Five Reasons to Add a Content Management System to Active Directory

Active Directory and CMSMany of my clients are familiar with and use Microsoft Windows active directory tools. However, for those who may be wondering what active directory is, I’ll give a quick overview. Then, I’ll provide five reasons why you should incorporate a content management system with active directory for a higher level of document security.

What Is Active Directory?

Essentially, active directory is a directory service that functions as a central clearinghouse for all authentication and authorization transactions by user, computer, printer and/or group. A system administrator can use it to control access to folders, documents, software installation, updates and more based on various security identifiers.

How a CMS and Active Directory Work TogetherThis management tool, when it first came out with Windows NT (remember that?), was cutting edge, and it still is. However, it does have some drawbacks:

  • You can only allow or disallow access to documents.
  • It’s hard to track or audit who is accessing documents and what they are doing with them.
  • People that have “read only” access can still open that document and email/print/save it another version, or convert it to a PDF, before modifying it.
  • Individuals with full control can easily (albeit accidentally or purposely) destroy or delete the document.

Why Use a CMS with Active Directory?

One of the best ways to overcome the active directory drawbacks and improve your document security is by adding a content management system, or CMS, into the process. When the two work in tandem, you get:

  • Much finer granularity in permissions. The CMS offers more than a dozen permissions, as opposed to just read/write within the Windows environment.Content Management System plus Active Directory
  • A detailed audit log for tracking exactly what users are doing to documents (i.e., printing, emailing, modifying, etc.).
  • A system that ties easily into your current active directory environment for easy administration. It allows for “single sign-on” ability, meaning there’s no need for maintenance of users within the system. Individuals just log into a PC and the system knows who they are and what they are permitted to do.
  • The ability to allow/disallow a variety of actions (such as modify, email, print, view, delete and more) down to the individual user level.
  • The option to create a new version of a modified document, so that you never lose your original, no matter what permissions the end user has.

The combination of CMS and active directory are ideal if you do a lot of document scanning and management with your copiers and printers. If your business is located in Canton, Akron, Toledo or elsewhere in Ohio, contact me. I’d be happy to discuss in more detail how these two systems can work together to make your documents safer.

Reduce Printer & Copier Costs with App for Print Management, Part 5: Resources

Get simple print management softwareI hate it when I download an app to my smartphone, and it drains my battery life, needs updates every other day and causes operating system problems. It’s the same thing when it comes to good printer management software for your office.

As I finish up this five part series on the topic of how to track printer and copier use, my final word is that you want an app that’s not resource intensive.

Of course, the first thing you probably think of when I mention resources is cost. A couple months ago, when I blogged about the benefits of a print manager app, my first suggestion was find one that’s free. No monetary resources needed! Again, many printer and copier dealers will offer an app at no cost to you, so why pay for it?

But, beyond money, you should also be looking for print tracking software that:

  • Runs as a Windows service on a Windows-based machine or network. In other words, it should run silently in the background, taking up virtually no system resources.
  • Scans only once per hour. This is a feature you should be able to set per your preferences.
  • Scans a Class C network in 15 seconds and then goes back to sleep. Again, it runs quickly, efficiently and doesn’t bog down your network or PC.
  • Sends data automatically via encryption over the Internet. That way you don’t need to use up any of your time checking or reviewing data. Your copier or printer dealer should send you a simple report as often as you want it.

The advantage of a print management app is its simplicity. For no cost and virtually no system resources, it will give you an accurate snapshot of how much your printer fleet is costing you based on print volume. The data can be viewed at the corporate level or broken down by department or even individual printer or copier.

If you’re a “bean counter” or IT manager, this is beautiful! If you’re not currently using this type of app, what are you waiting for?

If your business is located in Canton, North Canton, Akron, Toledo or beyond, contact us for more information about printer manager software and other managed print services.


Six Steps to Better Electronic Document Security

six document security tips for the digital ageThe Internet has been called the Information Superhighway, and it certainly has revolutionized information storage and sharing for the better. However, along with all this mind-blowing technology comes the need for ultra-vigilant document security, wherever those documents may reside.

No matter what business you’re in, chances are good that you’ve got sensitive stuff to protect. When it comes to multi-function printers and copiers, most come with STANDARD layers of security. But, that may not be enough to keep everything safe. You have to consider the serious risks you open yourself up to if personal or financial statements, health records, confidential government information or sensitive corporate data “escapes” or is stolen. We’re talking liability claims, financial loss and even criminal penalties.

And, don’t forget all the federal mandates now in place for compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLB), Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), and security-relevant policies like NSTISSP #111 and DoD Directive 8500.12. Overwhelming, right?

That’s why I always recommend that you take a multi-layer approach to securing electronic documents and data. Because I work mainly with Sharp copier and printer solutions, I will specifically address the innovative options available to Sharp users. If you use another brand, check with your dealer to see if these can be implemented on your system.

