Recently at Oppedahl Patent Law Firm LLC we shifted to a work-from-home setup. Everybody is working at home. When we were setting up the work-from-home systems, we had several goals:
- a recurring cost of zero for the work-from-home systems
- a very small up-front cost for the work-from-home systems
- replicating at home the functions and systems from the office
Good luck smiled on us. We managed to get our office phones working at home without having to spend any money up front or incur any recurring cost (blog article). We managed to set up VPN access to all of the office resources with no recurring cost and an up-front cost of only about $82 per home location (blog article). These happy results were mostly due to our employees being smart and resilient, along with generous helpings of good luck.
One office function remained, however, to be implemented. We needed to have a setup by which anybody in the office could remotely print a document onto a printer located in the home of anybody else in the office. (So much for our saying that we run a paperless office!) To give one example, if an accounts-receivable person generates a bill to be reviewed by an attorney, what we hope for is that the AR person could with one or two mouse clicks print that draft bill on a printer at the home of that attorney.
Of course what we would hope is that implementation of this function would be cost-free just like the previous two implementations. We would hope to incur no up-front cost beyond the cost of the printer itself (typically about $90 per home for a nice duplex-printing monochrome laser printer), and no recurring cost.
Here’s what turned out to work for us.
It turns out that nearly all current printers have a built-in capability called “Google Cloud Print”. You check the box to turn on the capability, and you do a couple more mouse clicks to “register” the printer to the Google Cloud Print system. The screen shot above shows what this looks like in the printers that we bought for our work-from-home people, namely the Brother HL-L2350DW laser printer.
Once you have successfully registered the printer to your own Google account, you can select it (screen shot at right) and click “share” to share it with your colleagues in your office, through their Google accounts. I was astonished to learn that this service has been around since 2010!
I’ll mention here that everybody in our office already has a Google account because we use Google calendars to keep track of everybody’s schedule and travel and appointments. The Google accounts do not cost any money.
To print a document at somebody’s home, I simply go to this “Google Cloud Print” web page. I click “print”. I upload the thing that I want to print, which can be any of a wide variety of file types, including PDF or a word processor file or an image. Then I reach a page (see at right) where I indicate how many copies I wish to print, the scaling to be employed, and so on. I click “Print” and Bob’s your uncle.
We are just now getting used to this Google Cloud Print function, but so far it has worked very well for us.
Okay, and just to save everybody a lot of time and fuss, yes I know there are people who will say that use of such a system must surely be a violation of professional ethics due to failure to safeguard client secrets, or an illegal export of inventions outside of the US, or both. But I predict that no state supreme court or attorney regulation department is going to string up the attorney who makes use of the Google Cloud Print system. The upload from the sender’s computer to the cloud is encrypted. The downstream communication from the cloud to the printer is encrypted. Within the cloud, I believe that Google protects the data stream at least as well as do other communications service providers that state ethics bodies do not second-guess (telephone companies and email service providers for example).
And yes, I know that Google has said it will stop supporting Google Cloud Print on December 31, 2020. But that duration should get us through the present circumstance that prompts us to do work-from-home.
What solution do you use in your firm or company for printing to printers in the homes of your employees? Please post a comment below.