Follow-Me/Secure-Release/Pull-Printing Options Offer New Opportunities

by West McDonald

You are proud of your MPS offering. And so you should be! You’ve invested in sophisticated print-monitoring software. You’ve hired and trained an MPS sales specialist. You’ve perfected your CPP billing model. You offer an incredible range of options for single-function printers and multifunction devices. If you’re really rockin’ the MPS world, you have both OEM and compatible toner options for your customers, and you’re delivering toner “just in time.” Congratulations! Good for you! Amazing! Now all that’s left is to get a bag big enough to hold all that money you’re going to bring in!

And then you wake up only to realize that your basic MPS offering has become, in the blink of an eye, just like a thousand others in the marketplace. Where did all the competition come from? More importantly, how do you get ahead of it?

There is good news when it comes to solutions that can set you ahead of the regular MPS crowd. There is an exploding category of MPS solutions that are comparatively easy to get a handle on while offering a plethora of benefits to the end user: secure-release and follow-me/pull printing. Not as complicated as building a document-management practice, but full of benefits that will help you and your customers better control pages. When it comes to reduction of wasted and abandoned pages, nothing works better.

Follow-me what?

So what is follow-me/pull printing anyway? When trying to visualize this, you need to forget about printing to any specific device. A user basically prints to a secure “print cloud” within the office, and output can be retrieved from a selected device. It’s pretty slick, and if combined with a card-swipe option, it becomes uber-cool. Most secure-release/pull-printing options can also be used to do audit trails on what users have printed, copied, scanned and faxed. Taken to its full potential, pull printing allows users to release jobs from any print-enabled device in the office. So if you arrive to an MFD and discover you are sixth in line, you simply walk over to another print-enabled device with less foot traffic and release it there. Beyond just being really, really cool, users will see positive impacts on workflow. And as a dealer, you will bring your MPS conversation to a whole new level.

For secure-release/pull printing to work, a user must “authenticate.” What is authentication? Secure-release and pull printing requires a user to check in at a device before any print jobs can be released. Instead of forgotten jobs cluttering up the output tray, the print job has to get permission from its user to become a printed page. Most hardware manufacturers offer some kind of pin-code release option on their devices (though these are not really pushed very hard, as they actually decrease printing — imagine!), and many are beginning to offer card-swipe access with existing HID or magnetic-stripe cards. Card-swipe is the simplest, quickest and coolest way for a user to release print jobs today. Each printer/MFD can be equipped with an HID or magnetic-stripe reader, and users can simply release print jobs with their existing swipe-cards. The only downside is cost: A card-reader option runs anywhere from $250 to $350 USD per device, but this price continues to drop. I suspect it won’t be long before card readers are available for less than $100 per unit, which will go a long way in increasing their use. Third-party options offer integration with LDAP servers and Active Directory to make user integration across multivendor platforms relatively simple.

Who cares?

Why would your customers care about pull printing? What benefits will they actually experience, and are they large enough to warrant changing how they print pages? Pharos shared with me a case study on one of its customers — one of the largest IT integration companies in North America (a white paper study of the company, CA, is on the Pharos website). In 2009, CA implemented Pharos Blueprint in all 54 of its U.S. offices. The result? For the period of April through July 2009, the company brought its clicks down from 10 million pages to 7 million pages. The reduction in page output was so dramatic that CA reduced its MFD fleet size from more than 300 devices to just under 225. In the words of Brett Prochazka, CA’s senior principal of facilities services, the program has been so successful for them that “people in our offices outside the U.S. can’t wait to get Pharos.”

One thing I really like about secure-release/pull printing is that it benefits the “general” office space. What I mean by that is it is a solution that will have benefits for customers regardless of what vertical they are in. Whether legal, manufacturing, financial or nonprofit, every customer has abandoned pages and a desire for better protection of confidential print.

Let’s tackle some of the basic benefits to the customer. When we understand these, it becomes very clear why this burgeoning area of MPS is so popular.

