Ask most small- to medium-sized business (SMB) owners and managers about their top concerns and you’ll typically hear answers along the line of “money,” “efficiency” and “security.” A recent survey by Xerox and Coleman Parkes Research reinforces this: Among more than 1,000 small and medium businesses worldwide, the top-ranked business priorities included “growing the business,” “increased productivity through improved workflow/business processes,” “reduced printing costs” and “improved security/disaster recovery.”

Do these concerns strike a familiar chord? And if so, what is your game plan to meet these challenges? SMBs, which often operate with fewer resources than their enterprise-level brethren, must navigate a tricky path when it comes to dealing with these issues, all of which are inexorably tied together. As the world becomes ever-more connected, mobile and online, security continues to rise to the top of the list of concerns for many organizations. Often, SMBs lack dedicated IT departments, making it difficult to implement more complex time- and money-saving solutions and to deal with the issues that can arise from the connected environment in which they must exist. For business owners, the right technology partner can make all the difference in the world when it comes to navigating these challenges.

Cloud is a solution for small and medium sized businesses

Hosted, cloud-based models for managed print services (MPS) are becoming increasingly popular, offering most of the benefits and fewer management hassles and added costs associated with on-premise solutions. Through these hosted models, small businesses can enjoy not only the standard benefits of an optimized managed print environment, which can reduce print costs by as much as 30 percent, but enterprise-class solutions such as a dedicated help desk, always-up-to-date technology and optimized, automated workflows. Combining intelligent devices with powerful analytics, today’s intelligent MPS can take SMBs to the next level. The added benefit of a cloud-based model run on Cisco’s borderless network architecture allows SMBs to get the maximum benefits of Xerox Managed Print Services on a truly global, mobile and secure network that extends the essential pillars of networking—accessibility, availability and security—to print devices.

Security is a necessity

While accessibility and availability are critical issues, small and mid-size businesses bring with them an enhanced need for security—arguably the most critical issue when it comes to networked devices. And today’s smart MFPs (multifunction printers)—connected to computers, servers and cloud resources and accessible by users not only locally but often remotely—are most certainly network devices. A Quocirca report, “Print security: An imperative in the IoT era,” found 72 percent of respondents recognized operating an insecure print infrastructure as a major concern, and specifically, access to the network through an unsecured MFP was a top concern for 67 percent of respondents.

While MPS has become a productivity asset for mobile workers, it also represents a very real potential security risk for organizations, as it provides a path, via the MFP, both to and from the network. Documents are scanned directly to email or cloud-based applications, files are hosted in the cloud and accessed from the MFP, and workers print from their personal mobile devices, all adding to the potential for increased security compromises.

Preventative Security Steps in Small-Mid-size Office Environments

Document capture and workflow solutions integrated at the smart MFP can help combat the security risk of data leakage, intentional or otherwise. For example, businesses using Xerox MFPs with Xerox® ConnectKey® technology for distributed document capture benefit from not only streamlined workflows and reduced costs, but customizable security allowing for increased compliance for essential documents. A solution that logs and reports all system actions allows for documenting and creating audit trails. Creating and customizing internal policies can enforce compliance with any number of industry-specific regulations such as HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, OSHA and more. Offering secure email connectivity, Cisco TrustSec integration encrypts data transfer between Xerox® ConnectKey® enabled MFPs and external mail servers, while ConnectKey users can also password-encrypt PDF files when using scan-to-email, protecting documents after they leave the network firewall.

Controlling content as it moves to and from the MFP is important, but also critical to security is the device itself. Just like computers, MFPs contain hard drives that store documents and data and create the same type of potential security threat as a computer that can extend to all devices on the network. Familiar problems can be combatted with familiar solutions, such as McAfee security tools that work with Xerox® ConnectKey® enabled devices to protect and scan the MFP. Whitelisting allows only approved files to run, while unauthorized access detection prevents tampering with files—essentially treating the MFP’s hard drive just like the one in a PC.

Other important security measures include the ability to encrypt information stored on the drive to allow access to only certain users. Disk encryption features include automatic disk wiping and log wiping; features that can also help protect data in the event of the physical theft of the device or drive. Look for industry standards when it comes to disk encryption—Cisco TrustSec, for example, uses the high-level security standard of 256-bit encryption.

Combining resources is a game changer for small and mid-size businesses

It is a tricky and often-treacherous IT landscape out there, and small and medium sized businesses seeking to navigate it need top-notch tools and resources—or, even better, an MPS partner that can provide the necessary hardware, software and support in an all-in-one package. The ability to monitor devices and users, control costs and reduce waste is a critical part of traditional MPS; workflow enhancement and document digitization is increasingly necessary to small and mid-size businesses seeking to further reduce costs while increasing efficiencies; and security is top-of-mind for any business operating in today’s connected environment—and any environment embracing MPS and workflow optimization is, by necessity, connected.

Small and mid-size businesses utilizing Xerox MPS hosted on Cisco’s borderless networks have access to enterprise-level resources without enterprise-sized overhead costs. For an organization wanting to stay ahead of the competition and yet secure in a virtual minefield-laden world, selecting the right partner can be the difference between success and a literal disaster.

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