Some of the terms below are technical, but your IT department or provider will know exactly what I’m talking about.

Document Security Steps with a Multi-Function Printer/Copier

You can strengthen every link in your workflow chain as they relate to a multi-function printer (MFP) by addressing the following security topics:

All new Sharp MFPs come with a standard “End of Lease” feature that not only deletes files, addresses and settings, but also overwrites the harddrive data SEVEN times to completely erase sensitive data. (Yes, I said seven times!)

Some Sharp printers have an optional data security kit (DSK) helps protect and control major MFP systems and subsystems (print, copy, scan, fax jobs, network settings, operating system, memory components, local user interface, engine and job controller). The DSK uses the 128/256-bit advanced encryption standard (AES) algorithm on all data before it is written to RAM or flash memory and the hard disk. The DSK also provides overwriting routines for deleted data to help ensure all information is virtually irretrievable by unauthorized users.

To limit unauthorized access to each device, you can take advantage of Sharp MFP user account codes, access cards, user/group profiles, passwords or external user accounts contained in a lightweight directory access protocol (LDAP) or active directory server.

Sharp MFPs feature an intelligent network interface that can limit access to specific computers on a network by IP or Mac address and selectively enable or disable any protocol or service port on each device. All communications to and from the MFP can use secure socket layer (SSL) for secure transmission over the network.

The architecture of a Sharp MFP provides a logical separation between the fax, telephone line and LAN. It is, therefore, virtually impossible for attackers to gain access to the internal systems of the MFP or the local network.

Protection for all sensitive documents is available via Sharp encrypted PDF files for scanning and printing, or using SSL and TLS (transport layer security) protocols for scanning, printing, e-mail and setup.

The Sharp MFP internal audit trail and/or third party application software provides comprehensive auditing of all user activity. Certain federal regulations parameters – such as ‘to’, ‘from’, ‘when’ and ‘file name’ – can be logged, reviewed and archived for conformance.

If you own a business in Canton, North Canton, Akron or other location in Northeast Ohio and Toledo area and want a consult on document security, contact me for more information. I’ll be happy to discuss these tips with you in more detail.

Image credit: iserg / 123RF Stock Photo

Reduce Printer & Copier Costs with App for Print Management, Part 4: Security

Characteristics of non-invasive printing manager softwareIf you understand the benefit of good print management software (monitor copier and printer usage for cost-reduction purposes) and reviewed the apps that are compatible with your network (majority require a Windows-based server or PC), then hopefully you’ve had it installed and are happy with how it’s operating.

In an age of spyware and concerns about security breaches and stolen data, it’s important that you feel comfortable with how your print management app collects information. I’m sure you would agree – your software and its DCA (data collection agent) should not be intrusive. If you didn’t check on these issues prior to installation, it’s not too late to verify that your printer manager software:

  1. Only does a simple SNMP query on the network.
  2. Only communicates with printing devices.
  3. Only pulls information that is published in the public area of your devices.
  4. Gives you complete control over DCA behavior. You should be able to limit scan interval, IP range and overall operation.
  5. Will cache out 30 days worth of scan files on your server.
  6. Allow you to see the raw data file that’s transmitted to any third-party Web server for analysis.
  7. Should be compliant with HIPAA, Sarbanes Oxley, FISMA and GLBA.

Have peace of mind about your printing management system and the data it’s collecting. Take the time to research the app you’re using to ensure that it complies with these seven non-intrusive characteristics.

To learn more about non-intrusive print management software that’s available for businesses in Canton, North Canton, Akron, Youngstown and beyond, contact us.

Reduce Printer & Copier Costs with App for Print Management, Part 3: Installation

Print management softwareIn part one and two of this blog series, I provided an overview of the benefits of using print management software and what types of system requirements might be necessary. Today, I want hit the highlights of how to install a print management app.

But, let me first share this caveat. There are many printer manager programs out there, and I don’t work with all of them, of course. So, what I’ll share is the installation process for the app we trust and use most at Copeco. It will undoubtedly have a number of similarities with other printer manager apps, but your copier and printer dealer will know the best option for you.

Normally, installation of a print management app will first require adding a small piece of software to your network called a DCA (data collection agent). This is the heart of a good printer manager program. The DCA is responsible for polling your networked printers and copiers several times a day. It will gather statistics and current conditions of your equipment, including:

  • Meter readings
  • Toner levels
  • Service needs
  • General status

After each poll, the DCA will create a small text file with the information and transmit it to your dealer’s Web server via secure connection. Your dealer should, at that time, drop the data into a database, format it and send it to you in an understandable, actionable report.

Most of the time, the printer management app install takes about 20 minutes and can be done onsite or remotely via webinar. The nice part is that you can do the install when it’s most convenient for you.