Savings from waste reduction

When it comes to really saving customers money — a lot of money — we need to look at reducing waste and abandoned documents. Independent software vendor (ISV) secure-release/pull-print solutions allow print and copy privilege settings that are extremely granular. Settings can be defined right down to the individual user as well as by application (such as a print policy setup that automatically prints e-mails in monochrome and only allows attachments to be printed in color) or any other combination in between. The level of detail and control with respect to what, when and how users print is a large contributor to the dramatic cost reductions gained from these solutions.

Secure-release/pull printing eliminates waste both by reducing abandoned pages and by enforcing color restrictions and duplex printing. And if an organization can reduce its volumes by 30 percent, or more, there is a good chance it can reduce its printer-fleet size, which will result in measurable carbon-footprint shrinkage.

ISVs that produce pull-printing and secure-release solutions claim that such solutions will help customers reduce total volume outputs by around 25 to 40 percent. That is a huge amount of potential savings that Pharos seems to back up with its published case study of CA. Let’s look at an example. For a customer printing 14,000,000 monochrome pages a year at 2 cents per page, that is a savings of $70,000 to $112,000 every year. That is some serious coin and offers the customer far more savings than a marginally lower CPP rate ever could.

For those of you with a good base of CPP contracts, I can hear you gasping at the thought of reducing your bread and butter by 30 percent or more. The easy answer: Mum’s the word on volume reduction! Seriously, though, this is a good time to suggest that as you build or refine your MPS revenue model, you be conscious of including possible volume reductions in your revenue plans. Maintain and gain. If it’s not us, it will be our competitors; of that we can be sure.

Greening initiatives

Debates will continue to rage over whether the summers are getting hotter or if sea levels are continuing to rise, but one thing is certain: Your customers are thinking about “greening” initiatives. Have you seen the number of “green” products offered at Walmart these days? If they’ve invested in green, then you know it’s mainstream. What your customers care about at home, they care about at work. True story; go ahead and ask them. And reducing wasted pages is one way for them to showcase their company’s panache for green. Secure-release/pull printing eliminates waste both by reducing abandoned pages and by enforcing color restrictions and duplex printing. And if an organization can reduce its volumes by 30 percent or more, there is a good chance it can reduce its printer-fleet size, which will result in measurable carbon-footprint shrinkage. And these are all good things it will want to share with customers to show off its green thinking and actions.


I have yet to do a site survey without users telling me not to remove their local printer because they have confidential print needs. Secure-release printing will give them a more cost-effective way to ensure that confidentiality is actually increased, as jobs are never released until a user authenticates it and picks it up. Users will still make a stink about losing their desktop prints, but what else is new? People like convenience, and companies don’t want to pay for it; it’s been a cycle we in the managed print space have had to deal with for years now. But the hard fiscal truth is that if management understands that a desktop printer is eight to 10 times more expensive than a network laser device and that confidential print is not at risk, then their users will have to live with losing their hallowed inkjets. And they can do so with the confidence that document security will be tighter than ever.

Security and compliance

It is a documented fact that most corporate espionage and information leakage happens from employees within an organization and not from hackers in basements in Russia. Secure-release/pull-printing options discussed here can help minimize some of this internal espionage. All of these options have the ability to track users and the jobs they print, scan, fax and copy. If a security breach ever occurs, these solutions can give management the peace of mind that they’ll understand the who, what, where and when of such document abuse. Staff, knowing that management has this capability to see what documents are produced, will think twice before engaging in any questionable printing behavior.

A user basically prints to a secure “print cloud” within the office, and output can be retrieved from a selected device. It’s pretty slick, and if combined with a card-swipe option, it becomes uber-cool.

Compliance needs have increased dramatically over the years as well, and secure-release printing helps with that too. Although not a document-management solution that stores documents digitally, secure-release can hold onto valuable information such as job names, formats and times of execution. A document-management solution does a much better and thorough job of helping companies meet their compliance directives, but secure-release/pull printing at the very least allows for a gentle introduction to the possibilities. These baby steps could get people thinking more seriously about document management in the near future, and this could lead to more revenue for you as their trusted partner.

