Printing is pretty much a pain. Worse when it comes to printing from a mobile device in the enterprise because iOS and Android devices were never designed with printing in mind. It's certainly gotten better over the last year with Apple's AirPrint and Google's Cloud Print functionality becoming more prevalent.
For home offices and small businesses it's really not a big deal at all since printers now come with AirPrint baked in and there are a ton of third-party apps to make printing a breeze.
When it comes to an enterprise, however, printing from a mobile device still remains an annoyance at best for a few reasons.
One, printers and devices need to be connected to the same network subnet. The subnet limitation isn't a difficult problem to solve, but it does take time and planning to get around. Ideally, every printer in the organization would be mobile-ready so that users can send print jobs to whichever printer they are closest to. But that's not the case.
Only having specific printers a mobile device can connect to defeats the entire purpose of mobile devices. You take your iPad to a meeting and when you want to print out an email or spreadsheet there isn't a printer nearby that your mobile device can use because -- guess what -- the only mobile-ready printer is located two floors below you.
Two, the concept of printing from a mobile device only solves half the battle. Typical use cases of tablets or smartphones is for working outside the office. So, an IT department could solve the problem of mobile printing, but what happens when an employee of that company travels for work to another company that hasn't solved mobile printing? Or they have but guests can't access the required internal network to print?
That's the problem but what's the solution?
As a direct result of these limitations and feedback from customers (and I would argue the last article I wrote on enterprise mobile printing), EFI rolled out an upgrade to its PrintMe Mobile appliance.
The L100 mobile print gateway Linux-appliance establishes a secure, encrypted connection to offer guests and visitors Wi-Fi printing form their mobile devices (even from outside the corporate network to printers behind the firewall). IT departments simply plug the appliance, which is the size of a thin client or large paperback book, into any wireless subnet access point. The PrintMe Mobile software then broadcasts a list of administrator-selected printers on the corporate network to devices outside the corporate firewall.
EFI says IT departments can centrally manage the print functionality from an administrative console, controlling upwards of a hundred subnets from one location. Further, IT can also implement additional username and password security through Active Directory. The L100 costs $499 per appliance and the company says most enterprises would typically need one appliance for mobile guest printing when used in conjunction with PrintMe Mobile.
Ideally, when it comes to mobile printing, it would be nice to live in a world where every printer has GPS and/or Bluetooth baked into them so mobile devices can connect to the printer closest to them without having to really think about it. You just click print on the file and the devices automatically take care of the rest.
It's also probably worth noting that this is a problem that needs solving now, but probably won't be an issue in a year or two as mobile OSes mature and printing companies bake better support for AirPrint and Cloud Print into them. Obviously, enterprises don't refresh its printing hardware all that often, but, when it comes time to do so IT should definitely take mobile printing into consideration.
Until then, there's EFI's PrintMe Mobile solution.