How’s the Cloud Working for You?


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How’s the Cloud Working for You?
Look for solutions that deliver the value your business needs

By Noel Ward, Editor@Large

One of the leading buzzwords of the decade is “Cloud.” The Cloud is not some magical satellite where all your data is secure. It’s just some servers someplace (good luck finding exactly where!) on which you may share space with other companies. This is pretty much OK because the levels of security, back-up, and encryption are solid. And, assuming you have a fast and secure internet connection, running some important aspects of your business from the Cloud is a no-brainer: It’s fast, reliable and offers functionality and speed well beyond that of the computers or software in your shop. Plus, it’s typically less expensive than buying and continuously upgrading software for all the computers in your operation. The Cloud also provides a giant “Easy Button” for your customers and staff. More on the “easy” part in a moment.

Once skeptical of the Cloud, I have come to like its capabilities and have been taking a look at the options out there, especially as they relate to print production. One of the more interesting, easy to use, and most well-thought out offerings I’ve seen is Canon’s new PRISMAprepare Go. Here’s an early link to a video (a landing page is still in process). It provides fast, easy job submission and a production management solution for smaller print shops to deploy while leveraging the Microsoft® Azure platform and security features.

Making Things Easy
So why go to the Cloud, given that Canon and others already have server-based (that is, running on your own computers) web-to-print software? Good question! Because the Cloud and PRISMAprepare Go is the Easy Button. Why? Well, as I dug into this topic the stat from some Canon research that grabbed me was that about two-thirds of print buyers use web-to-print solutions to submit some of their work. That sounds impressive on the macro level, right? But the “some” part is the tell: Down on Reality Street barely a quarter of print jobs are submitted via a web-to-print solution. Instead, buyers opt for email, FTP, Dropbox or other means, including physically delivering a job file on a flash drive. Does that sound “easy?” Does it sound like any customers you know? Sorry to be blunt, but that is so 1999. So why not make job submission and onboarding easy for customers and print providers alike?

Easy works like this. With a click or two, a customer goes to their own micro-portal in the Cloud bearing the branding of your shop and submits the job from there. Typing in the jobs specs is much quicker than talking with a CSR so jobs are submitted faster, more accurately, and can be put into production sooner. For users it is much easier than sending an email and comes with the ability to send larger files and check easily on the status of other jobs. This is superior to logging onto a print provider’s digital storefront, clicking through a few layers, filling out forms, and submitting a job.

The All Access Pass
Back in your shop, PRISMAprepare Go provides an all-access pass to the important aspects of a digital print job to authorized users in your shop, tracking and managing a job from submission through production. Real-time communication between PRSIMAprepare Go and supported digital printing presses helps automate prepress setup and imposition based on the available media catalogs and the finishing capabilities offered by a press. PRISMAprepare Go enables CSRs, prepress staff, press operators and more to stay on the same page (pun intended!) on every job.

Can much the same thing be done using server-based job submission and production workflow software? Of course, but many print shops don’t have the resources to deploy, integrate and maintain these solutions. The Cloud-based option is faster, easier, accessible from computers and handheld devices, while providing a single point of contact between a print provider and his/her customer. The upshot is that if you aren’t using the Cloud to bring jobs in faster and help streamline your workflow, your competition may take the opportunity and run with it. And wait, there’s more.

A Home in the Cloud
If you’re still thinking the Cloud is just a buzzword, think some more. PRISMAprepare Go is just the newest part of Canon’s PRISMA Home infrastructure. PRISMA Home customer portal for all PRISMA cloud enabled applications. It lets business owners, operations and production managers use a single Cloud-based access point and share storage across the PRISMA applications, while connecting and communicating with the digital production presses.

Seeing is one thing
What really pulled me into this is the bigger picture. Today’s technologies enable systems to capture immense amounts of data. The trick is making use of it. When stored on the Cloud and extracted by your systems this data can provide insights that might otherwise go unnoticed or not be available at all. Enabling this is PRISMAlytics Accounting and PRISMAlytics Dashboard. When properly configured, these tools can automatically collect and report on the activity and usage of all Canon PRISMAsync-driven devices. Automating this previously manual process helps provide faster and clearer insights on press utilization and up-time, job print history and user data to assist with cost analysis and charge backs.

For example, PRISMAlytics Accounting lets you see job print data reports of all the connected Canon PRISMAsync driven devices, so you can easily see and report on various aspects of jobs that have been printed, not only for those you are running today but ones from the previous week, month, quarter and year. This is not unlike some apps you may use on your smartphone, which provide information that can be used to help measure, track and set goals. Likewise, PRISMAlytics Dashboard provides the feedback for tracking performance of Canon PRISMAsync-driven devices and provides insights that can help optimize your productivity.

As I noted earlier, I used to be a tad skeptical about the Cloud, especially in commercial print environments. But no more. I use the Cloud every day and it not only works well, it makes life easier and more productive. Many print providers I know, and their customers, store hundreds of terabytes of data in the Cloud (with local wired backup and access) and also use the Cloud-based applications every day. They see less and less reason to keep data, and even some applications, local. With Canon moving more production workflow to the Cloud it is becoming a place for business growth. Take advantage of it!
When RedTie's Web To Print Software became available in the States (after having been a product launched in the UK in 2002) in 2009, all I heard was fear. Fear because people didn't understand what the cloud was and felt like they were losing control of their workflows. The first few years were steeped in educating the printers. As Apple and Google were offering more and more cloud based services, the acceptance of all SaaS was beginning to blossom. It amazes me that today, still, people are skeptical. It's one of the reasons that along with our other pricing promotions we offer a very inexpensive one for those printers who are only just ready to put a toe into the water now.


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