How law firms can improve their Print Environment

As law firms begin to reap the benefits of moving infrastructure to the cloud, taking advantage of hybrid working and lower cost of ownership, there are still a number of services that are rooted in the office and one of these is print. 

Print volumes have been reducing due to firms progressing with their digitization and paper-less strategies and the Covid pandemic leading to the introduction of hybrid working.  Hybrid working introduces new workflow challenges and the print environment is fast evolving to introduce the ability to print remotely from mobiles and other devices and then collect the documents when in the office.   

Printing in the office is still a necessary function and a major headache for the firm’s IT department. 

But there is a better way to manage the print infrastructure and solve these new workflow challenges at the same time.  We can eliminate Windows Print Servers, reduce support calls and outages within our print environment and we can engineer a more resilient and performant service.  And by investing in a print management solution, we can allow print from anywhere, increase security and control waste and provide a better user experience that is fit for the modern workplace. 

The Challenges with Print

Law firms have a reasonable number of printers in the office and ensure they have enough of them so their users do not need to walk far to pick up their print jobs, have sufficient number of devices in an area so users are not waiting too long to collect their jobs during busy times and have enough to handle the volume if a single device requires service.

Figure 1 - The traditional windows print environment

They often have a mixture of MFDs and standalone desktop or workgroup printers, some that can print color, and many that may be B&W only.  And some might have staplers, hole punchers, booklet finishers or even mailbox finishers. 

The print environment is complex as firms need to manage a number of servers and a fleet of devices for a diverse user community with varying needs: 

  • Multiple Print Servers 
    Gartner estimates that the average cost of a print server is between $2,000 and $5,000 per year.  This includes the hardware, storage, licensing, cooling, power, physical security, management, maintenance, upgrades, virus scanning and so on.

    Relying on a single server, especially in a larger office leaves a single point of failure and can also lead to a poor user experience as printing slows down if the print server is not sized appropriately.  Most firms spread their print queues across multiple servers or have a redundant print server to mitigate these issues. 

    Servers require regular patching and downtime needs to be scheduled for out of hours maintenance windows.  Whilst a bad print driver can sometimes cause server spooler crashes and hangs which require windows spooler service restarts to rectify.  Any outages can cause major disruptions to knowledge workers and in an environment where time is billed, outages can be costly. 
     
  • Many Queues 
    Firms will deploy at least one shared queue per device, but if they have standby print servers then they may have duplicate queues.  They may also have multiple queues pointing to the same device, because they want different users to have different default settings or access to different finishing options (for instance the ability to use the booklet finisher).  There are probably old queues on their print servers that should have been deleted long ago and maybe a few test queues sitting out there on their network that nobody should be using. 
     
  • Multiple Drivers 
    If a firm has more than one printer manufacturer, then they will probably need to manage multiple drivers.  These might be a mixture of PCL and PostScript drivers because certain users (especially in Real Estate practice groups) print large PDF plans that print more accurately, faster and in better quality when printed using PostScript.  They may even have multiple versions of the same driver (i.e. a manufacturers global or universal driver) on their network if print queues were set up at different times as devices were replaced with newer models.

    Print Drivers can sometimes be affected by vulnerabilities and can be an attack vector on your network.  In July 2021, a report revealed that millions of computers dating back to 2005 contain a print driver that introduces a dangerous vulnerability, which cyberattackers could use to escalate system access privileges.  Keeping drivers up to date and managing updates on print queues can be time consuming and is not a priority for most IT departments.  

  • Connecting Users to Print Devices 
    Providing users with access to the printers in the office is no mean feat either.  Automatically deploying queues to users is hard, requiring many Group Policy Objects and scripting expertise.  Many firms rely instead on users connecting to the shared print queues themselves, a process that may require training and documentation.  It’s often not easy for users to know which queue they should be connecting to and it’s often not practical to hide queues from users so they don’t accidentally connect to the wrong queues and print documents to devices in secure areas like HR or the copy center.


    This often leaves users with no other option but to seek IT assistance to get them connected to the right queues.  And they will also need assistance in identifying an alternative device to print to if the one they normally use is off-line or has been moved or if they need to relocate to another section of the office or are visiting another location.
     
     

  • Waste & Security 
    If you walk around a firm’s office at the end of a day, you will likely see a stack of paper either on the printer output tray (or relocated somewhere nearby) of uncollected print jobs.  These pages will likely end up in the recycling bin and yet each one has cost your firm money and may have exposed confidential client information to whoever happened to walk by. 
     
