Affiliate Printing Capabilities and Use Cases
Thursday, June 11, 2020
by Brent Black
Today, many businesses enable remote employees and third-party entities to access their critical business applications over the public Internet, without the need for a dedicated WAN or VPN connection. This is often referred to as Internet computing, where users only need a standard web browser and the appropriate security credentials to access applications and data.
However, printing via the public Internet from a business application to a print device in the remote office location is very challenging due to security concerns and firewall configurations. You may be wondering if it is even possible to do so without sacrificing security or negatively impacting the user experience. The answer is yes, due to an exciting new capability from LRS.
LRS has been in a leader in the print and output management industry for over 35 years, and we have addressed many complex and challenging market requirements over the years. Our success comes from listening to the market, and that market has made it clear that companies want to leverage public Internet infrastructure around the world to print securely to remote offices. Moreover, they want to do so without the need for a dedicated WAN or VPN connection.
We refer to this capability as “affiliate printing” because the remote office and the application hosting provider are affiliated in some way; meaning, they have some sort of business relationship. For example, the remote office workers may be employees of the same company, or they might be a business partner or supplier to the application hosting provider.
Examples of popular business applications include SAP and Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems, though they could be any business application that generates print jobs directly. We often refer to this function as back-end application printing, as output is initiated by an application instead of an end user.
To help the reader better understand the market problem that LRS is addressing, consider a few use case scenarios:
- “Our company works as a subcontractor to a major manufacturer called Acme Products. We have access to Acme’s SAP system, but we cannot print SAP documents to a printer located in our company’s office. What solution is available to enable this print capability in a secure manner? We also print a lot of labels, so we need support for Zebra and Zebra-compatible label printers.”
- “We are a private healthcare clinic, but we have a relationship with a large hospital in the area. We can access the hospital’s EMR system, but we do not have an easy way to print documents securely from the EMR system to a printer in our facility. Security is important because PHI data is often involved.”
- “I work from a home office as do many of my colleagues. I have a requirement to access a critical business application that generates special documents for partners and customers. The application is designed to print directly, but the IT staff claim that there is no easy way to print to the network printer that I have at home. It’s ‘on an island’, so they say.”
- “Our startup company has many small offices around the country, and we use shared office space locations. We need to access business applications that run in the central data center and send documents to network printers in the remote offices. We can access the applications via HTTPS over the public Internet, but the applications do not have network visibility to the printers in our shared office locations. How do we work in a modern, borderless IT environment?”
There is a common theme in all these examples, namely, remote office workers access a company’s critical business applications over the public Internet and initiate print requests, but the destination print devices are not on the company’s internal network. Security is also an important consideration because the documents often contain sensitive information.
So, how does LRS’ affiliate printing solution address these market requirements? It is not magic, but it does use some innovative technology, such as a cloud-based notification service that LRS runs and maintains for customers. Our solution uses HTTPS to securely deliver the print job from the application-hosting data center to the remote office, where it is printed on a local network-connected device. Status information is also returned, so the application hosting organization has a complete audit trail of “who printed what, when and where.” The following graphic provides a high-level overview:
Please note that our affiliate printing solution is independent of “how” remote users access business applications over the Internet. Your organization decides that. Our value relates to the bottom arrows on this graphic, where the LRS Enterprise Output Management software supports the application back-end printing process.
This solution is a real game-changer. With just a little imagination, you can identify many use case scenarios that can be enabled by it. In a nutshell, you now can securely deliver application output to any network printer in the world via the public Internet. All you need is a little cooperation from the owners of those remote printers – your affiliates.
If you would like to learn more about this new solution, reach out to your LRS contacts. We are happy to talk through the technical details and arrange a test drive.