Office devices key to network security

You might think you’ve heard about every possible security vulnerability in your network, but what about your copiers?

“Network-connected output devices are becoming an absolute primary target of people, foreign and domestic, who are penetrating networks,” said Jim Joyce, senior vice president for office services at Xerox Global Services.

“Many of them are large devices with large disk drives, with a fair amount of memory and are network-connected and are not secure. This laptop [I’m using for this presentation] is probably 10 times more secure than any of the output devices we have in our environments today.”

Joyce, speaking at the two-day Office Document Solutions conference in Boston this week, was among a number of presenters who implored makers of printers, copiers, scanners and other such devices to start thinking about more than just selling boxes to customers.

Joyce said during an interview after his speech that Xerox has poured about US$20 million in recent years into technologies to better manage office and document systems and is putting a particular emphasis on security these days. He noted that some machines, such as multifunction devices, might have several operating systems in them that could provide security holes if not protected.

Look for Xerox in the months ahead to deliver more in the way of technologies that would enable document systems to be able to identify content so that companies can better prevent theft of intellectual property and other confidential data. Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center has been working on such technologies, Joyce said.

Meanwhile, other office document-product vendors said they seek to go beyond selling boxes.

While “solutions” might qualify as the single-most overused word in the IT industry over the years, presenters embraced it as a fresh concept capable of bringing new life to their industry.

Charles Pesko, a director at InfoTrends/CAP Ventures, greeted attendees at the consulting and research firm’s event by stating that the U.S. copier market is maturing and that solutions are the answer to revenue growth.

Not only do solutions — in the form of software, support and maintenance — offer revenue opportunities, but vendors that succeed here also will see a rise in hardware sales. For every dollar in solutions sold, a company will sell $4 or $5 of hardware with it, he said.

“A lot of people just don’t get that yet,” he said.

Among the biggest opportunities are document capture and creation, document management and document output management, said Joel Mazza, another InfoTrends/CAP Ventures director.

A panel of vendor representatives from Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Toshiba America Business Solutions and Sharp Electronics agreed that solutions are the way to go. However, they said it is difficult to change overnight given that the hardware business is worth tens of billions of dollars a year, whereas the solutions market is a sliver of that. Most of them said they were not making money on solutions so far, but considered their efforts in software, support and more as an investment that will pay off in the long run.

Bill Brewster, vice president of marketing for Konica Minolta Business Solutions, said every RFP his company gets includes a demand for at least one of four solutions offerings, such as security, device management, document management or workflow.

The fact that delivering solutions can help sell boxes isn’t a bad thing, he said, but emphasized that vendors need to commit to developing strong software and support offerings to make the solutions attractive.

The vendors also acknowledged they need to address how to encourage value-added resellers and other channel partners to sell the software given that current compensations systems are largely hardware oriented.

Wayne Lyle, IS director for law firm Preti Flaherty, shared with attendees his organization’s experiences making strategic use of office document systems. Over the past few years the firm, which has 80 attorneys in five offices in New England, has rolled out software from eCopy and Interwoven to streamline handling of documents, as well as voice mail, e-mail and even dictation.

The system has enabled attorneys and their assistants to scan documents into a network system that allows for easy access and secure storage of documents that previously would have been stuffed in filing cabinets or stored elsewhere. “We feared electronic images were just going to explode and nothing would be there to control what we were doing,” said Lyle, who works in Portland, Maine.

Having a document-management system in place has been important given the SarbanesOxley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Even though those rules wouldn’t typically apply to a law firm, Preti Flaherty is a full-service outfit that works with healthcare and other businesses that do have to stick to those rules. “We get hit with those regulations from all sides because our clients do,” Lyle said.

Lyle said in an interview following his presentation that the firm’s system handles roughly 1.5 million documents (largely in Word) and requires a couple hundred gigabytes of storage. But he foresees a time not far off when the law firm will need to split its master database to handle burgeoning volume.

On the broader issue of office document-system vendors needing to go beyond offering just boxes, Lyle said he is all for it and noted that the integration among his scanning, document management and office equipment played a key role in his purchase decisions.

Partnerships between vendors are important given the variety of office equipment at most companies and the specific needs of organizations in different vertical markets. “I just hope it’s more than talk,” he said.

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