Making pull print personal: The usual suspects

When discussing secure-release/pull printing with customers, it’s a good idea to understand some typical office/user scenarios. The following examples are typical in most offices today.

The Jammer

You walk up to the copier only to discover that it is jammed. You don’t want to deal with it because you know the last person who used it likely was printing a 6,000-page tome that only got to the third page before jamming. So you go back to your desk and print the document again, only this time to another MFD. When somebody finally gets around to calling Support, and another person eventually comes and unjams the MFD, a gazillion pages that nobody needs anymore make their way out onto the office floor.

Secure-release/pull printing can help avoid situations like these. Users who sees a downed device can simply walk over to another machine that is in good working order, swipe their proximity cards and have their jobs release there. They get their jobs faster, and there is no waste waiting to come out of the abandoned device held captive by The Jammer.

The Hogger

Every office has one. No matter what you’re trying to do, whether it be getting your printed pages or a cup of coffee, The Hogger has everything tied up. It’s Monday morning, and you’re getting set for the meeting of the century. All you need to do is pick up the three copies of the soon-to-be-signed paperwork for your soon-to-be-largest client. As you round the corner to pick up your printed gold, you notice The Hogger is there ahead of you, busy hogging the scanner glass for copying Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Three of your co-workers are already waiting behind him impatiently, and you join the line.

Secure-release/pull printing to the rescue! Seeing that the device is busy, the user simply moves on to another print device to avoid lines and get the job printed faster. Most devices in an office are underutilized, and having the ability to move to the first available device will help distribute jobs more evenly. The user doesn’t have to go back to his or her desk and resend the print job; it’s much easier to walk over to a new device and simply swipe a card.

The Luddite

There are usually more than a handful of these folks, and they are nice people … as long as they aren’t allowed within 30 yards of any technology-based device. As soon as they get near one, you can see the confusion that comes over them at the thought of attempting to accomplish the simplest technological task. They can make a five-minute scan-to-e-mail take half the day.

The technologically challenged can be helped by secure-release/pull printing as well. Most of the ISV tools I’ve looked at allow for individual user settings that can follow users to any device they print or copy from. Macros can also be set up to transform multilevel printing/scanning tasks into single-step executions. It can also restrict privileges like who gets to print color and from which applications.

Who are the players?

There is a host of ISVs for you to start talking to — Print Audit, Pharos, PaperCut, JetMobile and Equitrac, to name a few. However, this article is not an exposé of the providers of secure-release/pull-print solutions. There are some links at the end for you if you care to learn more about each of their solutions, though, and I suggest you contact them all. I thought it would be nice to talk to a couple of the leaders in the MPS software space to get their take on secure-release/pull printing. I had a chance to speak with both Pharos and PrintAudit to discuss their views.


Pharos Systems International began its software days in Aukland, New Zealand, in 1992. Its world headquarters are now located in Rochester, New York. Pharos calls its secure-release/follow-me print solution “Blueprint Enterprise” and markets itself as a premium secure-release/pull-print solution.

How users interface with the Pharos Blueprint software depends on the device. If the customer has some of the newer MFDs that allow for embedded applications, Pharos iMFPs (integrated MFPs) can be installed. This is by far the most economical and feature-rich method of authentication for the platform. For older devices/single-function printers, users can authenticate using Omega PS60 or Omega PS200 terminals. I am not a huge fan of external interface devices, but they are absolutely necessary to capture and control multivendor and multiaged fleets. This model is typical for solutions like Equitrac and PaperCut as well.

I spent some time speaking with Bill Fullaway at Pharos, and I asked him what set Pharos apart from other pull-print providers. “Pharos Systems stands out in their unique ability to deploy at an enterprise level, across thousands of locations in a heterogeneous environment, supporting hundreds of thousands of users and tens of thousands of devices,” Fullway said.

