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Acer America
Acer America Corp. is a computer manufacturer of business and consumer PCs, notebooks, ultrabooks, projectors, servers, and storage products.


333 West San Carlos Street
San Jose, California 95110
United States


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News & Articles

January 6, 2022 |

Managed Print for the Hybrid Workforce

Industry research indicates work-related at-home printing is here to stay, and a cloud-first model is emerging to offer flexibility and address security issues.

MAINTAIN your own printers, supply the ink, and charge SMBs by the page. That’s one popular managed print services model, and it has worked for Winchester, Va.-based MSP Tech Team Solutions. But a new model is emerging to address the needs of a hybrid workforce.

“I had never really thought about the hybrid workplace [before COVID-19],” admits Tech Team owner Todd Drunagel. “We started managed print about five years ago, and it has all been at the workplace. We’ve put in a few printers for customers at home, but less than 10%.”

But then a global pandemic happened, and 71% of workers conducted their jobs from home, according to an October 2020 Pew Research Center survey.

“The first month, it was a noticeable drop-off,” Drunagel says of his per-page print revenue.

Office-based printing was down, in fact, as much as 25%, according to Paul Birkett, acting global head of HP‘s Print Services & Solutions division. “We’re starting to see a slow recovery in our [traditional office] volume now,” he says, “but there’s an element that won’t come back at all.”

Yet, people are in fact still printing pages. “While office printing declined dramatically, our sales of home printing and Instant Ink subscribers went crazy,” Birkett reports. “We had just hit 5 million subscribers in January 2020. In October of 2021, we hit 10 million—100% growth.”

Colin McMahon

Indeed, industry research indicates work-related at-home printing is here to stay.

“We asked people, ‘Do you want to come back?” explains Colin McMahon, associate director of Keypoint Intelligence, an industry analyst consultancy. “And the answer is, ‘No, not really.’ The majority of our respondents want hybrid.”

While a hybrid workplace (a few days in the office and a few days at home) provides personal freedom, commute time savings, etc., it also poses print security risks. So, how do MSPs address those?

The answer: a unified, cloud-based subscription model. “A lot of the new solutions are cloud-first,” McMahon says. “Even if you’re using your home network, you’ll have some encryption that will help secure your data.”

That’s exactly what HP’s stepping up to deliver. Coming in the second half of 2022 is HP’s Managed Print Flex, a channel-friendly version of its recently launched Flexworker. At its core, Print Flex is a software and supplies subscription model that will be sold to the channel partner, who can then sell it onward. Licensing will be sold per device, at least to start.

“By default, it comes with HP Wolf Pro,” an enterprise security service, Birkett explains. “We have a number of upgrades to design a policy that can feature 50 or even 300 controls, and the cloud platform will monitor policy enforcement.”

When printing work-related documents at home, users will “connect through a secured, encrypted channel,” Birkett explains. Beacon technology can actually require the user to be physically next to the print device to release the job, “so it doesn’t accidentally print out and lay there.”

But what about all those child homework assignments or holiday recipe printouts? Are those restricted at home?

“A user shouldn’t have to figure out ways of making print work at home versus being in the office,” Birkett says. “The beauty of this is that you don’t need two different devices at home. You’ll print over the Wi-Fi, unencrypted, for personal printing.”

And maybe don’t waste resources policing those extra personal pages? “We could configure the device to disallow personal printing,” Birkett says, “but I’ve been advising businesses it’s not worth it. Let people print a sensible amount of their own materials.”

“We’ve got to change our thinking,” Birkett adds. “Work-life is blending. If you take away that blending, you limit their work at home, too.”

Keypoint Intelligence would concur. To more traditional managed print services providers, McMahon’s advice would be: “The focus can’t be just on what it used to be. Print now needs to fit into two places.

Image: iStock

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