Cloud printing wirelessly connects multiple computers, tablets, and smartphones to shared printers, essentially printing documents through the Internet. This eliminates the need to install new printer drivers on a device every time someone needs to use a new printer. Major advantages to businesses include sharing paper documents among different locations and not having to install a wired network. For medium-sized businesses this can save a lot of time and effort.
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Printing Through the Internet
To produce hard copy, a printer is assigned an Internet Protocol (IP) address so the device is accessible via a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection. Internet connectivity is an increasingly common feature in most modern printers and there are apps that allow quick and easy printing from a smartphone or tablet. Here are some software choices that enable you to access printers through the Internet:
- Google Cloud Printing allows you to connect any properly-configured printing device through the Google Chrome Web browser.
- EasyPrint is a third-party Android app that uses Google Cloud Printing.
- PrinterShare Mobile Print connects to printers via Google Cloud and also via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB.
- HP ePrint App works with any wireless Hewlett-Packard printer, allowing you to print over a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection.
- Apple AirPrint works with any iOS-equipped printer from a variety of manufacturers.
Cloud Printing Services
Cloud printing services allow you to upload your document to the cloud, where it is downloaded and printed by a remote photocopy shop or printer. You then pick up your printing from one of their retail outlets. Examples include:
- Fed Ex Cloud Print service, which is particularly suited for those on the road or who need large documents delivered. You can upload your files to a FedEx cloud account and the documents are then printed at a FedEx center for pick-up for delivery.
- Office Depot's Online Print Center allows you to upload files through the website and see a preview before the documents are printed.
- Printers, photocopy shops and other business supply outfits also offer this service.
Shared Printing Services
It’s also possible to connect to a printer that isn’t cloud compatible by allowing for Shared Printing from a networked computer that has a direct, wired connection to the printer. That option allows all other computer and devices with network access to share use of the wired connected printer. The computer with the wired connection is configured to allow for shared access using either System Preferences (Mac) or Control Panel (Windows) options. As long as you have access to the network, you have access to the printer wired to the network computer.
Public Cloud versus Private Cloud
The FedEx service is an example of a "public cloud." In this model, a company sells space on its servers and printers to multiple users and data is transmitted over the Internet. Even though the data is encrypted, there are certain security concerns. Cloud printing may not be an option for you if you do business with the government, financial institutions, healthcare providers, or other businesses that handle personal, regulatory compliance, or other sensitive information.
Large businesses and schools, for instance, are able to implement cloud printing via their secure information networks. Private cloud providers such as PrinterOn deploy their software on on-site servers. This is an option mostly for larger organizations. Typically, small- or medium-sized businesses lack the IT infrastructure and resources to implement a private cloud.
Cloud printing offers greater convenience and improved productivity. It’s particularly useful to accommodate the "Bring Your Own Device" trend, where companies let employees choose their own devices and operating systems. However, companies with high security concerns might need to avoid the public cloud and stay plugged in if they can't afford the expense of a private cloud.