Mobile Printing Primer #2: What’s the Problem?

With the proliferation of mobile devices in the workplaces, employees expected the same printing support that they’ve always gotten for their laptop and desktop computers. The result has been frustrated mobile users with suboptimal printing solutions and IT departments working to find mobile printing options that are reliable, scalable, and secure. Since companies have been allowing employee-owned mobile devices to be used for business purposes for years, the obvious question is, why not?

The answers are inside the mobile devices:

  1. There is no industry standard for discovering printers on a mobile device.
  2. Mobile devices do not have print drivers.

Add to that another complication; when users choose their own devices, IT teams are looking for mobile printing tools that can support multiple hardware and software configurations. That further complication is a serious one. For example, iOS 4.2 and above includes AirPrint and the ability to print natively from an Apple mobile device, allowing users to easily discover and print to AirPrint-enabled local printers. AirPrint discovery protocol uses DNS Service Discovery, trademarked by Apple as Bonjour, which can operate in both unicast and multicast modes. While AirPrint is easy to use and can work well in both small and large environments, it only works with Apple products, so those printers that aren’t AirPrint-enabled won’t be available to iOS users, and mobile users who aren’t running iOS don’t have AirPrint.

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In the place of AirPrint, mobile devices running Android and Chrome OS use Google Cloud Print. This tool is tied to a user’s Google account and passes print jobs outside the enterprise network to Google servers and then back to the network printer. Even mobile-friendly companies routinely ban their employees from using cloud-based applications because of their inherent privacy and safety risks. On top of those problems, Google Cloud Print has limited authentication options and a history of being unstable.

Technology companies have tried a whole range of approaches to meeting the demand for an enterprise mobile printing solution, and many of those attempts are on the market today. In our next blog post we’ll take a look at the places where those solutions fail, the “pain points” that make them fall short of being the flexible, secure, and scalable product companies need and deserve.

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