  • Mobile and Hybrid Working 
    Many MFD manufacturers natively support printing from mobile devices, but this only works when both are in the same location and on the same network.  For security reasons, firms choose to not allow mobile devices on their office WiFi network and users have an increasing need to be able to print when they are out of the office (either working from remote locations such as a client office or from home) and then collect their print jobs when they are back in the office or have someone collect them on their behalf and begin working on them. 

Traditional print infrastructure is not designed for these scenarios and firms will need to purchase other solutions in order to solve these workflow challenges.

Solving Challenges with Print

A serverless printing solution creates and manages direct IP print queues on users desktops instead of utilizing Windows Print Servers and shared queuesThe printing environment challenges can be resolved by moving the print environment to serverless and introducing other features which improve the user workflow and provide printing services to your users wherever they may be working: 

  • Removing Windows Print Servers 
    Moving to direct IP printing allows the Windows print servers to be removed completely.  Reducing the total number of servers that the firm needs to support and reducing the cost of running and maintaining their on-premises infrastructure. 

    Firms that eliminate their windows print servers can save between $2,000 to $5,000 per print server per year.
     
     
  • Centrally Managed Print Queues 
    By managing print devices and queues in a serverless print system, IT administrators can define and control their print environment from a web-based portal.  Serverless print systems can provide better ways to manage security and auto-deployment of queues to groups of users or computers. 


    Drivers can be managed centrally instead of on multiple servers, and a serverless print system can ensure that all queues on users desktops are updated automatically whenever drivers are updated on the serverless print system.  Helping to keep the network more secure.
     

    Changes to printers can be applied to serverless print queues automatically, whether that is a change of the devices IP address or even a replacement of the device with a different model that has different finishing options. 
     

  • More intuitive Self-Service 
    A serverless printing system provides better and more intuitive tools for users to locate and connect to the print devices on the network.  The system can help users find their local printer even if they are temporarily working in another part of the office or at another office location. 
     
  • Secure/Follow Print for Document Security and Waste Reduction 
    One way to reduce the number of queues that users need is to utilize print release for your multi-function devices.  Using print release means users print to a central queue and then release the job when they are at any compatible device.  Users do not need to worry about connecting to individual print devices, they can use the same queue even if they need to collect the job whist working in another part of the office or in another office location.  And the release mechanism is a great way for them to collect documents that were printed remotely via their mobile, when they were working from home or forwarded by e-mail submission.


    Print release ensures the confidentiality of sensitive content as it prevents documents from sitting on printer output trays uncollected where unauthorized users may see it and it also reduces waste, saving the firm money.
     

    Serverless print systems can be used to auto-deploy the pull printing queues to all users in an office easily and can ensure the queue is made the default, encouraging users to print securely and take care of the environment by only releasing what they actually need. 

  • Mobile, E-Mail and Guest Printing 
    The windows server printing architecture was designed for the era of desktop computers in an office, however law firms are embracing work from anywhere and knowledge workers demand more from their print environment.  Users need to be able to send documents to print from other devices including their mobile and have easier ways of printing to the office for them to collect later, whist they are at working from home or visiting a client. 

Clients themselves also need to be able to print when they are visiting the law firm and providing guest printing facilities can ensure client meetings are more productive. 

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Whilst trying to solve these challenges, it’s important to consider some of the common misconceptions around print.

  • Keeping Print Jobs within the Firms Network 
    Microsoft has released Universal Print as a means of providing a single print driver and a way of moving print to the cloud.  However, Universal Print uses an intermediate language (XPS) which can apply compression that may affect print output.  It also means that users may not have full access to all the finishing options of their print devices.  But the one drawback of Universal Print is that all spooled documents are sent to the cloud before being downloaded and printed on the devices in the office.  This can put considerable strain on the firm’s network connectivity and cause delays in the printing process.  There needs to be careful consideration as to whether it is necessary for all documents to be processed via the cloud when the printing device (desktop/laptop) and the output device are on the same network. 
     
  • Complexity of Multiple Vendors 
    There are a number of solutions which will connect to or integrate with your printing environment.  This might include a cost recovery solution which uses a desktop application to prompt for client and matter details at the time of print and may also include software integrated at the MFD device for the capture of copy counts.  This may also include other technology embedded on or connected to your MFDs for the digitization of paper. 
     
    Integrating other vendors into this environment can cause many problems especially when you need to make changes (such as relocating a printer and changing its IP address) or when something goes wrong and it’s not clear which solution is causing the problem.  If we want to simplify our print environment, minimizing the number of vendors is beneficial.   
     
