Enhance Remote Work Environments With Advanced Print Solutions

It’s probably not surprising to hear that remote workplaces are working. Although a day in the office now includes pets as coworkers and business casual means a robe with slippers, working from home is a viable and efficient option for many companies these days.

Upwork reports over 1 in 3 U.S. employees will be working in a remote environment for the long run. To put this into perspective, the same reporting stated that prior to the pandemic, 78% of Americans were working in-person full-time. With this drastic and unforeseen change, IT workers are faced with finding printing solutions for remote employees. 

That leaves IT admins scrambling to find advanced print solutions to improve remote and hybrid work environments. 

Centralized Print Management for Remote Workers

With employees working from all over the globe, how are print problems and requests managed you ask? Don’t worry, it doesn’t involve IT making house calls. The answer is centralized print management. From a single pane of glass, IT admins can manage a company’s print environment system-wide.  

Gone are the days of IT having to manually fix every print-related issue in person on each individual machine. Even better, company-wide updates can be implemented simultaneously with centralized print management as well. 

Off-Network Printing for Hybrid Offices

Remote work doesn’t solely happen from a home office. Sometimes it’s from a cafe, on an airplane, at a stoplight, or even in someone else’s office. In our new normal, employees have the freedom to work on the go and move around as needed. 

Off-network printing offers employees the flexibility of sending print jobs to printers within their workplace’s network from anywhere while maintaining a secure connection. This also goes for employees living and working out-of-state from a company’s hub. 

Now that we’ve established how employees can print from anywhere, it’s time to address which devices can be utilized for off-network printing services. The answer is…ANY! Yes, any laptop and desktop, and even tablets or smartphones with the right applications, are compatible with off-network printing services. 

Secure and Touchless Printing for All Employees

And what good would off-network printing solutions be without secure retrieval processes as well. Secure release and touchless printing are other necessary components of a remote work environment. In this way, you can ensure that only the intended recipient is able to retrieve the documents when needed.

If sensitive documents, medical records, or confidential print jobs are being sent, an employee simply chooses the secure release printing option. Then the content can only be retrieved by swiping an I.D. badge or entering a user ID/PIN at the printer console. This way, you can print from home or on the go, but control when or who can retrieve the print job.

Touchless retrieval is another helpful option in which an employee can scan a QR code on the printer to select the print job they want to release. This option reduces the use of shared surfaces while maintaining a secure print environment.

With so much else changing right now, print management doesn’t have to be something your team is worried about. Serverless print solutions can improve and maintain a thriving remote work environment for any business while saving you money and offering more advanced features.

How do I send jobs to a printer in the office when I’m working from home or on a different network?

New network strategies pose printing challenges

In the past, users accessed network printers via onsite network login credentials and Virtual Private Network (VPN) software. However, new network security measures and more reliance on remote workers and contractors have led to the prevalent use of Zero Trust Network Access. With Zero Trust, even regular full-time employees can reside on different networks from data servers and printers.

PrinterLogic offers new functionality that addresses the IT challenges resulting from these changes. The company’s new Off-Network Printing feature, available now on its SaaS and Virtual Appliance platforms, lets you keep printers on your most secure networks while allowing all workers to print—no matter what network they’re on. This makes printing easier for contractors, BYOD guests, and affiliate partners without resorting to VPNs or web portals.

How Off-Network Printing works

Off-Network Printing allows end users to print documents to printers located inside corporate networks and firewalls without having direct access to the network where printers reside.   PrinterLogic lets these users authenticate and make a connection from outside the corporate firewall to internal printer assets. IT admins can isolate a network where printers reside, but where employees, contractors, and guests cannot join for security reasons. 

There are two components in the solution: The external gateway and the internal routing service, which can be configured in several different ways, depending on the customer’s needs.

The external gateway

Typically, PrinterLogic sends print jobs via direct IP over TCP port 9100 to a printer on the same network. When configured for Off-Network Printing, PrinterLogic transmits the print job (encrypted over HTTPS port 443) over the Internet using an external gateway, where it’s then routed to a printer behind the organization’s firewall. 

The internal routing service

We complete the Off-Network Printing circuit by configuring an internal routing service. This service consists of at least one computer collocated on the network where the printer resides. It’s behind the organization’s firewall and is connected over HTTPS port 443 to the PrinterLogic-hosted gateway in the cloud. Multiple internal routing services offer failover protection and load-balancing for incoming print jobs. Print jobs originating at the end user’s workstation are routed immediately and are never at rest. 

All print job rendering and spooling occur on the end user workstation using a native print driver. Thus, PrinterLogic works with any kind of networked printer—laser, inkjet, large format, label printer—from any printer manufacturer. There’s no need to accept compromised universal printer drivers or rely on PDF conversion. Users get the output quality and complete printing feature set available on that device.

Is Off-Network Printing secure?

You might ask: How can this be secure? The PrinterLogic instance is a SaaS application hosted in Amazon Web Services (AWS). IT managers still control the deployment of printer objects to workstations, users, security groups, or network segments. They also control whether or not users can print via direct IP or over HTTPS. 

PrinterLogic’s Secure Release Printing is available for organizations that want even more protection for confidential data. With secure release, the user initiates a print job and then releases it only when they are physically standing by the printer. They identify themselves by swiping a badge, entering a PIN code, or even using a release app on their phone. 

The IT manager configures secure printing in the PrinterLogic management portal. Cloud identity and access providers are supported (e.g., Azure AD, Okta, Google Admin, and more).

