Technology Practice Tips Podcasts

Practical law practice technology concepts in an accessible, conversational manner with Phil Brown and David Whelan

Print Over the Internet

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The document-centric world of the lawyer means that, even in an otherwise paperless environment, you may need to print.  How do you do that without always having a printer with you?  Listen as we talk about using Internet printing, a useful tool when you're out of the office and using a phone or tablet and need to print.
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Speaker Key:   PB Phil Brown, DW David Whelan

PB:  Hi, it’s Phil Brown. I’m here with David Whelan, and today we’re going to talk about Internet printing.

DW:  Internet printing is one of those niche areas that is perfectly suited to a short podcast like this one. It’s not something that you’re going to do every day, but it’s a nice thing to have in your toolbox when you’re out and about and trying to get information sorted out or being more productive.

PB:  So Internet printing, just to be clear, is not when I print something on one of my networked printers in the office and then have to run around to various places to see where it ended up, is it?

DW:  No, but it’s the same concept. Essentially what you’re doing is taking that print job and putting it out somewhere on the Internet, and I’m assuming you’ll also be somewhere else outside of your network, so that you’re really using the Internet to send the print job back to your office. And it may be worth talking about what a print job is right now so that you get a sense of how that shifts out to the Internet. When you sit down at your computer in your office and you press the print button, the information is sent from your computer to a print server somewhere. In general you’re not printing directly to the printer unless that printer is actually connected to your computer. So that print job is sent out. It’s spooled up, in the terminology of the print world, and then it comes out on the pieces of paper at your printer.

And so you take all those concepts with you onto the Internet. When I’m on my tablet or my phone or laptop, and I’m away from the office, I can press the print button, have that information sent to a print server somewhere on the Internet, it will spool up, and then it will be spooled out of my printer, wherever that printer is.

PB:  And it goes to the location you tell it to go to.

DW:  Right.

PB:  And just to be clear on the process, as it’s spooling up and essentially just preparing that print job to print, is that being held by some third party? Is your information being held by a third party somewhere?

DW:  Absolutely. And it’s one of the things you really need to think about when you’re sending that print job. Two of the better-known Internet printing options are Google Cloud Print, where you set up a printer through your Google Chrome web browser and then print through the browser back to your office. You can do this on tablets and on laptops. Another is to use the printing options from your printer. HP, for example, has HP ePrint. And so HP, then, is the server, the print server, that you’re sending the job to. So you really need to know that that document, which may be confidential information, is being sent to a print server, and while it is on that print server and being spooled up, it is essentially on a third-party server out in the Internet. Sometimes it’s called cloud printing, but that’s not really what it is. It’s really just a print server like the one in your office.

PB:  Right. So do we need to worry about things like confidentiality?

DW:  Probably not. It’s probably the same challenge you have with email, which is that at some point, as long as the documents aren’t being stored permanently on those servers, and they’re just spooled up, it’s pretty much the same as what happens on your printer back in your office. Once the spooled document is spat out, it is often deleted from that printer, and so there’s no way to get to it. And so even if it’s on a third-party server, like an email, there’s no real way to get to it, unless someone’s really digging, or perhaps it’s been backed up at that moment.

PB:  Right. And we briefly alluded to it, although it is a slightly different animal, but printing on your own network – for a lot of people using home offices and wireless devices at home, how does that work with air printing and things like that?

DW:  It’s pretty much the same. If you have an Internet printing option, you can use it if you’re sitting in your office just as easily as sending it over the Internet. In fact, some of the concerns you might have about doing that are that if you have a Wi-Fi printer, a wireless printer where you can send the print job to your printer in your home office or your home, that printer should probably be secured – well, should definitely be secured – against other people also being able to print to it. And that’s one of the options that you’ll find in your wireless printing, is whether to allow just anybody to print to it, or to allow just people who have set up a secure connection to it to print to it.

PB:  Right. So the Internet printing that we’re talking about, you’re not actually ending up with a print copy in your hand on the spot.

DW:  No. And one of the interesting things about Internet printing, and one of the reasons that I think it is worth having in your toolbox is, I think of it as a productivity tool. If I’m out on the road or away from my office, and we can use the courtroom or a coffee shop as a good example, or I may just be sitting with my client and I have my wireless device open and we are talking about a document or we’ve agreed that a document is something that we want to investigate or follow up on further, and a document could be a Word document or it could be pictures, or it could be whatever, if I can send it back to my office through the printer and have it sitting there when I get back, it’s one less thing that I don’t have to think about organizing electronically on my device. And when I get back to the office or if I have staff waiting back at the office, they can start to triage and work on that information as soon as it gets into the stack. Or when I get back to the office, I’ve got essentially a to-do list of printed-off material that’s waiting for me.

PB:  Right. So it’s about efficiencies.

DW:  Right.

PB:  Anything else that we have to say about Internet printing?

DW:  Not really. I think it’s one of those little nice-to-haves. But you have to set it up in advance. So if you’re thinking about using Internet printing, go ahead and download the apps, configure whatever settings you need to, both on your printer, on your print server, which may be Google or it may be your printing company or your printer company’s site, and make sure that you’ve tested it out so that when and if you do need it, it actually works.

PB:  Right. And obviously we don’t endorse any particular products, but there are a lot of big names out there doing it and there are a lot of smaller companies doing it as well.

DW:  For sure.

PB:  All right. Thanks. That’s our look at Internet printing. Thanks, David.

DW:  Thanks Phil.