    Picking a Print Mangement/Digitization partner who can provide a wide variety of services and are specialists in providing software and services to the legal sector is essential.  Law firms have specific needs that not all software solutions will be able to handle, for instance the ability to scan into the firms Document Management System or for attorneys to delegate certain functions to their assistants.  With delegation, an attorney can print and have someone else collect the documents on their behalf, this is especially useful if your users are taking advantage of hybrid working and aren’t always located in the same place.  Being able to print from home and have someone start reviewing and red-lining a document right away is a huge benefit. 

How are we at nQ Zebraworks doing it?

nQ Zebraworks have a long history of delivering workflow solutions to law firms and we have decades of experience in how you manage your print infrastructure, what is required to embed and integrate to your firms MFDs and how firms can digitize and route documents. 

Figure 2 - nQ Zebraworks PrintQ 3.0

Our all-in-one solution provides all the features you need:

  • PrintQ for the secure release of documents at the device and capture of mobile, e-mail and guest prints.  PrintQ allows users to release on any convenient or available device.  PrintQ helps reduce waste and protects the confidentiality of your clients information 
  • ScanQ for the capture and routing of physical documents with our innovative Queues technology to ensure scanning is quick and documents can be profiled into the right location where it is most convenient for users. 
  • CostQ for the capture of costs including print and copy so you can bill them back to your clients 

Our Command Center platform already manages devices and device configurations for the purpose of cost recovery, print release and digitzation of documents at the MFD.  With PrintQ 3.0 Command Center is extended to support:

  • Print Driver Management 
    Command Center manages your print drivers, downloading them automatically to clients via the PrintQ 3.0 Agent when it is setting up and configuring queues.

    Drivers can be easily upgraded when new versions are released, and these upgrades will automatically be pushed out to all desktops and print queues that use the driver.  This significantly reduces the administrative burden normally associated with print driver updates. 
     

  • Print Queue and Queue Configuration Management 
    Command Center allows firms to create queues against devices, specifying which driver to use and which set of configurations should be applied.  These queues will be set up on a clients workstation when a queue is deployed or where a user chooses to connect to that queue using the PrintQ 3.0 Client.

    Queue Configurations include additional paper trays, finishers and other printer options as well as printing defaults such as duplex or B&W/Greyscale. 

  • Automatic Queue deployment 
    With Command Center and PrintQ 3.0, firms can use AD Security Groups to define groups of users or computers that should automatically receive print queues.  This avoids creating complex group policy objects and scripts normally associated with print queue deployments. 
  • Queue Security 
    With PrintQ 3.0, users are provided with an intuitive user interface to help them find and connect to print devices.  However, some queues may need to be restricted and so Command Center supports the hiding of queues from users based on their AD group memberships.  Firms can lock down the device in secure areas such as HR or the Copy Center to just those users who should be able to print to them. 

Our solutions embed directly into your MFD, meaning no external terminals or release stations are required.  We also ensure that our user experience is the same regardless of which MFD brand you have.  Giving you confidence that if you have a mixed fleet or are thinking of changing vendors, your users will be able to work in exactly the same way and without additional training. 

Our solutions are built specifically for the legal market and we are constantly listening to the needs of our clients and incorporating new features and enhancements that ensure they can implement the workflows that are ideal for them.  Our solutions include granular permissions and a wide variety of controls which makes it easy for attorneys to set up and manage their delegates and ensure they can be most productive. 

With PrintQ 3.0, our serverless printing module allows you to remove your Windows Print Servers and re-engineer your print environment.  Our PrintQ client supports your efforts in deploying print release queues or specific direct-print queues to users or groups of computers and the PrintQ client also includes an intuitive user experience when users need to connect to new print devices manually.  PrintQ 3.0 will automatically upgrade drivers when you update them in the Command Center web-based admin console, helping to keep your network secure and for those clients who wish to capture and recover for their print costs, there will be no need to deploy two different pieces of software to each users workstation, our PrintQ client will intelligently handle all these functions.   

PrintQ 3.0 integrates seamlessly with our other solutions and allows you to begin to re-think your print environment and engineer it for the future.  PrintQ will be extended to support cloud and hybrid printing, allowing your users to print whilst working remotely and then collect the documents when they return to the office and without them needing to log on to a virtual desktop or be connected via VPN. 

Learn more about Serverless PrintQ. 

Author

Phil Hewson | Director of Product Design

nQ Zebraworks

Phil leads our product design team which focuses on product specification, user experience, prototyping and solutions architecture. He joined nQ Zebraworks in 2006 as an implementation specialist and managed projects for our legal clients in the UK, Europe, Africa, and Asia. He brings that same focus and dedication to ensuring our products meet the needs of our clients today and into the future.

To learn more about nQ Zebraworks, or for more insight and assistance,
get in touch with us today!

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