With cyber attacks on the rise, customers are often more interested in talking about comprehensive security than printing. To meet this challenge, you need to get your audience’s attention and learn how to shift the conversation to achieve your print objectives.

Why is printing a security topic? Almost every piece of valuable, personal, proprietary or otherwise critical information gets printed at some point. Think about employee evaluations and information, patient records, product or patent specifications, client lists and client data. The list can go on forever. All of this information is extremely valuable to your customer – and could be at risk every time it's printed.

While you don't want to be a fear monger when you talk to your customers, you must educate them on these facts and help them reach an informed decision. Never forget: Printing is not usually on people's minds when it comes to security, but it should be.

Here are the three steps to assisting customers in learning about and, ultimately, solving their print security issues.

  • Know the security dangers. Be sure you’re prepared to articulate every angle of how hackers can attack the printing process before you ever talk to a client. Be able to explain that print data is not encrypted and is really easy to “read” and intercept. Be poised to point out that the content of print jobs is often highly confidential, but just sits in a tray. Also, be ready to address how VPNs are the least efficient way to connect branch offices and remote sites for printing, and that, while security always sounds complicated and expensive, print security can actually be cost efficient and relatively simple.
  • Identify the right customer contacts. How do you get the conversation started? How do you identify whom you should be talking to about security topics? First off, be sure to analyze your client base to identify those who would be receptive to a security message. Once you’ve identified your best prospects, start with talking to personnel at the company with whom you have a good relationship. Be sure you know the data and information that is most valuable to that organization’s business or industry. Do your research. Then, ask your existing contacts whom you should be talking to about security. Try not to give away all the information you have to your existing contact as you want to be the one presenting a convincing story to the appropriate person.
  • Explain the critical issues and the solutions you can offer. Once you’re in front of the right person, here is where you get detailed about the risks. Lay out how printing is an unencrypted imaging format. As long as someone captures enough data, the material can almost effortlessly be reverse engineered into the original content and can be nefariously modified. Of course, hard copies can also be easily stolen. The solution: Personal Printing, Secure Printing or FollowMe printing. These are terms for a concept in which a user prints in the typical manner from a desktop but must then authenticate using a pin, password or smart card swipe to retrieve the print job. To implement this approach, make sure your solution supports and prints on any mix of printer models, especially those that don’t require expensive additional hardware. Also, be certain it stores all jobs centrally so the user doesn't have to pick a printer at the time when they print.

In addition, be sure to lay out how a hub for print data in remote locations, like branch offices, can establish a secure SSL connection. This makes it safe and less expensive to transmit the print data from the customer’s data center to a remote site and distribute them on the remote site’s local network. Most organizations will secure these set ups with a VPN. However, the rise of web applications, virtual desktop rollouts and an overall trend toward centralized data processing have greatly decreased the need for VPNs. An SSL solution is not only much more cost effective to deliver, but it also has a much smaller hardware footprint at the remote site, is easier to administer, can be highly available and is something you as a print specialist can deliver.

As soon as you have traction with a client, be positioned to partner with experts from a vendor who can deliver the solutions described above. You’ll need to move quickly because as soon as you have a client who understands the value of print security, they’ll want to embrace the solutions you have to offer.

Henning Volkmer
Henning Volkmer

is president and CEO of ThinPrint, a leading provider of print management software and services for businesses.