The cloud can put all your files at your fingertips, just so long as you have a printer.
The age-old expression “get your head out of the clouds” is losing some of its clout now that we’re being invited into the cloud to make our work lives simpler and more efficient.
This particular cloud is a virtual wonderland where documents, email, critical computer applications, operating systems and the rest of those things that ensure our cyberworld is running smoothly are stored. It’s essentially a vast network of servers, accessible via the Web anytime, anywhere, and increasingly, from any type of device.
The cloud is the latest – and some say greatest – way to efficiently share documents without the worries of system updates or hardware compatibility. But what do you do when you need to sit down to read and understand a report, take notes or discuss it with colleagues? If you’re like many people, you print it.
Up until recently, the task of printing remotely from a smartphone, tablet, netbook or even some laptops was extremely difficult. But technology companies have acknowledged that their customers still sometimes need hard copies of documents and have responded with an array of solutions that enable users to print directly from the cloud anywhere there’s an Internet connection.
“Even in the digital age, the world relies on printing. Companies that give their employees a lot of flexibility with their mobile devices can ensure that working hours, traveling, and waiting times are used productively,” pointed out Henning Volkmer, in an article for Virtual Strategy Magazine.1
Print’s ability to increase efficiency and facilitate the assimilation of information is a recurring theme in a lot of research on the roles of technology and paper in the workplace. For example, a 2009 study revealed that 64% of workers prefer ink on paper rather than a screen when it comes to reading. The rate was even higher (70%), with employees of technology companies2. Further research, conducted at Wayne State University, found that reading on paper is actually 10-30% percent faster than reading online, in part because it is easier to track where the reader is on the page.3
Yet another study by the Rank Xerox Research Centre in Cambridge noted that people like to be able to take notes and highlight passages in a text – functions that are still not that user-friendly on screen. This study also concluded that to learn, you need to summarize, and to summarize you need to understand a topic in-depth, which is often more difficult online.4
Meanwhile, a recent survey of “millenials” (i.e people born after 1985) showed that 65% of respondents felt that it’s easier to view or read something on paper.5 And about the same percentage of senior executives agree, with 60% saying that they still prefer printed material.6
Speed. Efficiency. Practicality. Accessibility. Teamwork. Function. Analysis. Comprehension. Environmental responsibility. These are all things those executives want to see delivered in their boardroom – and they are all things better achieved in some cases by using paper.
The convenience and capacity of the cloud are irrefutable. But when you need to get a job done here on Earth, sometimes it’s simply best to print.
1 Volkmer, Henning, Cloud Printing: How Printing Works from the Cloud. Virtual Strategy Magazine, November 17, 2010
2 People Prefer It. Businesses Depend On It. What’s Next for Print Media? Business Wire, 2009
3 Reading Online or on Paper: Which is Faster? Sri H. Kurniawan and Panayiotis Zaphiris, Wayne State University, 2001
4 A Comparison of Reading Paper and On-Line Documents, Kenton O’Hara and Abigail Sellen, Rank Xerox Research Centre in Cambridge, 1997
5 Pitts, Mark. Millennial Research: Understanding the role of paper in the lives of the millennials. GAA Environmental Workshop, American Forest & Paper Association, June 16, 2011
6 Senior Execs Prefer Print Periodicals (and Ads) over Online Versions, MarketingVox, 2007