And, this is the part my customers like best (aside from good data about their printers): most apps don’t require a reboot or interrupt any other services. Once installed, it’s a set-it-and-forget-it software that runs silently and in the background. I’ve never had any issues with our app crashing or interfering with other software.

If you’d like to know how much you’re spending on printing – and your business is located in Canton, North Canton, Green, Akron, Toledo area, Dover New Philadelphia or anywhere else in Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania – contact us for more information.

Reduce Printer & Copier Costs with App for Print Management, Part 2: System Requirements

Reduce printing and copying costs with print management appIn my last post about cutting costs related to your printers and copiers, I discussed the benefits of good print management software that will give you a macro view (total print volume across your company) and a micro view (print volume, toner level, error codes, etc. from each device in the network). If you aren’t sure why any of this matters, first read my post about how print audits improve efficiency of document production.

But, if you’re convinced that it’s time to get down to business and reduce expenses related to printing and copying, then let’s take the next step: system requirements for a printer manager app.

What You Need to Install Printing Management Software

Most apps that track and analyze printers and print volumes must be installed on a Windows-based server or PC, not a Mac. Now, some of you may be tempted to check out right now, but there’s good news. Most companies run a mixed environment, and good software will track a Mac. In fact, it should not make any difference what type or brand of printer or copier is driving the printing, as long as the device is connected to your network.

I always recommend installing print tracking software on servers because they stand the test of time in comparison to individual workstations and are powered 24/7. Plus, when the software is installed on a PC, it can be affected if the hard drive is reformatted, replaced or crashed. However, if you don’t have a server, a Windows PC will get the job done.

With the free software Copeco offers to its customer base in Canton, Akron, Toledo, and surrounding areas in Ohio, the server or PC must have the Microsoft .NET framework installed, be able to communicate with all printers and copiers on the network and pass secure Web traffic on port 443 (a.k.a. https). Local printers (those tethered to a single PC) must have a local agent installed at the host PC.

In my experience, about one out of every five businesses doesn’t have Microsoft .NET installed. That brings us to a fork in the road. Our software won’t run without it, so it must be installed, either by me or the customer. But, if you’re keeping up with Windows updates, this should not be a problem.

Another bit of good news: system requirements for most print management apps don’t change as often as some things do in the digital world. So, once you’ve got it, the software will do its job for years to come.


Reduce Printer & Copier Costs with App for Print Management, Part 1: Benefits

Reduce printer and copier costs with printer management appIf you’re an IT manager or coordinator, you probably are expected to keep your eyeballs on lots of different types of technology and equipment. Everything is somehow integrated into the network, right? While this is all done in the name of efficiency, it can sometimes be difficult to monitor so many systems and make sure they’re delivering the speed and cost savings your CFO expects.

One place where business expenses can get out of hand fast is with your printer and copier fleet. That’s because very few companies have a clear picture of their total print volume. A great way to get a grip on this is through a print audit, which I’ve discussed in a previous post. The key to auditing your copiers and printers – and staying on top of how they’re being used over time – is good print management software.

Benefits of Using an IT Solution to Manage Network Printers

If you’re an IT person like me, your first priority is to make sure the print management app you select will deliver great benefits without bogging down your server. In part one of my blog series on this topic, I first want to cover the features your software should deliver.

Great printer manager software should:

  • Be free! Many printer and copier dealers will offer it at no cost to your company, so why pay for it?
  • Allow you to see all printers and copiers in a single web-based interface.
  • Collect a broad range of printer and copier metrics using a data collection agent (DCA), including meter reads, error codes, toner levels, non-toner supply levels, detailed equipment ID information and more.
  • Send e-mail alerts when certain faults or conditions are met (i.e. low toner, maintenance required, etc.).
  • Run historical reports showing volumes, usage and failures, which is helpful in determining cost of operation and over-utilization and under-utilization of machines.
  • Operate 24/7.
  • Allow you to customize transmission intervals.
  • Offer you the option of one-way and two-way communication.
  • Use SSL encryption of at least 128-bit and collect data via SNMP, ICMP and HTTP.
  • Give you the option of porting meter readings directly into a billing system so you never have to chase meter requests again.
  • Never collect personal or user data.
  • Never impact HIPAA compliance

How Much Can You Save with Print Management Software?

A recent survey from IDC concluded that implementing a managed print services program could result in the following savings:

  • 23% average overall cost savings
  • 40% reduction in IT help desk calls
  • 25% cost reduction in consumables
  • 20% cost reduction in unscheduled maintenance
  • 10% cost reduction in installation and upgrades
  • 5% cost reduction in acquisition

At Copeco, we can offer you a great printer management app, perform a thorough print audit and help you reduce costs associated with printers and copiers. If you’re located in Canton, Akron, Toledo or anywhere else in Northeast Ohio, contact us for more information.