By Ondrej Kracijek, Chief Technology Strategist, Y Soft.
Over the years, the technology sector has evolved and grown at an extortionate rate, with new platforms and features being created every single day. But once in a while a new idea creates a fundamental paradigm shift that changes everything. Cloud computing should be put into this group.
Cloud’s ability to deliver on-demand computing services over the internet means anyone can access their data wherever and whenever they want to. Today, you would be hard pressed to find a business that does not rely on the cloud for at least some of its day to day operations. But as said, the technology sector is constantly evolving and even the Cloud, revolutionary as it is, is moving into a new era. This is where edge computing comes in.
The opportunities involved with edge and cloud based printing is significant, enabling partners to open the gateway for their customers. For example, partners can offer customers cloud-based printing, even in areas where the internet is poor or unreliable. Moving data processing to the edge enables a business to move faster, more effectively, less expensively and most importantly more securely, allowing partners to offer the best services to their customers.
Cloud and Edge. What exactly is it?
Taking a cloud approach still means using a data centre (or sometimes several data centres) at the core. It is where all the data is processed and stored and shared between devices where the data needs to be used. This hub and spoke approach has been highly effective, but as organisations increase their volume of data, the network that transfers data requires ever-greater and costly bandwidth. As a result, partners have realised they need to find a better solution to offer their customers. Partners now understand that not all data created by devices needs to be sent to the centre. Edge computing means businesses can process data at the periphery, relieving the pressure on the network. This allows partners to offer their customers a better experience which in turn can boost the performance and reliability of a customer’s application and service.
Edge computing comes into its own for scenarios where small amounts of data are produced from many devices that can be processed and analysed locally. For example, the Internet of Things or Artificial Intelligence are often combined with an Edge computing approach. Conversely, a more regular central storage approach could work well for devices where time isn’t a contributing factor, and where it is important to bring data from many sources into one place, such as for big-data projects.
In a printing context, routine data processing for printing is done locally on an ‘edge device’. In this edge computing model, the customer needs to do no maintenance on the edge device or handle any data -- it is all managed in the cloud. This allows partners to offer a simpler printing experience.
Key drivers for SMEs in cloud & edge computing
In the SME environment, an organisation can find cloud and edge computing useful when handling the day-to-day operations of the business. Edge computing can provide an array of benefits by delivering lower IT costs and faster response times to a business’s operations.
When addressing SME’s, it’s important for the organisation to focus on its core business function and to minimise complexity and resource allocation on back office functions. It is key for partners to remove an SME’s IT burden as much as possible, adopting a solution that does not require the customer to maintain the infrastructure. This also results in reducing complicated deployment burdens for the service provider. Edge computing allows a service partner provider to develop a solution for the SME environment, where all the customer has to do is plug in an edge device and forget about it.
Partners should delve deeper into edge computing because, while edge computing delivers faster compute and response times, it can also provide peace of mind on security and privacy of data for customers. Traditional cloud computing is more centralised, which makes it vulnerable to attacks and power outages. Edge computing on the other hand means that the data is processed locally. Therefore, it is no surprise that 56% of SME’s would prefer Edge computing for cloud-based print management¹. However, for any organisation there is a growing number of access points so no matter how advanced a system, there will always be security concerns. But with an edge device locally on a business’ network, the business is assured that their data doesn’t leave the premises and only metadata goes to the cloud for reporting purposes.
It should be noted that edge computing will not replace data centres. With 93% of SME’s using a cloud-based application, there are many applications that can happily operate in the cloud without needing real time processing. However, for critical print tasks, edge computing can keep a business humming no matter the bandwidth, latency or availability of an internet connection. As companies embark on edge computing, new opportunities will be created for partners as well. Businesses will need service provider partners to introduce, support, maintain, monitor and secure cloud applications and their edge devices.
 Cloud Print Management, A Survey of SMB Decision Makers, September 2019.