The big challenge with printers is how to make them easily accessible to staff when they come into the office.  

Over the past 10 years, most information systems have transitioned over to the cloud.  Email, files, financial management systems, program focused databases and other applications are all now cloud hosted for most organizations and can be accessed from anywhere. There are still a few systems, however, that must be hosted on your premises if you are in an office space. Read on to learn about managing printing in the modern office for nonprofits. Or if you like podcasts, you can hear Johan talk about this topic here.

For those organizations that still have offices and staff that regularly work from the office, whether full-time or hybrid, there are typically three systems that create management complexity.

  1. Networking
  2. Printers
  3. A/V equipment

Networking involves the connection between laptops and the internet. It always involves an Internet connection and firewall along with either or both physical (aka ethernet) and wireless networking (WiFi). Networking infrastructure is required for staff in a shared office environment to access the Internet and any other locally hosted network resources.

Nowadays, the only locally hosted network resources are usually printers and A/V equipment. If you do still have a server closet somewhere and are not sure what those servers do, contact your IT provider.


In the pre-cloud era, most organizations had a server in their office – a large computer that hosted a variety of resources, like user accounts, email, files, etc. Printers were installed “directly” to the server and then shared out to desktops and laptops. Installing shared printers was easy for staff and, in many cases, could be automated. So staff would just see their printers when they logged into their computer in the office, and when you needed to print something, you would choose which printer to use then go pick up the document. With servers being phased out, this is no longer possible for most offices.

The big challenge with printers in our hybrid work environment is how to make them easily accessible to staff when they come into the office with their portable laptop. You need to be managing printing in the modern office. The access to office-located printers must still be managed and regulated to allow staff – when in the office – to use the office printer/s. One option is to require staff to manually install their own printer “directly” over the network. We don’t recommend it. This tends to be time consuming and confusing for most staff. It is theoretically an option, but isn’t really practical.

*Note on direct printer installation. In the old, old days, printer access had to be installed physically. You’d connect your printer to your computer through a large cable, originally LPT1, which was eventually replaced by a cable to a USB port. Cloud networked printers use what is called an “IP port”, which is a networking version of a USB port. To install a printer “directly” you have to create an IP port using the IP address of your networked printer. If you are confused just reading this, imagine how hard it is to do in practice, and to change it every time the printer IP changes or you get a new printer.

A new solution to help make printing more user-friendly and automated is known as “cloud managed printing.” Although the name suggests that the printers are accessed through the cloud and could theoretically be accessed and print from anywhere to anywhere, this is not the case. Printers are still only accessible and available from the local network in the office.

With cloud-managed printing solutions, the installation details of every printer at a particular office is stored in the cloud. There is also a special software agent that runs on the staff member’s computer. When the agent detects that the computer is on the office network, it downloads the latest configuration settings from the cloud and automatically (and silently!) installs the latest printers. When the agent detects that the computer is away from the office network, access to those printers is removed.

Cloud managed printing works seamlessly and has a number of advantages over the older server-managed printing setup.

  1. Printers only appear when the computer is on the office network.
    This means that your personal work laptop won’t offer you the option of printers that you can’t access, unless you are in the office. When you are at home, if you have a home printer, it will be the only option available.
  2. Old printers can be retired and new printers brought online easily and remotely through the cloud management interface.
    This means that your IT support can work on the back end to make updates in one place that are provided to all users, rather than having to update each laptop with the new printer address and delete the old ones. The whole process can be handled entirely remotely.
  3. The entire process is invisible to the end user.
    In fact the end user should just see whatever printers are available whenever they work from the office, and they can even be labeled with the user-friendly “hall printer by reception” rather than an opaque list of printers named things like “HP3857931-5.” And there’s no need to ask staff to learn to take any actions to install their printers themselves.

Unfortunately, there is no comparable effortless solution for A/V equipment. If your hybrid office has invested in A/V options for zoom calls and conferences you know that all A/V takes hands on experience and troubleshooting.