We’ll all be familiar with that moment before an important meeting; you’re at the printer to collect a print job but instead find yourself sifting through piles of paper trying to locate your document in amongst those of your colleagues and goodness knows what else. Or you’re in a different part of the office and you realise you’ve printed those papers you needed to the wrong device… It may be surprising to hear that both of the scenarios outlined here are entirely avoidable and with a simple follow-me printing solution, could quickly become a thing of the past. Follow-me, centralised printing or ‘secure print’ as the technology is also referred to, ensures that documents are only ever printed when they are ‘requested’ or ‘pulled’ from a given device by an authorized user, so they are never left piling up unclaimed and can be collected from wherever is most convenient or quickest for that particular user. Besides those individual user benefits, for any organisation, follow-me printing is a straightforward way to cut paper waste, spread printing burdens and improve document security. Here, we provide an introduction to the technology and an outline of some of follow-me printing’s main advantages…
In most typical printing environments without follow-me printing capabilities, users themselves decide exactly where they want to print a document while still at their workstation. Most will tend to select the closest operational printer and/or the one that prints in the colour they require. But in offices where there are multiple devices in use, it’s very easy to make mistakes when it comes to choosing where to send documents. A digit or a letter wrong on a drop-down printer menu and a document is at the wrong printer on the other side of the building. Or maybe a user chooses the closest device which also happens to be the most popular; and so valuable time is spent at the printer while other users’ jobs are being executed. The conventional system is pretty haphazard at the best of times but in the worst light, it’s frequently slow, fairly inefficient and not always the most cost-effective. Follow-me printing can address each of these issues.
By staging and compartmentalising the printing print on demand process, follow-me printing can effectively eliminate the problems outlined above as well as the associated financial and time costs. Unlike conventional printing, where a user is networked directly to a device, follow-me printing deploys a print server in between devices and users’ jobs. Where as ordinarily, when a user selects ‘print’ the job will begin to be processed instantly by a chosen device, follow-me printing first sends the job to a print server. It is only when a user approaches a given device, which can be any device on the network for which that user has authorization that the job is ‘pulled’ from the server, where it has been temporarily stored and executed, ‘on demand’, there and then. To pull a job (or jobs) from a device, depending on the hardware installed, users either type in an individual ID code to identify themselves, or if a card reader has been installed on a device, place their ID cards on the card sensor or swipe their cards, where there is a magnetic reader installed.
Outside of the specific scenarios outlined above, the many advantages of a follow-me printing system are as follows:
Enhanced Document Security
One of the major benefits of follow-me printing is the significantly higher levels of security it can provide, when compared with more conventional printing arrangements. Security is in fact one of the most frequently cited reasons for organisations making the transition to follow-me printing configurations.
As users are required to be at a device for their print job(s) to be processed, follow-me printing can practically eliminate the problem of lost printed documents. Furthermore, whether a user collects their job using an ID card or instead identifies him/herself with a PIN logon, the follow-me printing system can ensure that only the authorized user is able to pick-up the jobs which they’ve submitted. And as print jobs are not executed unless they are ‘pulled’ from a device by a user, there’s far less risk of your more sensitive or especially important documents being seen by unauthorized individuals or being accidentally carried away with another person’s .
Finally, the majority of the more commonly-used follow-me printing solutions provide a high level of data Encryption so that documents remain completely secure while they are in digital form. This ensures that if your printer network becomes victim of an unauthorized attack, all jobs on the print server remain safe and secure.
Besides the obvious cost savings which come from eliminating those unnecessary print jobs which remain unclaimed on a device, a follow-me printing solution can provide organisations with the powers to introduce much higher levels of user accountability. As all print jobs pass through the follow-me print server and always remain linked to a given user ID, follow-me printing provides administrators with highly centralised management control and the ability to assign costs per user, by cost centre, department, project or by a specific cost code or printer. By budgeting your printing with such means, if there’s a specific department or even an individual within an organization regularly exceeding print budgets, this can be redressed immediately upon installing a follow-me printing solution.
A More Streamlined Printing Environment
From the day of setting-up a follow-me printing solution, the printing environment becomes much more flexible. As users are required to be present at devices for jobs to be executed, there are never those queues at any one particular machine. If a printing device is processing other jobs, a user can simply move on to identify him/her self at an alternative device, for which he or she is authorized.
Follow-me printing, as mentioned before, provides administrators with far greater controls. Policy and rules-based printing ensures print resources are protected from excessive use, according to an organization’s own pre-determined requirements. Many follow-me printing packages such as Ringdale even provide administrators with an interface for programming their own custom policies. As well as providing the possibility for typical savings of between 10% and 15%, follow-me printing enables organisations to take greater accountability of their environmental commitments. Not only does cutting excess printing reduce an organization’s costs but obviously, through lower paper, ink and electricity usage, it also saves on energy and natural resources too.