Cloud for Print 101: Removing Cloud Hesitancy in the Print Industry

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The emergence of cloud print services and solutions over the last few years has accelerated cloud adoption in the print industry. Driven by cost savings and process efficiencies, print organizations that have fully embraced the transformation have positioned themselves for increased competitiveness and future growth.  

In a recent study by Quocirca, more than two-thirds of print companies expect to adopt cloud print management software by 2025. By 2021, 8 out of 10 organizations surveyed expect more than half of their IT infrastructure to be cloud-based. After decades of owning, managing, and maintaining physical servers that provide the applications, operating systems, and storage required to run their business, print shops are finally recognizing the business benefits of moving to the cloud—and capitalizing on it.  

Although cloud-based print management information systems (MIS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) software are more readily accessible and affordable than ever, many printers are still resistant to cloud transformation. Our goal in this blog post is to provide a fundamental overview of cloud software for print and address some perceived barriers to cloud adoption.  

Cloud Basics   

When we talk about cloud for print, we are referring to how you access your software, your data, and your hardware. Cloud computing is the delivery of computing services over the internet to offer “faster innovation, flexible resources, and economies of scale (Microsoft).”  

Similar to other industries, print shops have traditionally managed their critical business operations and infrastructure on-premises. That means they rely on in-house servers to handle their business applications, data, operating system, middleware, virtualization, storage, networking, and security. The conventional on-premise print infrastructure puts all of the responsibility on an internal IT department that is required to install, maintain, upgrade, and troubleshoot software used to run its daily operations.  

Over time this approach has been known for its complexities, cost inefficiencies, and lack of flexibility. Many companies often end up stuck on outdated legacy systems because it costs too much to upgrade their systems and infrastructure. As a result, they can never take advantage of the latest functional enhancements and security features. And that’s really where cloud software and services fit.  

Instead of investing all of your time, money, and resources into infrastructure and maintenance, the cloud provides a variety of models, types, and services to meet the rapidly changing technology needs of your print business. When migrating to the cloud, one of the first choices you have to make is how you will use cloud computing services. Sometimes called the cloud computing “stack” because they build on top of one another, there are 4 main categories of cloud services:  
 

  • IaaS = Infrastructure as a Service
    IaaS allows you to rent IT infrastructure (i.e., servers and virtual machines, storage, networks) from a cloud provider on a pay-as-you-go basis. The cloud provider is accountable for servers, storage, virtualization, and networking, but your IT team maintains responsibility for your applications, data, operating system, and updates.  
  • PaaS = Platform as a Service  
    PaaS refers to cloud services that supply an on-demand environment for developing, testing, delivering, and managing software applications. This is an option if you have a development team that builds web or mobile apps. In this category, the company is only responsible for the deployed application and its subsequent data.  
  • Serverless Computing
    Overlapping with PaaS, serverless computing focuses on building app functionality without needing to continually manage the servers and infrastructure required to do so. Instead, the cloud provider manages the setup, capacity planning, and server management for you. Serverless architectures are highly scalable and only use resources when a specific function or trigger occurs. 
  • SaaS = Software as a Service 
    SaaS is a method for delivering software applications over the Internet, on-demand, and typically on a subscription basis. With SaaS, everything is maintained by the service provider. Cloud providers host and manage the software application and underlying infrastructure as well as handle any maintenance, like software upgrades and security patching.  

You also have options when it comes to cloud deployment. Depending on your business needs, you can either deploy services to a cloud provider or inside of your own data center. You can choose between:  

Public Cloud 
Owned and operated by a cloud provider, a public cloud provides all the hardware, software, and other supporting infrastructure you need. The only caveat is that your data center and some services are shared with other customers. In a public cloud deployment, you save on capital expenditure and hardware costs, but there are some specific industry standards and security requirements that the public cloud cannot meet. It includes pay-as-you-go pricing and high availability, with no great technical skills required.  

