A year ago this month Microsoft announced the worldwide availability of Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) hosted on their Azure cloud platform. WVD is a response to enterprise IT department demands to make the management of servers, desktop operating systems, and applications less burdensome and, in hindsight, was seemingly prescient to the needs of the new hybrid office and work from home transformation that COVID-19 pressed onto the world’s workplaces. The number of cloud print announcements and articles has also grown since last year as challenges grew for enterprises to deliver easy, secure, and managed printing capabilities to their distributed remote employees.

WVD lets enterprises quickly create scalable multisession deployments of the Windows 10 operating system (OS) and provide virtualized Microsoft 365 applications to users of desktops or laptops wherever they are located. Removing the need for IT to manage and update the OS and application installations on individual desktop PCs and laptops makes it a good solution to support the new hybrid office and work from home (or anywhere) workforce. WVD removes the need for local servers and, in the short term, provides IT cost savings to enterprises and SMBs alike.

Printing, and the resulting need to manage it, remains important in the migration to the cloud. However, many IT departments continue to use expensive to maintain local print servers to manage and control printing in enterprises. Cloud print management solutions deliver similar benefits to IT as WVD does in desktop and app deployments by removing print management pain points like:

  • Purchasing, installing, and managing local print servers
  • Installing, managing, and updating printer drivers
  • Support for mobile print needs
  • Active printer creation and administration of user access to the printer
  • Overall network print security

Combining a cloud print management solution and a WVD environment can enable an IT department to deliver a laptop or portable desktop PC quickly to a remote user and provide them print capabilities that can be easily supported, managed, and secured. We have written about many of the cloud print solutions now available from many of the major OEMs and software vendors.

ThinPrint’s ezeep cloud print solution is a bit unique. It provides the features expected such as driverless and serverless printing, print data encryption, easy and fast printer additions and configurations, pull printing, print tracking, print payment and quotas, print rules, mobile printing, guest printing, and many others. But while like many other cloud print management solutions it uses connectors that can be installed on a network-connected PC, laptop, or print server (wait a minute — isn’t cloud printing supposed to remove the need for a server?) ThinPrint also offers an appliance called “ezeep Hub.” The ezeep Hub appliance can be installed anywhere on the network where it automatically searches for printers. Printers can then be added to the ezeep cloud and assigned to users. Being the single point of contact to the cloud for all the enterprise’s printers, the ezeep Hub also adds a layer of security to help prevent network printer hacks.

ThinPrint’s ezeep was also the exclusive launch partner for WVD printing, making “ezeep for Windows Virtual Desktop” available on the Azure Marketplace at virtually the same time as WVD, and ThinPrint is one of three print solution providers listed on Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop partner integrations page. November 2019 saw the company announce the integration of the ezeep connector into the IGEL OS (IGEL is a leading provider of Edge OS solutions for cloud workspaces), in January “ezeep for Windows Virtual Desktop” received Citrix certification, and just this week the company announced the ezeep API for software developers to help companies switch from Google Cloud Printing that is being discontinued at the end of this year. It seems clear and impressive that ThinPrint is positioning itself to be a leader in cloud and virtual desktop printing solutions.

With studies showing more than half of businesses investing in remote monitoring of infrastructure, networks, and applications, 45% planning to invest in connectivity and network modernization, and 42% accelerating cloud adoption investment, there is much opportunity for imaging channel resellers. As IT continues to respond to the permanent need of supporting distributed workforces, printers will increasingly be viewed as “edge” points to make available to more widely adopted virtual desktop and thin client environments. Forward-thinking resellers will, as many already have, understand that providing a single service such as cloud print management risks falling further behind the competition. Helping customers support the new hybrid workplace with services that include management of Windows Virtual Desktop and integrating those environments with the proper cloud print management solution for the customer offers new business and growth opportunities for those imaging channel resellers that pursue those areas.

Thomas O’Neill, an analyst for BPO Media, is a 35+ year marketing and product strategy professional in the enterprise imaging and print industry. Beginning with positions in sales and training management, for the past 24 years he’s held director and manager positions at Canon, Océ, Lexmark and Minolta. He has extensive experience in hardware and software product marketing, strategic product planning and sourcing, solution sales, marketing content creation and strategies, branding strategy and vertical marketing strategies. Contact him at tom@bpomedia.com.