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Lexmark Cloud Print Management Gives Partners Insights, Sales Tool

‘The trend that IT has moved towards is all about getting rid of the file servers, getting rid of the email servers, getting rid of the infrastructure ownership ... what we're going to launch for our partners is going allow them to really get aligned to that,’ says Arnie Kirby, enterprise and channel solutions manager at Lexmark,

Lexmark wants to bring the scale and accessibility of the cloud to the printers and resellers operating in today’s SMB environment, giving end-users two ways to encrypt and share documents across their customers’ organizations and giving managed print providers a detailed look at how their customers are using the devices.

Arnie Kirby, enterprise and channel solutions manager at Lexmark, said the company’s Cloud Print Management product is one of the most powerful software tools in the Lexmark line-up, because it helps solution providers align their products with modern trends in digital transformation, such as reducing or eliminating on-premise servers.

“If you think about cloud today, I don't think you have an association with printers or print, yet,” he told CRN. “You think of Office 365. However, the trend that IT has moved towards, is all about getting rid of the file servers, getting rid of the email servers, getting rid of the infrastructure ownership, but that’s really not been done in the context of print. So what we're going to launch for our partners is going allow them to really get aligned to that.”

Kirby said when you outsource the ownership of the solution and the infrastructure, turning that from a capital expense to an operational expense, it becomes less expensive for the customer and easier to manage for the Lexmark partner. Cloud Print Management was designed from the ground up as a SaaS offering, which Kirby said gives it a native multitenant structure that allows for unlimited number of customers, each with their own secure instance.

“Our partners sell into a lot of the mid-market spaces, the SMB spaces, and for those customers especially, the cloud gives them tremendous scalability, which they didn't have before,” he said. “It helps them afford these solutions which they could not afford or they were really out of reach, but now you go from a capital expenditure to an operating expense and it's much more doable, but also I think the cloud brings with it that always-on, always-accessible, get-it-from-anywhere capability. You can collaborate with everyone.”

He said the managed print and document services space is expected to be $50 billion by 2022, while the as-a-service space is expected to be $354 billion, or seven times the market that can be captured with print. Lexmark Cloud Print Management is currently hosted on Amazon Web Services, but Kirby said Lexmark is testing running the product on Azure servers, since some retail customers are reluctant to support rival in Amazon. Tim LeDonne, product marketing manager at Lexmark, said the customer’s print job moves to the cloud via a secure tunnel and is then stored using AES 256-bit encryption, until the user authenticates themselves via a badge, password, pin, or a combination of those, to release the print.

A hybrid option lets users keep jobs on the local area network, but secure them through the cloud, by refusing to release them without a token that is generated by the user authenticating themselves to a printer.

“The user will still hit file-print, but instead of an actual print job going up to the cloud, only a token is passed to the cloud,” LeDonne said. “That token just identifies where that job is located and who that links to. When the user authenticates on a machine, it pulls that token down, matches that up with the user credentials, they can then select which of their jobs they want to retrieve. This way the jobs stay on their side of the firewall.”

Kirby said Lexmark has already built some cloud products: Cloud Connector, which allows their machines to connect to Office 365; Cloud Fleet Management, which launched in January -- free to partners -- to provision and manage devices from anywhere in the world, as well as deploy firmware updates and install apps such as the new-to-partners Cloud Print Management. The product is priced on a per device, per month basis.

“This is really going to take our partner to the next level in the way they talk with their clients,” Kirby said. “I’ve spent my entire career at Lexmark. Since 1991, I can tell you, I’ve never met an IT person who likes printers. It’s the reality. Print is crucial to every customers business flow and work process, its just IT typically doesn’t like dealing with printers. With Cloud Print Management, and our suite of services, rather than call on prospects and have them talk about speeds and feeds, this is allow them to have a conversation that aligns with the customer’s initiatives around cloud, infrastructure elimination, and security.”

Kirby said Cloud Print Management gives partners 30 separate reports for visibility into which printer is being used by which user and to what extent, broken down across a range of categories including by type of print, copy or fax; color or black and white, duplex pages, single pages, number of prints per user, per department, and company-wide. He said the software identifies which printers are being used the least per a specified task – color prints, faxes, duplexing for example -- to help partners find cost savings for their customers.

“This opens up a whole new world of analytics for them. It lets them talk to customers and engage with them to improve workflow and improve output.” “What’s the volume of pages in a given department versus their peers in a different location? Now you get visibility across the organization, big or small. They can see where wasteful print has been conducted, or where they’ve avoided wasteful printing.”

One of the features estimates how much paper was wasted by failing to duplex, and how many trees an organization has saved through efficient print and copier practices. He said they are using the same product internally at Lexmark, across the globe to keep an eye on its printer usage as well.

“It’s obvious that the spend, and the funding is moving to the cloud,” Kirby said. “If you don’t get yourself aligned there, it’s not going to be ideal for you.”

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