Modern businesses use cloud-based applications for all manner of daily communication and tasks, from online collaboration to enterprise resource planning (ERP). Not only that but today's administrators and employees interact with these services via smartphones and other connected devices sometimes more often than they do through their desktop. So, when it comes to an everyday business process as fundamental as printing, why should your organization remain mired in an analog age of local print jobs and tangled wires?
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Any printer with a network connection can connect to the web. For this article, we're focusing on wireless printers that are enabled for cloud-based printing, which can sync a computer, mobile device, or even your browser to a cloud-connected printer through an internet connection. To learn how to do this, there are several different ways to connect and send secure files from your device to a cloud-connected printer. The best wireless printers on the market tend to use a combination of Wi-Fi, Near-Field Communication (NFC), and secure virtual network connections including services such as Google Cloud Print to send and print files over the web from anywhere.
A seamless connected print experience provides a host of benefits for businesses and their employees. Below, we highlight five of the most significant ways your organization could benefit from ditching the old office clunker in favor of a modern, cloud-connected printer.
The first thing you'll notice when setting up a printer connected to Google Cloud Print or another one of the cloud services offered by major printer vendors is that there are no drivers to install and configure. Printers come "cloud-ready" out of the box, and many services also come with Android and iOS apps to print directly from your smartphone or tablet. The web-connected printers also eliminate the need for manual updates, automatically updating drivers and firmware without human intervention.
All of the files you print are sent over the web through the cloud-based printing service, so your computer doesn't even need to communicate with the printer directly. Simply log into a machine or mobile device with an internet connection, log into your account on a given cloud-based printing service, and start printing.
This also facilitates more convenient print content and document sharing. Most cloud-based printing services let you "share" access to your cloud-connected printer with another trusted party as easily as sharing an online document with them, including the ability to manage sharing rights. So, if an out-of-town employee or client is working out of your office and needs to quickly print their boarding pass for the flight home, then you can share cloud printer access with them and they can print right from their smartphone or laptop.
2. Remote Accessibility
Aside from cloud-ready printers, cloud-based printing services can also sync with the existing network-connected printer at your home or office. Once your device is synced with the cloud server, it doesn't matter from where you're printing or even if the printer is hundreds or more miles away.
This is a major boon for home office workers and telecommuters. If you're giving a virtual presentation during a meeting using a video conferencing service and want everyone sitting around the conference table to have your report in their hands, then you can print copies of the report from your home office directly to that printer in the corner of the conference room. An employee whose desk is right next to the printer is no different from a user printing to that machine from another country.
3. Cost and Energy Efficiency
Connected printing is also an easy way to centralize and streamline your company's printing operations, particularly for startups and small to midsize businesses (SMBs). Rather than installing and maintaining several printers plugged into the network throughout your office layout, using a connected printer and cloud service can cut down significantly on maintenance, ink, and toner costs if all machines in the office are printing to one or two cloud-connected printers (rather than having one printer for every computer or cluster of workstations in the office).
Depending on your organization's size and floor plan, you may still need several printers. But wireless cloud-ready printers in particular give you a lot more flexibility. The newer the connected printer in which you invest, the better its energy-saving features will be as well. The vast majority of wireless printers now come with one or more power-saving or econo-modes that cut down overall printing cost and energy usage when the printer is not actively in use.
The first objection your IT administrator will raise when considering the switch to cloud printing is security. People are naturally more comfortable with wired connections than wireless file sharing and syncing when it comes to the perception of security, particularly when sending and printing confidential business information over the internet.
Cloud printing has this covered end-to-end with HTTPS web connections, securing documents and files with SSL encryption from the moment they're sent to the moment they print. The files don't sit on a server afterward, either. After a job is processed and completed, the associated documents are deleted from the server of the cloud-based printing service.
Connected printers allow your company's printing operations to scale as fast as your business grows, from a startup or SMB up to large enterprise organizations. Google even uses its cloud-based printing service in-house. As your operations scale up and you hire more employees or open new offices, investing in a cloud-based connected printing infrastructure can save you a lot of money in the long run.
It also takes some of the pain out of expanding your workforce. Connected printers give IT admins one less headache to worry about when setting up a new employee's company desktop or laptop, provisioning their mobile device with mobile device management (MDM) software, or a laundry list of other tasks ensuring that a user's endpoints are secure and compliant with company policy. When it's time to set up that employee's printer access, it just works.