Print industry enjoys cloud computing boost

More companies are expected to provide and sign up for on-demand Web print services, say industry watchers, even as lack of hardware vendor support and security concerns linger.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

More companies will utilize Web printing services as they come online and this will provide a boost for the print industry, noted industry watchers.

Lee Lee Ken, general manager of enterprise sales and services, printing solutions and services at Lexmark Asia-Pacific, said that more companies will put documents in the cloud and have employees "consume" these information on demand, providing their workforce with the flexibility of printing the amount they need.

"Printing in the cloud offers unprecedented scalability of businesses of any size," she added in her e-mail to ZDNet Asia.

In this "cloud-enabled paradigm", Lexmark expects that anyone with an Internet connection will discover high-quality printers and publishing resources through the public cloud, wherever they go.

Meanwhile, businesses will likely set up internal or private clouds that offer similar print-anywhere convenience for their employees and trusted partners, Lee pointed out.

Lexmark's rival, Canon, has also professed enthusiasm for Web-enabled, print-anywhere services.

Lim Kok Hin, senior director and general manager of Canon Singapore's business imaging solutions and business solutions division, said such services are "an evolving and fresh concept that can theoretically give rise to endless possibilities depending on the customers' needs and demands".

"As cloud computing technology advances, a cloud platform for building and running business applications for Web-enabled printers will transform the way we work," Lim added in his e-mail.

He also noted that the utilization of cloud services globally will increase "due to the trends in information technology and business environment".

Their comments come in the wake of recent announcements by Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Google to advance cloud printing services.

HP revealed last month that it will be launching both its Web printing service, called ePrint, and a series of Web-enabled printers for both home and business users.

In an earlier ZDNet Asia article, it was reported that with ePrint, users can simply e-mail their documents on-the-go to any Web-enabled printer--each comes with a unique e-mail address--and retrieve the document from the specified printer at any time. There will also be no need to install specific drivers for the printers, the article stated.

In April, Google also announced plans to go into cloud printing with its Google Cloud Print project. ZDNet Asia had reported then that the search giant was in the initial stages of developing software that will allow users to print documents through Web-enabled printers or legacy printers via a proxy.

"While no cloud-aware printers exist today, we expect these capabilities to become standard and plan to engage with the printer OEM (original equipment manufacturer) community in the coming months to help drive this effort forward," a Google spokesperson said in the article.

Hardware vendor support needed
However, Springboard Research associate research manager Sanchit Vir Gogia told ZDNet Asia that for Web-enabled printing to take off, printer makers will have to figure out what constitutes a successful business model to adopt.

He said that on the supply side, on-demand print services "have not evolved into a compelling business case" and the "real success of cloud printing" will not be felt until there's an "impetus from all hardware vendors".

Despite this uncertainty, Gogia said he expects many cloud printing services to show up "over the next 12 to 18 months".

The Springboard analyst also raised security and compliance as areas of concern for cloud print service providers.

"Regulatory compliance considerations center around process visibility issues, particularly where a business process cuts across multiple hybrid cloud-based platforms that may [involve multiple vendors]...while unauthorized access is another security concern," said Gogia.

Ronnie Ng, senior manager of systems engineering at Symantec Singapore, had similarly told ZDNet Asia in a separate report that the key concerns for public cloud printing services include loss of data, malicious attacks by cybercriminals, awareness and education among employees and internal security policies governing the print service.

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