The Benefits of Printing Virtualization in Enterprise Environments

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABy Arron Fu

Even though organizations are addressing many of the challenges associated with supporting the BYOD trend, when it comes to mobile printing, many still have their work cut out for them.  Particularly in the healthcare industry, the proliferation of the use of mobile tablets have become a true game changer for how those in the medical profession conduct business and more specifically – print sensitive and confidential data.  Healthcare facilities are especially susceptible to printing issues given the complex IT environments, number of printers, types of activities requiring print runs, and the work styles of healthcare staff members.

Part of the mobile printing problem is that many BYOD devices are not designed with printing in mind.  Yet, the numbers of healthcare professionals using iPads and other tablets to store patient information, manage schedules, and track patient progress will only continue to increase as clinical personnel continue to move around the workplace accessing the data and applications they need from multiple devices.  They may work on a laptop while recording patient symptoms, but use a tablet for quick access to patient information and for keeping notes while conducting their rounds.  Critically imperative within healthcare facilities is the ability to print this information despite the location, printer or device the staff is using.  That’s when printing virtualization steps in.

In virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments, the desktop’s operating system is hosted within a virtual machine that runs on a centralized server, delivering numerous benefits to organizations.  Since everything resides within the data center, hardware costs are easier to manage and there are fewer upgrades to be made to a large numbers of PCs.  Given the advantages, and the fact that many healthcare organizations already employ VDI within their IT environments, it makes sense for them to extend these benefits to their printing environments.

VDI allows organizations to centralize control over desktop deployment and minimize administration costs, while allowing users full access to their desktop applications. Extending these benefits of VDI to printing, IT administrators need only to install one printer driver, regardless of printer makes or models, eliminating the need to install multiple printer drivers on each virtual desktop.

Printing virtualization can also help with end-to-end document security when printing sensitive and confidential data in healthcare organizations such as hospitals.  In the past, some organizations have attempted to provide each user with a printer in an effort to minimize security breaches that can happen if the wrong person picks up a print job.  But this solution is impractical in large institutions because costs escalate quickly.  IT administrators would still face printer driver incompatibility issues and employees would still be unable to print, given their mobile work styles.

With printing virtualization, healthcare organizations can deploy a secure follow-me IT model also known as secure pull printing, which would enable anytime, anywhere, any device data access and printing.  Secure pull printing is an ideal mitigation strategy for organizations to employ as it ensures that documents are only released upon user authentication.  This way, the document will not be released until the user requesting the information is present at the printer, providing an extra layer of security while printing.  Secure pull printing also reduces waste by eliminating unclaimed documents from ever being printed in the first place.

Moving into 2014, it will only become increasingly important for IT departments particularly within healthcare, to implement a delivery plan for IT services that adapts to the changing needs of users.  Ideally, their strategy should focus on which IT services users need  to stay productive – such as printing – as they move from place to place, providing clinical care.  Printing virtualization both adapts to mobile work styles and streamlines productivity, while also offering healthcare professionals the time saving benefits, convenience and security they yearn for.

As the Vice President of Software Development, Arron oversees the operation of UniPrint, and also presides over its software development function. He is instrumental in steering software developments, including the award-winning UniPrintTM Infinity printing solution, a universal printer driver specifically designed for optimizing printing functionality and simplifying administration in multi-user, server-based computing environments. Arron is an IT industry veteran.  Prior to taking up his management role at UniPrint, he spent 15 years in the field of consulting, system installation/integration, and application design and development across business functions, processes and industries. Arron holds a degree in Computer and Electronic Engineering from the University of Manitoba as well as a number of industry standard qualifications.