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Printing considerations for remote workers and home workers

While it seems just about the entire country has had to adjust to a new way of life and especially a new way of working, it does beg the question – what will the new normal look like for office workers based in home offices?

According to Business Insider, many companies have found unexpected benefits to having their staff work remotely: better collaboration, increased productivity and more relaxed workers. And surely that can only be a good thing? It certainly indicates that remote, or at least flexible working is here to stay.

As businesses adapt to new ways of working, so too must I.T. and print infrastructure. The needs of a distributed workforce need to be met, allowing remote workers to enjoy flexibility, whilst still maintaining suitable levels of security and compliance.

Data and document security

Many workers still have a requirement to print or scan documents even if they are working from home. And whilst the short term solution might be to use existing personal printers, that’s unlikely to be the best option in the long run.

print related security incident

Unprotected home printers may be shared by others. There is no visibility or control over what is being printed, which puts the company at risk. With more sensitive information in people’s homes, no way to account for what or how much is being printed, and no proper system to keep it all together, it’s a security and compliance nightmare.

What kind of documents are people printing?

In a recent survey of 1001 UK home workers, the following document types came up frequently: Zoom/Meeting/Teams agendas and minutes.

  • Company manuals, SOPs, internal docs.
  • Commercial documents, such as order forms and contracts.
  • Procedural forms, like leave and expenses requests.
  • Marketing and reference materials.
  • Job applicant details and CV’s Confidential HR documents (addresses, performance, medical, payroll)

This presents a number of challenges which, depending on attituded towards risk, need mitigating in some way.

Risks like what, exactly?

  • GDPR – it hasn’t gone away, BREXIT didn’t get rid of it. The ICO can issue fines, and indeed they have done. The impact of a GDPR audit or a fine could be huge. If confidential printing and disposal aren’t handled properly, there’s a risk.
  • Commercial – many documents carry a commercial risk – once out of the office, you have zero control over how they are used, or by whom.
  • Reputational – there may be reputational damage if documents are lost, or seen by the wrong people.

How do we mitigate?

  • Seek to understand why people are printing. Are they needing to complete forms or collect signatures with a pen? Digitise the forms and implement eSign. Do they only have a 17″ monitor? Get them 2×27″ monitors, etc.
  • Issue clear policies to staff on how printers should be used, what should and should not be printed, how to store documents and how to dispose of them when they are no longer required. Get everyone a personal shredder. Issue reminders.
  • Consider Data Loss Protection solutions (DLP) which attempt to profile print jobs, assessing them against business rules and applying logic based on those assessments.
  • Consider Cloud Print Services (such as Papercut MF with Cloud Print) to move print traffic from VPN to the cloud (potentially a BYOD friendly approach).
  • Implement a Document Management System with adequate per-user permissions.

IT print security

Once your staff are VPN’d back into the office, any devices connected to their computer become a potential vector for attack, either from malware or from other devices on the home network. It’s a question of understanding and controlling the risk.

We’ll never get hacked / why would someone hack us?

Many people outside of IT believe that hacking is a one-to-one activity. Something carried out by a malicious agent, deliberately against THEM or their company.

Whilst this can be the case, it is much, MUCH more likely that your computers will be hacked, infected and re-purposed by automated tools. These tools are readily available to anyone that knows where to look.

Ok, so how do we mitigate that?

Clearly, IT security is a complex task. Many of you will be more qualified to answer that question than I am. Take a queue from I.T. experts, who are paid to assess these risks: 83% of them are concerned about print security.

If I had to summarise for a small business: Get a Print I.T. specialist to implement a suitable solution.

Failing that, here are some basic steps you should take (as a minimum):

Only allow company computers and laptops at home, ensure they’re running good anti-virus, lock their USB ports through a group policy, force Internet traffic over the VPN.

Ensure your office network has a decent, properly configured firewall and anti-virus on servers and all end-points.

Then add an additional tier of email antivirus checking (Office 365 / Google Workspace is not enough). Finally, keep all software patched and up to date.

Keeping the cost of printing under control.

Working from home using small personal equipment is a security issue, but it can also account for increased costs. The onus to supply hardware or cover the costs is on the employer.

Using cheap, off the shelf equipment might seem like a cost-effective solution but research carried out by Channelnomics shows that companies typically underestimate printing costs by 30% to 40% – meaning a huge dent in finances covering the cost of ink for individual employees.

And with hardware comes problems. According to an industry report, the average IT department spends 15% of its time on printing issues. Remote workers will either need to send or bring in their faulty printers to the office to be fixed or have their printer replaced – which again eats into revenue.

As with all I.T. related projects, you should consider the total cost of ownership over the lifespan of any print hardware you use. Hardware, servicing, internal-labour, consumables all play a role in establishing this, for many organisations, this could be the perfect time for a fresh print audit.

What about going paperless?

Working from home might require some employees to reduce their use of printing and working with paper-based files but this is unlikely to be realistic for all staff.

Many people simply prefer to work on paper. They’re more productive that way – right now I’m sat in front of a 32″ monitor with a 27″ monitor right next to it, I can easily see 3 documents on-screen and see my notes. But, if I’m serious about reviewing a document and annotating it, paper is still my first choice.

An alternative solution needs to be achieved to cater to users who want paper. One way to converge the use of paper and digital files is through a document management system.

Document management is a great way to help reduce the overall usage of printed items, share information from a single, central resource; and keep your company more secure, with the added benefit of reducing print costs.

The scope of document management is huge. It can range from a simple replacement for shared folders to a complex engine that becomes the core of any workflows within your business. Document Management Systems (DMS’s) are beyond the scope of this blog post, we have other resources available on the site which address DMS comprehensively.

How can a Managed Print Service help?

Remote and flexible working demands an even greater need for controlled, managed printing, and document management. We can supply desktop printer solutions that can be used at home, which are supported and managed alongside company printers. This results in more control and creates time, effort and cost savings.

The average business underestimates printing costs by 30-40%.

Wrapping printers in a KRL’s managed print service means you don’t need to worry about sourcing consumables, configuring printers, supporting print issues on your network or managing individual printers, plus you’ll pay less by benefitting from the discounts that we achieve through buying at scale.

By utilising print management software alongside your printers you can remove risks relating to who has access and visibility of what is being printed and also reduce wasted print. Printer Management Software also gives you insight and analysis of how print is being used, where it’s being used and by whom, allowing you to account and forecast for future costs.

There are many benefits of choosing KRL to provide your office printers and copiers

  • Reduce the cost of your printers, copiers and scanners
  • Local, expert support on hand – freeing up your IT team’s resource
  • Multiple integrated software solutions– document management systems, workflow, and process automation, as well as Printer security and Management
  • Increased security for your company and workers
  • Remote working solutions available

If you’d like to know more about how we can help your business with your printing needs, get in touch today. Complete the form below or call us on 01482 657 007.

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