IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

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. By Geoffrey Oldmixon

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.”

About the Author

Geoffrey Oldmixon is a freelance writer based in Western Massachusetts.

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