Solving the print problem now your workforce is remote

As COVID-19 continues on, a large number of Australian workers are rapidly adjusting to working from home. The good news is that the modern workplace has enabled flexible work practices for some time – so the technology and apps to support remote working are available and mature. However, one area that has often been overlooked is print.

While COVID-19 is inspiring rapid digital transformation for many organisations, print is still a vital part of many business processes and in some instances a mandatory legal or compliance requirement. When equipping your remote workforce, ask yourself:

  • Have you considered your organisation’s reliance on paper-based processes?
  • Can orders still be submitted and dispatched? Can invoices be signed and returned without printing and scanning facilities?
  • Can your teams access the documents they need from anywhere?
  • Can frontline staff in hospitals and government agencies print securely while on the move?
  • Can remote workers print from home?
  • What are the security implications of using a BYO printer?

Supply

The sudden shift to remote working has seen home office equipment become the next toilet paper, with panic buying setting in. Distributors are overwhelmed with demand for items such as monitors, laptops, printers, webcams and headsets.

Like many others, I recently found myself suddenly working from home and home schooling my primary school aged children. I decided I needed to upgrade my home print device to meet the increased demand from all members of my household. Whilst I was aware of the news stories and heightened search engine activity around home office equipment, it is still confronting to find row after row of empty shelves. The picture below was taken at my local office supply store.

Empty shelves

Data#3 is able to help our clients sidestep supply shortages, and ensure employees are using enterprise quality hardware. We offer a number of standardised office worker bundles purposely designed to keep staff productive while working remotely. These commercial grade solutions have been selected with cost, ease of setup, functionality and security considerations in mind.  A rapid national deployment capability coupled with flexible enterprise pricing allows you to enable your remote workforces quickly.

HP Standard worker bundles

Although the Government has provided some assistive tax incentives, spending capital dollars is currently not an option for many businesses. Data#3, in partnership with HP Financial Services, is able to offer excellent finance rates (some options offering less than 0% finance) available for 12, 24 and 36 month terms.

Eligible customers can also alleviate temporary cash flow challenges by converting existing, owned workplace assets into a payment solution, or acquire technology needed immediately with reduced payments for the remainder of 2020.

Security

It’s not just about the equipment and getting your hands on it. It is imperative to ensure that businesses are able to maintain policy, security and compliance standards whilst supporting many first-time remote workers.

The humble home printer has evolved significantly from its paper-centric origins. Today’s home printers are often multi-functional devices that can access the internet and contain hard drives that, unbeknownst to many, contain a copy of any document printed or scanned to it. Such devices can frequently fly under their owner’s security radar and as such, make prime targets for opportunistic cybercriminals. Read our blog, The Trojan Horse to your security strategy or take a look at this eBook, The Six Print Security Hotspots Every Business Should Check, to learn more on print security risks.

Organisations need to be aware if remote workers are using unprotected home printers. I recently conducted a search using Shodan to identify open print devices connected to the internet. The results speak for themselves. I identified 97,593 open print devices globally, with 812 located here in Australia. This represents hundreds of Australian businesses that could be at threat of malware, ransomware, phishing, scamming or data breach attacks.

The internet is full of global news stories where print devices have been used in cybersecurity hacks.  One such case was in late 2018, when a hacker famously infiltrated over 50,000 print devices across the globe. It is important to understand that internet connected printers can be used as an entry point to the network, and during this time of global disruption, hackers will be taking advantage of every weakness they can find.

Most remote workers likely won’t need their printer to be hooked up directly to the internet. We recommend IT teams advise their staff to disconnect their printer from the internet as it will still be accessible through their local network.

Other recommendations to consider:

  • If login credentials are used, change the username and password: never keep default values
  • Close router ports 9100, 515, and 721–731: refer to user manuals or search engines to find out how
  • Turn off your printer when not in use
  • Ensure printer firmware and software are up-to-date
  • If upgrading your printer select a device with built in security capability

Ensuring hardened cybersecurity endpoints for your remote workers should be a key consideration. However, endpoint security is only part of the total process. This topic is explored in more detail in a recent blog by one of my security specialist colleagues: Cybersecurity considerations for COVID-19.  Now more than ever, it just has to work- and must be secure.

Hot off the press, HP have just announced a goodwill security campaign. Keep an eye out for their free webinars to help set up home offices securely.

Mobility

Many of our essential workers at this time are constantly on the move – however the IT systems they use are not.

Healthcare workers, for example, often need to print critical documents, and are currently more transient than ever. HP Roam enables users to submit print jobs while on the go, from any device, and release at any Roam-enabled printer—simply and securely with no need to worry about device-to-printer compatibility or drivers.

Many vendors are releasing free tools and trial offers to support businesses, whilst we weather this outbreak. A good example of this is the HP Smart app – this free tool allows you to edit, print, scan, fax and share files from your smartphone over your network. This app uses your camera as a document scanner and converts to PDF, PNG, JPG etc. straight to email, your PC or cloud apps such as Onedrive, Teams, Dropbox etc.

HP Smart Screen

Life after COVID-19

The hardware bundles and security considerations discussed above will enable organisations to quickly meet the immediate needs of their new remote workforce. As things settle down over the coming weeks and months, organisations will be asking themselves – do my business workflow processes need to change?

One thing is clear: organisations that have begun the transition to a more digital-based way of working, face less disruption from the sudden transition to remote working. I expect as we emerge from this crisis, many clients will want to accelerate their digital transformation programs around traditional paper-based office-bound processes.

Sometimes compliance or legal nuances dictate that a physical copy needs to be kept – however you can still reap many benefits from taking a digital copy. Digital documents can be made easily accessible to authorised users wherever they are. Additionally, they are faster to access, easier to share and harder to lose.

The better approach is to digitise your core business processes. If possible:

  • Keep born-digital documents digital
  • Look at opportunities to streamline and automate how work gets done.

One of the core pillars of Data#3’s Secure Managed Print solution is Document Workflow, helping organisations to optimise their processes and automate paper-based workflows.

The Data#3 team is here to help

Let’s use our new WFH effort to begin to build genuinely better and more effective organisation. If you’d like to learn more about any home office or print solutions please get in touch with your account manager or contact me today. Stay safe and well.

Tags: Mobility, HP, Security, Network Security, Hardware Procurement, Workforce Mobility, Print Security, Device Security, Device Management, Mobility Challenges, Remote Workers, COVID-19

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