With Latest Launch, Toshiba Wants to Make Print Flow

Toshiba recently launched e-BRIDGE Global Print, the latest piece of its Elevate Sky cloud platform. According to Toshiba, it tackles the challenges of remote and multi-location printing by “allowing users to print a single, secure, cloud-based print queue and then release prints upon end-user command at any Toshiba e-BRIDGE MFP with Global Print installed.”

In our briefing with Toshiba’s Vice President of Solutions and Outbound Marketing Kerstin Woods and Director of Technical Marketing Manny Sahu, we saw the results of a recent survey Toshiba conducted to get the pulse of print end users as we emerge from COVID lockdowns.

“Print is still perceived as really strong and beneficial across the board,” said Woods, pointing to results showing 81% of respondents paid more attention in meetings with a printed copy of the materials, and 75% found it easier to focus on printed documents versus on-screen versions.

The snag with office printing, of course, is that much of the post-COVID workforce is remote or hybrid — or wants to be, at any rate. This means flexibility is required, which puts demands on users and IT departments. Users, according to Toshiba, struggle with knowing which printer to use and often are presented with just a list of IP addresses that mean nothing. Multiple steps may be required for them to set up each printer they want to use, which can be tiresome when dealing with multiple locations. Meanwhile, for IT there is the issue of setting up drivers for each device and printer, managing drivers and print servers, and serving as a print support desk (remember the old mantra about “IT hates print”?)

Global Print, says Toshiba, solves these issues with a cloud service using a universal print driver that delivers encrypted print requests to the cloud and releases them via PIN code or access badge. Toshiba’s Elevate Sky is hosted on Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, and Global Print authenticates users through their Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace accounts. Woods emphasized the focus on security and encryption – the document, once sent to the Global print queue, is turned into a PDF and the channels both up to and down from the cloud are encrypted and highly secure. The cloud also makes it easy to monitor usage and create and download reports that allow effective print management.

How does Global Print differ from previous offerings? Past solutions were more on-premises solutions, according to Sahu. “This is more of an anywhere workforce type of solution,” he said, noting that several other solutions will be added to the Elevate Sky platform this year as well.

“We acknowledge that print has to be an integral part of the digital landscape,” said Woods, “so we’re really focused on both. The interface between those two worlds is really important.”

The cost of the solution is a one-time flat fee of $720 (MSRP) per device for the life of the device, and it works on all Toshiba devices from the last two generations (roughly seven years), per Sahu.

Our Take

In a post-pandemic world (if that’s what we’re in), cloud is king. The rush to go remote back in 2020 turned the tide of digital transformation into a tsunami, and there’s no going back. Toshiba has embraced this, in particular with its rollout of Elevate Sky in August 2021. A cloud platform designed to “streamline the print-to-digital cloud journey through a single platform,” it merged several of the company’s cloud offerings within one overarching platform.

As with many things related to managed print, Global Print isn’t necessarily breaking new ground; rather, it’s making the existing ground easier to navigate. And as an added bonus, it’s framing Toshiba as a cloud-first, digitally advanced organization, which is what most print OEMs have recognized as a necessity these days.

Whether or not users need to print is no longer the point. Humans like a low barrier to entry, and as long as printing is available, accessible, and simple, users will do it. The key, then, is making it so – from anywhere. Despite articles like the one from the WSJ titled “Free Pizza Didn’t Get Employees Back to the Office, but Air Conditioning Will,” there is a surge of workers who won’t entertain a job that involves being in the office full time, and plenty of companies that will ensure they don’t have to. Making printing simple to do for users and to manage for IT staff will keep those print engines going long after any absolute need to print is gone. With Elevate Sky and Global Print, Toshiba is doing just that.

is editorial director of BPO Media’s publications Workflow and The Imaging Channel, and senior analyst for BPO Research. As a professional writer and editor, she has specialized in the office technology industry for the last 20 years. Prior to that she worked in public relations and has a master's degree in communication arts.