the easiest solution that will be pushed by most publishers for cost reasons and we think it is a short-sight decision. Some will move to client-dedicated (for data-separation purpose) VMs in Azure, Google Cloud or AWS and it will be interesting to see what happens when 1000 clients need their VM to be updated with OS updates, vulnerability fixes and new features, without disrupting production. On the security side, a print management VM in the Cloud is probably the least secure solution and potentially exposes every single print jobs to hackers, with risks of data alteration or hijacking. The solution developer technical support has a administration access into the VMs and can see/access every single print job and metadata. If such access gets compromised a hacker can for example add code to receive a copy of interesting print jobs.
- The other strategy is to embrace the Universal Print architecture and focus on developing and proposing key added-value modules documents that run on top of the Microsoft Print Management system and not in parallel. Those add-on modules will be about printer fleet management, document security and management, personal printers etc. Few solutions will go that way as redeveloping heavy software into a Universal Print plugin is a daunting, long and very costly task. Celiveo has chosen that strategy since Universal Print has been announced by Microsoft, we have no ego issue and our only pride is to have so many satisfied customers. They want Celiveo running as a plug-in for Universal Print in Azure and we developed it. Furthermore, the absence of VMs means the security is fully provided by Microsoft Azure and even the solution developer can’t see/access the print jobs or client information stored in the client tenant.
Printing and telephony, a parallel evolution
If we look back into history, another industry was disrupted that same way, although not by an IT giant but initially by small players: corporate phone systems. In the 1990s, clients dreamed about scrapping their costly PBX, lower their cost and get more features than just calls and voice mail, in example follow-me calls that can be compared to pull printing. In the 2000s suppliers proposed IPBX that are just local servers running software. The cost, management and complexity were still too high and the market progressively shifted to full VoIP proposed by Cloud VoIP providers for a monthly subscription. Today no PC/server is required on-premise except terminals (phones) on a VLAN. That’s exactly what we expect to happen with printers, they will represent terminals connected to a VLAN on the corporate network and communicate with a Print Management solution in the public Cloud.
The IPBX can be compared to a Print Management solution VM that’s on-premise or in private Cloud. It is an evolution from basic printing, it adds features such as pull printing, quotas, tracking, workflow, but it is costly to maintain and requires local expertise.
The VoIP can be compared to Universal Print by Microsoft, a true Public cloud and fully Office-integrated solution to manage printing, with access to the Azure Applications ecosystem for any added-value modules that may be needed such as pull printing, tracking and reporting, usage quota, bill-back etc.
Welcome to Universal Print by Microsoft, it offers the evolution most clients are looking for on print management, with full security, ease of use and a great ecosystem for innovative solutions.