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Enterprise Output and Print Management
Enterprise Print and Output Management Experts
Enterprise Print and Output Management Experts

Enterprise Output and Print Management's posts

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Every day, employees print documents, and in the process they utilize conversions without even noticing it. It’s not uncommon for a document to arrive at the printer with incorrect characters in the text or to otherwise print differently than expected. Users often wonder how and why that happens.

What is a “conversion“ anyway, and why do documents have to be transformed from one format to another? Here’s an example everyone can relate to: an MS-Word document needs to be converted into PDF format so that the recipent cannot make changes to the contents. In this case, it’s obvious why conversions are necessary. Things are less straightforward in the business world, of course. For example, conversions are often needed to transfer large documents to a print outsourcer. As part of the process, the original document may need to be converted to AFP format for printing on high-speed print devices.

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Last week, multiple online forums and news outlets including the BBC website reported that a hacker working under the alias “Stackoverflowin” took control of more than 100,000 network-connected printers. His tools? A relatively simple script, a free weekend, and some background information from a recently-published research paper on network printer exploits.

Soon, vulnerable devices around the globe began printing page after page of ominous-sounding messages and ASCII art pictures of robots and computer terminals that had been hacked. Luckily, the Stackoverflowin printer hack was more of a wake-up call than a malicious threat. But the message was clear: your Internet-accessible network printers are susceptible to attack. Address a few basic network vulnerabilities, or the next attack may not be so benign.

Lessons Learned (?)
Recent Stackoverflowin printer mischief aside, enterprise output management experts have long advocated a comprehensive print security approach that addresses both hardware and software vulnerabilities. Our own Brent Black recently authored a Blog post on the subject and created a video outlining the challenges of secure printing:

To help organizations identify and address the many issues surrounding print security, LRS has developed a white paper entitled “A Comprehensive Approach to Safeguarding Your Print Environment.” If you want to order a copy of the white paper, contact your LRS account manager or visit this link and click on the “Email LRS” button at the bottom of the page. 

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At last year’s HIMSS conference, LRS returned to the show with a half-dozen booth staff, a live interactive MFPsecure® pull printing demo environment… and three tons of ice! This year, we’re headed back with even more LRS printing experts and a brand new booth with twice as much space to show off our latest EMR healthcare printing solutions.

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Many publications, white papers and System Integrator websites trumpet the benefits of retiring the mainframe platform. Among the claimed benefits are up to 90% reduction in operating expenses, reduced time for competitive upgrades, and improved business agility.

One may wonder why modernisation and migration remains among the top three CIO priorities but relatively few modernisation projects actually happen. I believe it to be a mix of inertia and misunderstanding. Apart from being locked into a single provider, organizations still heavily reliant on mainframes face four increasing handicaps:

Time-to-market: Launching new services is a long and slow process – and your competitors seem to be able to do it quicker.

Aging SMEs: Lack of new mainframe talent is becoming more and more apparent.

Lack of access to best-in-class software: The number of vendors developing innovative new products for the z/OS platform is dwindling.

High maintenance costs: With additional CPU capacity and memory priced at a premium, and business rules hard coded, system changes are costly and time-consuming.

If mainframes are such expensive and complex computing devices, and better and cheaper alternatives exist, then why are so many mainframes still in use?

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SAP applications have been around for a long time, and printed business documents have been around even longer. Over the years, various technologies and standards have evolved to enable printing in SAP environments. Yet printing problems remain, especially in large implementations that span many countries and languages.

The Unicode standard is a universal way for encoding and presenting all written characters from any language in the world. By contrast, the older code page-based approach to international character handling was only able to present a small subset of the possible symbols.

There is, for example, a separate code page for Western Europe (ISO-8859-1 or CP1252), Eastern Europe, Cyrillic, etc. Aside from these so-called “single-byte” code pages (which can present a maximum of 255 characters), there are also double-byte code pages for Asian characters (e.g., GB2312) that can depict over 60,000 symbols.

Unicode, on the other hand, provides different encodings for the display of all characters — the so-called Unicode Transformation Formats. UTF-16 is used internally by the SAP environment, so each character uses two bytes of data. For presentation of Unicode in data streams like print data, XML, and HTML files, UTF-8 is often used. Among other things, it is a more efficient way to depict ASCII symbol and European special characters.

Great… there are multiple ways of handling printed characters. So what does this have to do with printing problems from SAP applications? 

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Can you dare to think of replacing your EOM solution?

In short, yes you can. It is never easy to pick apart years of integration and configuration. However, LRS offers a world-leading Enterprise Output Management solution to support your existing output processes and provide a platform for the future. We also have the tools and experience to migrate you quickly, efficiently and without risk to your critical processes.

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The end of every project heralds the start of the next. Businesses thrive on new projects, and part of my job is to reach out to IT leaders and decision-makers and learn about customer requirements in the workplace space. You may know these as “cold calls,” and even if you haven’t spoken to me personally, you likely know how these conversations go.

Through these calls, I’ve learned that most people know the basics of Output Management. However, due to “more important” projects like Windows rollouts or SAP rollouts, document-related projects rarely make it to the top of the priority list. Output processes and the management thereof is shoved to the background and customers resolve to deal with them once the “main project” is finished.

Does this really make sense? Or is there a better approach, one that brings additional value to the primary project?

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How can you bring you legacy IT and business applications into the new Workplace?

There is a buzz around the “Office of the Future” topic, and we are seeing many large corporations running projects and pilots on this subject. Last weekend, my Sunday newspaper wrote an article on the “Future of Work,” detailing why the workplace needs to change and how technology is key in creating a smarter work environment.

The goal is to boost productivity by providing an office experience that motivates employees to be happy to come to work. This office should be light, spacious, comfortable, uncluttered and inviting, creating a welcoming and collaborative experience. Consider this fact: today, one-third of office space is allocated to communal space as opposed to a one-tenth share just a decade ago.

Read More on the LRS Blog

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You don’t know what you don’t know! - Finding added value for MPS clients -

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Modernisation, by its very nature, implies taking something old and applying new ideas to improve it. When we talk about modernisation in a computing context, we need to think about how modern technology can play nicely with data coming from older platforms.

Data Archaeology has been described as “the art and science of recovering computer data encoded and/or encrypted in now obsolete media or formats.” Of course, the mainframe is not obsolete, but in a Windows or Linux-centric world, mainframe data formats are best described as esoteric.

These data formats have evolved over time, along with the machinery they were meant to drive. But in many cases, there are no true analogues to those technologies in the open systems world.

For example, consider the Job Control Language (JCL) that you edit while logged into a mainframe Time Sharing Option (TSO) session. You are likely running the Interactive System Productivity Facility (ISPF) product on a software emulator of a 3270-type terminal. This modern scenario represents an evolution of the original mainframe environment.
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