4 Questions IT Doesn't Like to Ask About Mobile Printing

Posted on April 09, 2014

Whether it's a school, small business, or large enterprise tablet rollout, the subject of mobile printing usually comes up during the first few weeks. The questions usually show up at the help desk, in the form of users who fully expected to be able to print from the new iPad or Android tablet just as easily as they did from their laptop or desktop PC.

IT can handle most of the questions. The two that are the hardest to answer are, "Why didn't you think about this before we bought those tablets?" and "What do you mean we don't have a secure way to print from tablets?" Management asks those questions, says Prat Agarwal, Director of Business Development at Breezy, because IT didn't want to ask these four questions about mobile printing.

"When a company comes to us to explore our secure mobile printing solution for the first time, they often have the same questions", Agarwal says. "But very few of them will ask them directly. Maybe they thought the answers were simple, or maybe they simply didn't realize how critical this information is in a mobile printing situation. But over and over, I find that answering these four questions make a tablet deployment much easier and faster."

The four questions are:

  1. Who Needs Secure Mobile Printing?
  2. Why Didn't Apple and Google Build Mobile Printing Into the Tablet OS?
  3. What Security Risks Does Mobile Printing Cause?
  4. What Does This Mean for My Printing Budget?

Who Needs Secure Mobile Printing?

In January, 2012, the AppleInsider newsletter reported than 12% of enterprise employees who had purchased iPads no longer used their laptops at work. In November, 2013, Computerworld reported than 8.7% of enterprise employees had dropped a laptop in favor of an Android tablet or iPad, and that over half of all tablet users (58.5%) also used a laptop.

Multiple surveys in Europe and North America say that the primary reasons tablets haven't replaced laptops is that users want access to better mobile keyboards, Microsoft Office apps and easy printing. So it's easy to understand why IT might assume during the planning process that secure mobile printing is a relatively low priority for tablet users since most tablet users also have access to a laptop or desktop. Richard Gordon, Gartner managing vice president, said last week that Gartner doesn't expect tablets to become a serious challenge to laptops or netbooks before 2016 at the earliest.

Agarwal says that what happens during a tablet deployment is that user expectations collide with reality. "Tablets work like computers for the most part. But they are consumer devices, and secure mobile printing was never built into them. And there are many times when an employee is faced with the need to print something when they have only their tablet available."

For example, consider the sales rep who needs to print an invoice, contract, or receipt from a client's office, or an insurance agent who needs to print an application or binder while he's away from the office? Or the marketer or executive who needs hand-outs for a presentation and wants to use a hotel business center or public print network while they're travelling?

Why Didn't Apple & Google Build In Mobile Printing?

iPad and Android tablets were designed as consumer devices. The number of games and entertainment apps for tablets far exceeds the number of business apps for the devices, so it might be assumed that Apple and Google simply overlooked building secure mobile printing into the tablet operating system.

Agarwal doesn't think that's the case. "Enterprise users want to print from their devices, just as they want to print from their PCs and the 1000+ printing apps in the iOS and Android app stores are proof of this," he says. "Apple and Google have been able to do little to make mobile printing easier because the interaction with a variety of printers, drivers, architectures, and networks is far more complex than it appears. Only a company like Breezy that is focused on delivering secure mobile printing would justify investing the time and resources required to deliver truly simple, secure, hassle-free mobile printing.?

It doesn't take long for a new iPad owner to try to print using the AirPrint function built into the iPad, he says. One of the most common iPad error screens is the one that notifies users that the device can't find an AirPrint printer. "No one wants to buy a new printer just to be able to print from their iPad," Agarwal adds. "Especially not a school district or company with hundreds or thousands of printers, which is why you need a secure mobile printing solution that is agnostic when it comes to operating systems, devices, and tablets."

What Security Risks Does Mobile Printing Cause?

Security and privacy concerns go hand-in-hand with unsecured mobile printing apps according to the Wall Street Journal. 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.

"Even HTTPS can be subject to man-in-the-middle attacks," Agarwal says. "Unbeknownst to the vendor or the user, a hacker can compromise the app's connection to the cloud, or the cloud itself. In either case, the attacker can retrieve the document and because it isn't encrypted," he says.

To further complicate things, recent court rulings mean that tablets and smartphones are considered computers under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and all companies ? not just those in highly regulated industries such as healthcare, financial services, banking, insurance, education and pharmaceuticals -- now have to consider compliance and security when they include tablets in their network.

"There is no consistent standard for mobile printing compliance. The rules vary depending on what kind of business you work in. But in general, the new rules mean that the security standards for mobile devices and printers are the same as those for any other computer," Agarwal says.

What Does This Mean for My Printer Budget?

Adding secure mobile printing doesn't have to affect the printer budget, Agarwal says. "You want a solution like Breezy that is already integrated with the mobile device management and print management tools you already use, and you want a way to print with your current printer fleet. So make sure you aren't standardizing on a single-vendor solution that isn't flexible enough to meet your company's needs now and in the future."

Most Breezy customers, he adds, report only a slight increase in printing costs when they enable secure mobile printing. "People who would otherwise use a desktop or laptop to print may shift some printing to their tablet or smartphone when they can, and if you are a school that is enabling student printing on iPads or Android tablets for the first time you will see an increase in the overall number of pages printed. Otherwise, it should be a small impact," he says.

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.

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