Private Cloud  
A private cloud is used by only one business or entity. You can host your own on-site data center, or you can pay a third-party service provider to host their private cloud. Either way, it is a more expensive option compared to a shared public cloud, but it can usually support more security and compliance requirements. With this option, you have total control over your environment; therefore, IT skills in-house are mandatory.  

Hybrid Cloud  

Hybrid cloud deployment is a combination of both public and private clouds. You can choose to host some of your infrastructure in the public cloud for cost savings and manage any sensitive areas of the business in a private cloud. You can also run legacy applications in a private cloud and use your existing infrastructure. This type of environment is typically more expensive and complicated to manage. There are many print businesses today currently taking advantage of the hybrid cloud model as they transition to the cloud. This is a good way to slowly start introducing cloud services into your business and experience some of the performance, mobility, and security benefits the cloud has to offer.   

Despite the significant advantages of moving to the cloud, there is still a hesitancy to migrate to the cloud—especially for print shops. Many of those hesitancies fall under time, cost, security, and adoption.  

We address these concerns in the next section, but it’s important to remember that the cloud is flexible to fit any situation. Some larger print companies with a heavy investment in infrastructure and change-resistant employees start small, while some mom-and-pop print shops decide to migrate their entire operations to the cloud. The point is, you need to do proper planning to match your workload and migrate in priority order. 

10 Business Benefits of Moving Your Print Shop to the Cloud  

Cloud print management software is delivered as SaaS, where users connect and access the business application directly through the internet with a web browser on their PC, phone, or tablet. Print MIS or print ERP systems often run on a shared public cloud platform, like Microsoft Azure, and are hosted in remote data centers across the globe.   

Printers that are looking to integrate multiple business applications or upgrade an outdated legacy system are choosing cloud-based print MIS and/or print ERP systems because they offer the flexibility, visibility, functionality, and cost control they need to compete and grow in the rapidly evolving print industry. In no order of importance, here are 10 of the top business benefits of adopting cloud print management software:  

  1. Lower Overhead Costs  
    You do not have to purchase and maintain hardware or physical servers (or the IT personnel to manage them).  
      
  1. Mobility and Remote Access  
    Improve communication by giving your users access to the application and data from anywhere with an internet connection.  
     
  1. State-of-the-Art Security  
    Cloud providers have the most secure hosting environments in the world, with multilayered security tools and capabilities and cybersecurity experts working around the clock.  
     
  1. Enhanced User Productivity  
    Cloud print MIS/ERP have modern user interfaces and are designed for ease of access, speed, and usability.    
     
  1. Operational Scalability  
    Start with the core system and grow or scale back your functionality based on your current needs and goals. 
     
  1. Faster Speed and Performance  
    Datacenters use the latest generation of fast and efficient computing hardware, offering reduced network latency for applications and greater scalability.   
     
  1. Advanced Analytics  
    Most cloud print MIS/ERP systems have built-in business intelligence, analytics, and machine learning capabilities.  
     
  1. Regular Upgrades  
    All software updates are managed by the cloud provider, so you are always using the latest version and features.  
     
  1. Shorter Implementation Time  
    Cloud technology requires less technical setup and can be configured much faster than traditional on-premise software.  
     
  1. Predictable Fees  
    Usage is subscription-based, with a monthly or annual fee. You will still have to pay for customizations, training, and support.

7 Reasons to Invest in Cloud-Based Print Management Software

Now that you know some of the ins and outs of cloud technology for print, you can start to see why 70% of companies in the U.S. have migrated partially or fully to the cloud (IDG). Cloud technology is proven to build and sustain growth, and we believe it is a strategic move for print organizations trying to adapt and compete on a global scale.

If you’re ready to learn more about print MIS/ERP software and moving your infrastructure to the cloud, you can read about it in our latest whitepaper:

If you’d like to skip straight to seeing how cloud print management software can transform your print operations, book an introductory call with our team. We can help you assess some of the weaknesses in your current setup and provide more information on what the migration to the cloud process will look like for your print business.