By now most small business owners, in general, know what the cloud is and how accessing technology or data from the cloud can save your business time and money. But many of us are still trying to uncover practical ways to use the cloud today in our own businesses.

SCORE talked to Eric Dahl, Director of Marketing, SOHO products, at Brother International for insight on leveraging the cloud to print.

Q: How do small office and home office businesses use printers to take advantage of the cloud?

A: There is increased interest in the cloud among small businesses and many are using various cloud services every day. Printing is a practical and efficient way to use the cloud to improve typical workflow.

Today various manufacturers offer printers and all-in-one machines (print, fax, scan) that connect directly with cloud services, such a Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive. The printers feature a built-in touch screen – like a tablet computer – that connects directly with cloud services via the web. Through the touch screen to access the cloud, a business user can print a document, image or other material that is stored in the cloud. The user can also use the printer to scan materials to the cloud service. The printer becomes a functional tool to access their cloud service accounts.

Q: Is printing via cloud services different than mobile printing?

A: Yes. While some people assume the terms are interchangeable, mobile printing is different in that it enables a user to connect a mobile device to the printer on a wireless network in order to print a document on the network via your mobile device. Typically a user uses Apple AirPrint™, Google Cloud Print™ or an app store downloadable program to print from their mobile phone or tablet. The method may vary depending on the device.

There’s increase demand for printing via mobile devices, including iOS, Kindle Fire, Android, Windows and Blackberry, as businesses owners find that using a smartphone or tablet is becoming just as important to the workflow as working on a desktop or laptop computer.

Q: What are the advantages of printer cloud connectivity for small businesses?

A: Connecting to cloud services from a printer makes small business more efficient by providing a way to access and print the documents you need from anywhere. Cloud services enable users to store business documents and materials in one common, secure place. Cloud access from the printer provides users the ability to share, upload and download materials wherever they are.

A few examples:

  • A colleague, partner, customer or vendor can get a big document to you—one that’s too big to email––wherever you are by scanning it to their cloud-connected printer via the cloud service app on the printer. You then can access the document from a mobile device, laptop, or even another printer that is also connected to that same cloud-based account.
  • If you have a sales force in the field, associates can store material in the cloud then access and print when needed.

Q: Is printing from cloud services mostly used by people who are away from their offices?

A: With Brother devices, many users are saving documents remotely onto their existing cloud service accounts such as DropBox, GoogleDrive, and Evernote via mobile devices and laptops and then able to access them from the printer in their office to print.

Q: Should business owners choose new printers based on cloud connectivity?

A: Cloud services are gaining significant traction. If your business uses any of the cloud services – you have a Dropbox account for instance or save and share documents via Google Drive – then yes, choose a printer with a touch screen that connects to the cloud. Cloud connectivity is available seamlessly on Brother printers and many others.

Q: Are printers that are cloud connected expensive?

A: There are many affordable options with all-in-one printers under $200 across various manufacturers. Good research is the best course of action to determine the right tools and resource for your budget.   

Cloud Connectivity