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Universal Printer Drivers: Can They Really Impact Your Bottom Line?

4 Dec, 2012 By: Arron Fu


What solutions should I consider to fix the problems in my (or my customers) printing infrastructure today and plan for future challenges? How do hardware and software work best together in my (or my customers) printing environment? Can a universal printer driver really help my company save money?  imageSource asked Arron Fu, VP of Software Development at UniPrint, to examine the issues that surround Universal Printer Drivers.

Considering the myriad of issues IT executives and decision makers today must grapple with—such as a more mobile workforce, new geographies, reduced budgets—it’s no wonder that questions about how to integrate different hardware and software components seamlessly, and in a cost-effective manner, have been gaining attention.

As a key business function, printing is often one of the most tangible and frustrating examples cited by employees when voicing grievances about operational efficiency. It is also one of the biggest areas overlooked by companies as part of the restructuring of their IT infrastructures. A universal printer driver (UPD) could be the key to promoting efficiency and achieving radical costs savings in the printing space.

First created 15 years ago, the UPD was designed to simplify the task of managing multiple printers with the use of just a single driver that standardizes the languages of printers, removing the need to install a unique driver for each printer. Generally used for integrating different printing devices into an enterprise IT infrastructure, the UPD can be a savior to any business struggling with combining different computer and printing systems that do not use a standardized programming protocol.

It is crucial for companies to choose a true UPD that is not limited to any specific brand or device, such as Printer Computer Language (PCL)-based or PostScript (PS)-based printers. This will enable organizations to select printers based on their specific business requirements and select “best-of-breed” hardware from any manufacturer: both key factors for companies looking to keep pace with today’s fast-paced business environment and also to maintain cost efficiency.

Increasing Printing Efficiency in Enterprise Office Environments
As efficient printing-on-demand continues to move up the list of business concerns on the C-level agenda, the issue of how office printing can become as worry-free and flexible as possible to accommodate changing business demands will continue to gain momentum. We will examine some of the challenges to efficient printing below:

1. IT Infrastructure Updates
When companies undertake an IT infrastructure upgrade, resources and budget constraints often dictate that they take a phased approach, resulting in an enterprise printing environment that encompasses both legacy and next generation printers. The lack of standardization in printer hardware and software components further exacerbates this challenge as different printer manufacturers continue to use their own vendor-specific standards.  Any time a new computer or printer is brought into an enterprise IT ecosystem, it requires a fair amount of time from a member of the IT department.

2. Printing Scenarios That Can’t be Virtualized
While the overall trend in IT is moving toward a more virtual model, as evidenced by the growing popularity of cloud-based applications, the printing process continues to maintain a physical presence for employees. Printing remains very personal to users as the act of printing cannot be virtualized. Many job functions require a printer to be an arms-length distance away, as in the case of HR executives who need to print sensitive documents. Or, in healthcare, the Patient Privacy Act requires utmost security in protecting patient information. This makes it necessary for workers to know the location of the printers they are using and to have access to a dependable printing source.

3. Expanding the Mobile Workforce
In line with the growth in cloud-based applications and BYOD (bring your own device), today’s work force is becoming increasingly mobile and personal. This mobile work force often finds itself working in a different space and time, but it still needs access to the company’s printing resources. It is therefore essential to implement technology that will allow workers to have more control over where they choose to print their documents and to add a layer of printing security that will allow them to be the sole owner of a printing job in queue at the office printer.

Can Printing Get Smarter in the Future?
UPDs enable businesses today to address all of these challenges. It’s a technology that can streamline printer hardware integration and the printing process itself to help organizations address issues of productivity and budget cuts, while also providing a measure of print control and security. In fact, simplifying the printing process can save companies thousands of dollars in IT resources and lost worker productivity. UPDs can also provide a platform that will give companies the flexibility to layer on additional security features and applications they need in anticipation of changing business requirements.

As the technology evolves, it can serve as a critical springboard in enabling companies to tie different functionalities together; even eventually serving as a monitoring tool for organizations to examine important printing patterns, such as which employees are printing more frequently than others, what time of day is the most common for printing and even what documents are actually being printed. 

Going hand-in-hand with its monitoring capabilities, companies can also observe if employees are printing confidential documents when they should not be. As more of the technology that was previously available for e-mail communications can now be applied to printing, it will be interesting to explore its potential impacts on enterprise printing habits. The growth in the adoption of mobile devices and applications will also have some interesting consequences on enterprise printing structures.

In the future, UPDs could very well provide the intelligence that will enable printers to play a more advanced business function.  Like the evolution of the mobile phone, what future office capabilities might we look to our printing environments to provide?




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