Outdated software is a huge liability for enterprise IT teams and their broader organizations. When technology is not updated and software is used long after it’s supported, businesses risk gambling their financial resources, security, and reputation. In one famous example, the U.S. Navy paid Microsoft Corp. $9 million per year to continue supporting Windows XP because they needed extra time to upgrade. In addition, researchers found that more than 67 percent of computers impacted by the WannaCry virus were running an outdated version of Windows. Moreover, obsolete software that’s still in widespread use is considered a prime target for ransomware attackers.
There are many reasons an organization may not update its software. Such projects may be perceived as too expensive, or too disruptive to day-to-day operations. However, failing to update could cost more in the long run – not only in terms of maintenance contracts and legal and compliance risks, but also unexpected downtime due to internal system crashes, and decreased employee morale. According to one recent survey, 45 percent of workers would consider moving jobs if they felt their enterprise software was unusable.
Many enterprise IT teams prioritize their updating efforts on network and operating system patches, overlooking more business-centric applications or systems like print management. It is important to understand that multi-function printers (MFPs) are computers in their own right. While many organizations are still planning out their long-term IoT strategies, they should be reminded that their MFPs are likely their first entry point into IoT. They connect to the network and save and store sensitive information, often for longer periods of time than expected. It is thus critical that the software on these machines remain updated and compliant or risk being a target for external breaches.
Features like “follow-me printing,” where a worker initiates a print job but the document is held in a secure queue until the specific worker authenticates their identity, were designed to ensure a higher degree of data security. However, because data can be transmitted to the MFP via email, and stored on the MFP’s hard drive, the device becomes an unintentional security risk if a hacker establishes a foothold in the MFP via the corporate network. The types of organizations that use print management software – healthcare, legal and financial services – often hold and process huge volumes of sensitive data, making their MFPs a target.
Any company using print management software needs to avoid relegating it to the back-burner and make sure it’s updated in a timely manner. Doing so will require an investment of time and resources, but ultimately these updates will deliver a more secure and better product with new features and enhancements. When upgrading, organizations should consider leveraging these common best practices:
- Check compatibility. Software compatibility is a critical component of the upgrade process. The new version needs to be checked before upgrading to ensure that it can operate with other peer and dependent software within the enterprise.
- Involve your vendor. Upgrading with direct involvement from the vendor’s services team helps reduce risk by using the vendor’s expertise with both their software and the update process. If a software provider offers upgrade packages and resources, take advantage of them to make the process more seamless and minimize the impact on day-to-day business activities. Whenever possible, leverage software migration tools provided by vendors to assist with the upgrade.
- Perform pre-upgrade and post-upgrade assessments. Prior to upgrading existing software, ensure the software environment is ready to upgrade and the organization has the appropriate resources assigned to assist. Additionally, once the upgrade process is complete, organizations should test the software to ensure the upgrade process didn’t have any unintended consequences.
As you start building out your IoT strategy and thinking through issues like software maintenance, upgrades and overall supportability, don’t forget the IoT you have today in print management. MFPs increasingly serve as a conduit for sensitive data passing back and forth from digital format to print. Keeping print management software updated is a critical component of document and data security, allowing businesses to continue reaping the benefits of print management initiatives, and protecting them from unwittingly turning their MFPs over to hackers.