Competing solutions are often more complex and costly because they depend on an on-premises print server infrastructure or even a cloud-hosted print server. PrinterLogic offers an enterprise-class, completely serverless secure network printing solution that works in any location, for any user workstation, and with any sort of networked printer.

Typical use cases for Off-Network Printing

There are at least four use cases for Off-Network Printing:

  1. Organizations that are adopting Zero Trust and using a suite of SaaS applications or IaaS desktop environments. Employees can access apps and resources but not the underlying network. When it comes time to print, IT needs a solution that maintains network security while meeting its employees’ printing needs.
  2. Employees who are working remotely. Employees use a company-managed workstation or laptop at their home office, but their workflow still requires printing at the main office for distribution or editing.
  3. Organizations that employ onsite contractors. These workers come to the office but aren’t allowed on the corporate network where printers reside. Rather, they are allowed on a guest network with limited access. Even still, they need access to the company’s printers to complete their work.
  4. Business-affiliate printing. A nurse employed by a hospital’s affiliate clinic needs to print a prescription using the hospital’s medical records (EMR) software. The clinic is an independent business and is not connected to the hospital’s secure network.

As the ranks of remote workers grow along with the demand for remote printing, PrinterLogic’s Off-Network Printing lets you maintain tight, Zero-Trust security while ensuring convenient access to company MFPs. For more details on configurations and scenarios, check out our white paper, or better yet, hop over to our website where you can set up a demo.

Zero Trust: What Is It? How Does It Work? Why Should I Use It?

The recent uptick in remote work has highlighted both the promise and the pitfalls of our connected world. Many of the same technologies that give work-from-home employees and contractors access to enterprise networks also create gaps that hackers and other malicious actors can exploit.

To lock down network security without causing productivity to take a hit, Zero Trust has emerged as a best practice and policy of choice for many organizations.


What is Zero Trust?

The origins of Zero Trust are rooted in the shortcomings of traditional network security methods.

Since the early days of enterprise risk management, organizations have typically taken a classic defensive approach to network security. There’s an internal network (the LAN), an external network (the WAN) and a protective firewall separating the two. Anything inside the firewall is trusted. Anything outside is untrusted.

The complexity of modern IT networks and the fluidity of today’s workplaces have proven challenging to this vaguely medieval “inside/outside” mindset. For example, this simple binary design doesn’t suit remote workers who need offsite access to internal resources. And what about contractors who might be physically inside the building but don’t merit full access privileges?

Virtual private networks, or VPNs, offer one way to expand the internal network to include this new class of mobile users. From a security management standpoint, the major problem with VPNs is that they implicitly assume trust. If an attacker manages to gain VPN credentials or exploit the VPN connection, that attacker has more or less unrestricted access to the internal network.

IT professionals therefore started looking for a viable VPN replacement. Zero Trust arose as a more identity based, hardline approach to network security that accommodates the nuance of the modern workplace and its dynamic mobile workforce.

Zero Trust is inherently more skeptical than traditional perimeter network approaches. Rather than eagerly award users with sweeping access to large portions of the internal network, the first instinct in a zero-trust environment is to withhold blanket access and instead grant it only on an as-needed basis to business-critical network resources. This is often called the least privilege model.


How does Zero Trust work?

The first implementations of Zero Trust network access (ZTNA) took a micro-segmentation approach. This made sense as an updated form of risk management, but the underlying inside/outside rationale didn’t change significantly.

As a result, micro-segmentation mainly served to fragment the internal network into smaller perimeter-bound networks that were further subdivided into cloud and on-prem architectures. This worked well enough as a VPN alternative but had the drawback of decreasing network-wide visibility and increasing admin overhead.

Today, the emphasis in ZTNA has shifted more from the how to the who. It’s not about developing complex blueprints for network compartmentalization or the finicky process of creating walls within walls. Instead it’s about verifying trusted users through their identity. That identity—validated by single sign-on (SSO) solutions, cloud-based identity providers (IdPs), or multifactor authentication (MFA)—becomes the basis for determining which resources users are allowed to access.

This has multiple advantages:

  • Tighter, more consistent security management at the gateway
  • Restricted access, even among trusted users, to lateral resources or low-level core infrastructure
  • Better support for hybrid networks that make use of cloud and on-prem solutions
  • A more curated experience for end users stripped of unnecessary functionality
  • Seamless, secure access for remote workers and contractors alongside onsite employees

Within that broad identity-based approach, ZTNA policies can vary depending on the organization or the user pool. They can require end-to-end encryption of all network communications. They can enforce “hygiene” checks by inspecting devices and data streams for malware during authentication or on an ongoing basis. Or they can prioritize the uniformity of the trusted user experience regardless of network location.


Who should use Zero Trust?

Every organization, large or small, can benefit from ZTNA. From agencies that need to allow regular contractor printing to global enterprises with ever-growing fleets of mobile devices, Zero Trust offers a secure, flexible path to better network security and improved risk management.

What form ZTNA ultimately takes will be up to each organization. If they’re looking for VPN alternatives that can scale to support large numbers of remote workers, they might want to explore ZTNA solutions centered around cloud-based digital workspaces. If zero-trust printing is the priority, then solutions that allow for off-network printing will be a logical choice. And if an organization’s business model is heavily reliant on IoT devices, ZTNA will naturally look quite a bit different from the other two.

Regardless of use case, however, Zero Trust is fast becoming the de facto network security standard. The NSA has recently endorsed Zero Trust policies and published detailed guidance on adopting ZTNA models. According to a Deloitte poll in mid-2020, more than 70% of organizations said that ZTNA adoption had either remained on pace or accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. All this speaks to the value of Zero Trust and its recognition as critical security practice going forward.