Secure, virtualized printing setting new standard

There are some things that aren’t fit to print.

Printing in the enterprise has gotten somewhat of a bad rap in recent years, with a growing move towards the so-called paperless office. Printing is seen as wasteful, even dangerous. But as some have pointed out recently, paper will be around for quite a while yet.

That’s why companies like Lexmark Inc. and UniPrint Inc. are in business. They’re serving a clientele that wants to make a business process seen as inherently inefficient and insecure as good as it can get.  People are more mobile these days, and more touchy about sensitive information ending up in the wrong hands. So, both companies have offered software that uses user authentication (and in the case of UniPrint, virtualization) to drag an old technology into a newer age.
At the University of Regina, for example, there were concerns over both security and paper waste. Ray Konecsni, directors of customer support services in information services, estimates that the school had roughly 1200 devices on campus, used by students, staff and faculty alike. Sometimes the documents coming out of the printer were too sensitive to leave lying around.
“Probably in the university environment the first and foremost document that comes to mind would be examinations,” he says.
The university hired a consultant to find a solution, and ended up equipping itself with Lexmark’s secure printing technology. Print jobs are now held until they are released by a user with the appropriate authentication (in this case, a smart card, though it’s also possible to use a password, e-mail address or thumbprint). He estimates that in the past two years, they’ve seen about a 10 per cent reduction in printer usage and paper consumption.
As for the 1200 devices on campus, “we reduced that number by about 30 per cent and we’re down to roughly 800 devices,” Konecsni says.
Some institutions that have transient users and are geographically distributed need to go even further, into print virtualization. The Sunrise Health Region, also in Saskatchewan, has 13 different sites stretching over a large part of the province’s central and eastern regions.  With nearly 20 Citrix servers, it became a “nightmare” to install drivers for all the various printers, says  Sheranga Jayasinghe, director of information technology at Sunrise Health Region.
Whenever his team installed a new driver they would have to do performance testing to make sure it was compatible with the clinical applications the hospitals were running, which wasn’t always the case, he says.
UniPrint Infinity, a printer virtualization product that sits between the client and the Citrix server, provided the solution. Print jobs are held in a central location and held until they are released, with no need to install drivers.

An all-HP shop, Sunrise opted for virtualization over a basic security regime with a user-entered PIN because that would mean all the printers would need displays, Jayasinghe adds. With virtualization, he says, “the authentication part is independent of the printer.”

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