Cisco, Xerox take on Google, HP over cloud printing

Cisco/Xerox to offer managed printing service for clouds, private and public

Cisco and Xerox announced today that are pairing up to offer cloud printing services for enterprises. Cisco has added Xerox Managed Print Services (MPS) to routers, switches, data center servers (UCS), Vblock, virtual desktops and the CIUS client. The cloud print services will be for sale through Cisco's channel this summer.

In addition to simply allowing users to print from mobile devices across a Cisco network, a public cloud or a private cloud, the plan lets network administrators monitor printers and implement policies that the companies say will protects confidential data.

The companies will build print agents into Cisco routers and switches, starting with the branch-office ISR. They will tap into Cisco's WAN acceleration gear to help print jobs travel faster, and will use Cisco security tools to keep the data from going from winding up in unauthorized hands, the companies said.

Xerox introduced the mobile printing system earlier this year, though this partnership with Cisco makes it a little easier for the enterprise to use it. Previously, the integration with devices was left to the enterprise or system integrator.

Cisco and Xerox aren't the first to the table with cloud print services. In March, HP announced that it was joining forces with Google to support Google Cloud Print, which lets Gmail and Google Docs users print from mobile devices like smartphones, tablets, or even Windows 7 netbooks. Google Cloud Print lets you print documents over an Internet connection without downloading printer drivers.

Users of the HP/Google combo don't need enterprise IT to step in and provide the service. Likewise, IT professionals are given no control or security over where documents are sent.

With the HP partnership, Google Cloud Print lets users remotely print documents over the Internet to select HP printers with the EPrint capability, in which an email with print instructions is sent directly to the printer. The mobile application needs to have Google's Cloud Print extensions. Users have to add the email address of an HP EPrint-enabled Photosmart, Envy, Officejet or LaserJet printer to a unique Google account tied to a smartphone or tablet. Multiple printers can be tied to one Google account, and on pushing the print command, users will be able to select the printer of choice. If a printer is powered down, the command will be added to a print queue.

Without the special HP hooks, a tablet user can still use Google Cloud Print but its not geared for enterprise use. A user sends documents from the tablet/smartphone to a PC connected to a printer. That PC has to have the Google Cloud Print connector downloaded and enabled in Chrome.

From an IT standpoint, offering cloud printing as a service, and gaining some aspect of management and security policy, seems to be a smarter choice than just letting users have at it by through services like Google Print. The companies say that they will eventually support other wares, too ... not requiring a Cisco network from end to end and supporting printers from companies other than Xerox.

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