From what I’ve seen to date, Pharos currently supports the most manufacturers when it comes to embedded application of their pull-print solution. Fullaway felt this was important to both the vendor and the end user. “By having the software applications embedded on the device, it simplifies a dealer’s message to the customer that these capabilities are inherent to the machine rather than systems outside the box,” Fullaway said. Makes sense: The more something looks like an “add-on,” the more likely IT will fight it. Embedded solutions, even if they are third-party, feel and look much more like they came on the box to begin with.

Fullaway also talked with me about the importance of simplifying security and workflow for customers. “From a customer perspective, the security, single sign-on and workflow integrations across multiple applications are starting to emerge, which enable a greater level of productivity and security.”

Pricing a Pharos Blueprint solution (or any pull-print solution so far) requires some practice, but no need to worry; I’m sure there is a sales rep ready to help. I have worked with Pharos’ pricing model, and here is my amateur understanding of how it works: You need to understand how many users there are, how many iMFP-capable devices there are (a full list of compatible devices can be found on the Pharos website), how many single-function printers there are, how many legacy MFPs there are (which could require a release terminal), and whether users are going to use pin-code authentication or card-swipe (the latter requires card readers for all devices). Oh, and don’t forget configuring and pricing the right-sized server on which to install the main components.

Print Audit

Print Audit has really been involved in user-based accounting and rules-based printing longer than anybody else on the list (at least in North America, and as long as I’ve been in managed print, which is going on nine years). It has done a phenomenal job of becoming a known and respected leader in this space — in large part due to the customer-centric approach of President and CEO John MacInnes.

Given Print Audit’s leadership in the MPS software-tools space, I was surprised not to have seen a secure-release/follow-me offering from Print Audit yet. I had a chance to speak with MacInnes about this. “Print Audit Secure is in Beta testing right now and will be released at the end of June,” he told me. “It has been a long time coming just because we decided to do something different and build a better system.”

What exactly is different and better about Print Audit Secure? “The cool part about Print Audit Secure is that any Web-enabled device can be a release station. So, a smart phone, a web tablet, or a computer. This eliminates costly release stations that are required by other systems. A job can also be released by card. We will have an embedded client for Ricoh MFPs to start and other OEMs will follow quickly.”

This is a big innovation, as release terminals cost anywhere from $350 to $1,500 for every printer or MFD that requires one. MacInnes said, “Secure is a hybrid. It will capture the jobs at the desktop ensuring that everything gets captured and then hold the jobs on the Print Audit Secure Server (PASS) until they are released. Oh, and finally,” he added, “the cost will be $1.00 per device per month in North America.”

This is by far the most cost-effective and simple pricing model I’ve seen in the pull-printing space. Other pull-printing solutions I know of cost roughly $350 per printer in year one and 20 percent maintenance in year two, and you have to price each user as well, which runs between $3 and $9 per user in year one and 20 percent maintenance in year two. You also have to pay for release terminals on devices not able to support embedded software. So for a 100-device environment with 1,000 users, a typical pull-print solution would run a customer about $35,000 to $45,000 in year one. Print Audit Secure would only cost $1,200 in year one. I haven’t seen the product yet, and neither will most of you until sometime in June, but at such a drastic pricing differential, you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be kicking the tires.

How do I get started?

In the words of Zig Zigler, “To respond is positive, to react is negative.” Follow-me/secure-release printing is here to stay; how you approach this reality is entirely up to you. The technology curve in the print and copy space is growing exponentially, and I’m certain that this new area of managed print is only the beginning. Now that the manufacturers have all enabled their devices to support third-party pull-print solutions, it is only a matter of time before other solutions come along with benefits that are beyond prediction. The MFD has become a sophisticated computing device, and customers are going to look for ways to capitalize on that to reduce their printing and associated costs. For the dealers and vendors that take advantage of secure-release/pull-printing solutions, there is certainly huge potential to capture more customers than those MPS providers that continue to offer basic CPP programs. It’s your move.