State of the Mobile Printing Market: More than Cloud Printing

Posted on September 26, 2014

Pull_printing_example_Per-Olof_ForsbergMobile printing is more than cloud printing although the two are often mixed up when bloggers and journalists talk about the category. Mobile printing is the act of printing a file (a document, photo, web page, email or something else) from a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet on a printer that is probably connected wirelessly to the mobile device.

Cloud printing, on the other hand, is the act of using a cloud computing infrastructure to process a print job rather than processing and managing the print job on the same network or device that is submitting it to the printer. IDC Vice President Holly Muscolino considers cloud printing a subset of mobile printing since while all cloud printing is mobile printing, not all mobile printing involves a cloud implementation.

If that sounds like a difference that matters little to the average user you may be right. But it matters (a lot) to IT managers and security experts, explains Prat Agarwal, director of business development at secure mobile printing leader Breezy.

?When businesses first began to formulate policies to integrate mobile devices into corporate IT, printing was, as a rule, completely neglected ? either forgotten about altogether, or treated as a mere ?nice to have? ? but not essential ? function. Users, on the other hand, were determined to find a way to print from their mobile devices, and created a still-growing demand,? Agarwal says.

When AirPrint was announced in the fall of 2010, Steve Jobs received a standing ovation from a packed auditorium. It seemed that the ?missing print feature? on mobile devices had finally arrived. AirPrint, however, requires a direct Wi-Fi connection between the printer and mobile device. That means it can?t integrate with enterprise print management systems or legacy printers, and of course it works only with devices running Apple?s iOS.

Vendors filled the gap with a range of mobile printing solutions, including:

  • Email ? email the document to a printer on the corporate network or a public print network for printing.
  • Wi-Fi ? transmit data wirelessly from a mobile device to a printer that is connected to a subnet of the corporate network or a public print network.
  • Cloud ? public, hybrid, or on-premise clouds (with widely varying security capabilities).

How Secure is Cloud Printing?

Although there are many solutions for email or Wi-Fi printing, the industry seems to be moving toward cloud printing as the de facto standard for mobile printing.

Cloud printing options can render the print job in either a public or private cloud. Cost, complex set-up procedures, access problems and limited rendering fidelity have often been cited as problems in peer-to-peer (Wi-Fi) mobile print solutions, while security concerns and a lack of IT control are usually cited as the problem with cloud solutions for mobile device printing.

In addressing cloud printing security, two approaches have yielded the best results, Agarwal says. He says that the two secure approaches to cloud printing are on-device encryption and pull printing.

On-device encryption protects sensitive company information both at rest (being stored on the mobile device) and in transit to another device (such as a printer). ?Data that isn?t encrypted on the mobile device where it is stored is subject to man-in-the-middle attacks when it is in transit between the mobile device and the printer. And while nearly every vendor uses some form of encryption, many use only transport layer encryption, rather than performing full encryption on the mobile device,? Agarwal says, noting that Breezy features full on-device encryption.

Pull printing is a system that requires the user to log in to a specific printer before the document will be released for printing. ?Usually, there is a keypad where a PIN number or ID is entered, or a card reader that scans an employee?s identification badge. Only when the user is authenticated is the job released from the print queue and printed.?

Agarwal says that pull printing was once used primarily by heavily regulated industries, where having a document lying around on a printer tray was too risky, but it?s rapidly becoming the standard for a range of companies who recognize the importance of limiting access to hard copy as well as digital versions of documents. ?Of course, for enhanced security, you can combine on-device encryption and pull printing,? Agarwal says. ?I believe that combination will define an industry-leading solution for secure mobile printing.?

For more information on secure mobile printing, watch this video from Breezy, or download The Definitive Guide to Mobile Printing, a free ebook from Breezy.

 

Photo credit: Photographer Per-Olof Forsberg offered this image of a pull-printing set-up on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

 

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