By Dave McNally, Product Marketing Director, Dell Imaging, EMEA

The rise of cloud computing has created a raft of new opportunities for businesses. In addition to users being able to store large files on the cloud and the ability to access documents anytime anywhere, users can also search, retrieve and print their files much more easily than ever before.

However, with a wealth of cloud services on offer, for those lacking technical expertise, the cloud can seem out of reach and scanning to or printing from it, can seem even more elusive. Here we explain how cloud printing can provide great benefits in terms of efficiency, security, cost and even sustainability, to arm you with all need to know to get started with cloud printing and document digitisation:

1. What is cloud printing and document digitisation? How does it work?
Quite simply, document digitisation refers to the conversion and storage of documents in digital form and cloud printing allows the user to print files directly from any application via the cloud.

2. What are the benefits of cloud printing and scanning?
- Increased efficiency in the workplace
Printing from the cloud means that team members can work easily from devices such as mobile phones and tablets, only printing documents when they need them in hard copy. Likewise, scanning and saving documents in digital form rather than in hard copy helps to reduce the amount of valuable office space taken up.

Documents stored in the cloud allow access for mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets. In a mobile world, printing these documents can only be achieved if the printer is compatible with operating system of the tablet or phone, or if it has an app for mobile printing. Users may find that older printer models may not work with their mobile device.

Being able to access documents and print from anywhere from almost any device, has transformed the way we work. The cloud connects people wherever their location, allowing them to share documents as if they were all in the same place and creating a truly virtual office.

Likewise, scanning and saving documents in digital form rather than in hard copy helps to reduce the amount of valuable office space taken up and document management systems will allow users to easily archive and search through files.

- Collaborative working
By scanning documents directly to your cloud storage using optical character recognition software (OCR), files can be edited, changed and collaborated on by colleagues or third parties who have authorised access.

Scanning documents directly to cloud storage can bring its own problems; users want to employ multiple cloud accounts and finding documents without using sophisticated document management systems can be difficult.
As a solution to this problem, some input devices can be programmed to automatically convert the document into a searchable PDF, Word, PowerPoint or Excel file. If the device has the capability to search across multiple cloud accounts, this will allow the user to find documents at the point of input therefore saving time, particularly if this function is available on a mobile device.
- Any time access
Files stored in the cloud can be accessed anytime, anywhere as long as you have an internet connection, so you don’t need to worry about carrying extra hardware around with you, or losing that important USB stick. It also means that you can share files easier and print from various locations. Cloud storage has a much higher capacity than most email service providers and you have greater flexibility to organise files however you want.

- Reliability and security
Cloud printing is just as secure as other forms of printing and storing files in the cloud is secure as long as you have the necessary firewalls and protections in place. As with any sensitive data, we suggest you keep information password protected and have the right network security in place to ensure that your infrastructure remains safe. In some instances, cloud can in fact be more secure than storing data on portable storage devices, which may be misplaced or stolen, or on poorly maintained office servers and hard drives, which run the risk of damage leading to loss of data.

- Better for the environment — and helping create space in your office environment
Storing data and digital information via the cloud helps to reduce the amount of physical hardware required in the workplace. This, in turn, can help to make occasional, on demand printing profitable, rather than being restricted to mass production in order to justify cost. By limiting production runs and reducing hardware, you will cut the amount of energy consumed, therefore shrinking your carbon footprint.

3. How can cloud printing help to benefit a company’s overall business strategy?
Providing the ability to print directly from a mobile device, creates huge benefits in terms of efficiency. Likewise, it enables ‘on-the-go’ printing so team members can access and print files with ease while out of the office. Document digitisation also makes it easier for businesses to implement performance-boosting flexible working policies, so that staff can work from outside locations while retaining the ability to access and collaborate on documents.

4. What should businesses consider before implementing cloud printing and document digitisation technology?
Business should consider their existing applications and printing needs but more importantly how they interact with documentation. How are documents stored? For how long? How often do you need to retrieve them? And are they available for all parties to collaborative on?

5. Who can benefit from cloud printing and digitisation?
Any company that needs to store content and have the ability to access the information easily should consider a cloud documentation strategy. The cloud gives you the flexibility to access and upload documents on the go and therefore is ideally suited for organisations where remote access to a centralised document repository is crucial. Added flexibility and enabling printing to take place ‘on-the-go’, means that cloud printing is ideally suited to any organisation utilising remote workers.

Before implementing any new technology it’s important that you analyse your existing infrastructure and future plans to assess whether or not it will fit. Remember, in order to be truly effective, cloud printing and document digitisation should be implemented as part of a wider, end-to-end cloud solution rather than on its own.