While moving your office workflows to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) programs, such as Office 365, is becoming the norm for many businesses, printing and document workflows can be overlooked. But judging by current shifts in office technology, it won’t be long before both systems migrate to the cloud.
Jason Apel, APAC technical director for NT-Ware, developer of uniFLOW – a print management system, believes it's the direction in which print is heading. “If I look at the investment we’re putting in, almost 70% of our development is dedicated to moving on-premise infrastructure into a cloud-based offering, so yes, I think this will be the common way people will print in the future.”
Adel Szklenarik, business development manager at Therefore, the information management software company, agrees. “Businesses want to grow, but manual handling of information and administration work can significantly slow down this growth, taking employees away from their core roles. Digitised information and automated workflows can eliminate this hassle and, with the option for cloud, all companies can enjoy the benefits of being serverless.”
One of the first questions to consider is how your current printing and document workflows would transition to a cloud-based subscription.
As Jason points out, if you’re already using SaaS in some capacity, it should be a simple transition. “If you use OneDrive to store your files, Salesforce.com as your CRM and you’ve moved to Office 365, you use a lot of hosted services already, so the only reason you’re keeping that box in the corner is for print services. How about we take that off your hands? For small to medium businesses, that could be the appropriate model,” says Jason.
There are obvious benefits, but a lot of the decision-making process will depend on your business strategy.
Mobility is becoming a significant factor in working life, as Jason points out. "More people are working from home offices or shared offices, so mobility is a big driver. Traditionally we've used email to get documents on-premise, but cloud solutions remove a step from the process. Now, if I send a job, it sits online, and I can go to any of my devices and pull the job back down."
Adel cites another significant benefit for small to medium businesses - flexibility and scalability. "Cloud technology is perfect for a small business as they don't need infrastructure. Cloud is a very flexible model; you can pay for what you need and grow your requirements in line with your business."
When choosing to transition to cloud, one of the decisions to make is whether to go on a private or public cloud infrastructure. This is less about risk and more about compliance; some businesses prefer to use a private cloud to host their data because their policies require it.
However, regarding risk to data, a public cloud-based solution like Microsoft Azure is one of the safest around. ‘The security structure for a public cloud like Microsoft is second to none. They’ve put a huge amount of effort into how they handle the data. The moment there is a compliance issue around anything to do with data services, Microsoft is one of the first ones to tick the box,’ says Jason.
Adel agrees: “in terms of security, data hosting also has to comply with regulations, they need certifications and there are regular audits to ensure that operating data centres are 100% secure and suitable for businesses to run their digital instance. Cloud technology enables cost reduction and evolves any digital business. At Therefore, we consider any future developments with cloud-in-mind to satisfy the ever-increasing technology requirements of our future customers.”
A cloud solution works the same way as any other subscription-based model. You pay a monthly or annual subscription fee per user. With the public cloud, you get limitless capacity.
“Often people have the impression that if they’ve bought a server, it’s simply an upfront capital cost. However, if you look at the additional running costs, software patching, antivirus cost and server maintenance – it can be much more expensive compared to a couple of dollars a day per person,” says Jason.
In the end, it comes down to how your business currently works and your future strategy. However, if a significant proportion of your workflows are already on a subscription service with no problems, it could be time to move your printing into the cloud too.
‘People are struggling to catch up, but I think it’s only a matter of time before everybody gets to that point,’ says Jason.
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