PaperCut Software delivers cloud-based printing analytics product with Google Cloud Platform

PaperCut Software provides print management services ranging from tracking and monitoring of print jobs to integrated printing from bring-your-own devices in corporate environments and advanced custom job management. The business aims to protect the environment by reducing the volume of paper used for printing.

Founded in 1998, PaperCut Software has grown significantly each year over the last 19 years and now has over 50,000 customers across more than 100 countries. These customers include prestigious organisations such as Oxford University, Cambridge University and Harvard University, the United Nations and Starbucks. “We are proud to be an Australian success story, especially considering the vast majority of our sales come from the United States and Europe,” says Chris Dance, Chief Executive Officer and Co-founder, PaperCut Software.

Technology is integral to PaperCut Software and Dance believes the business is bringing excitement to a traditionally staid area of IT. “Our vision is to stand among the world’s most admired and disruptive software companies,” he adds. “We have a strong community of people around the world who are passionate about our software. We aim to help make their lives easier over the long term.”

Challenge

PaperCut Software saw an opportunity to augment its flagship PaperCut MF product - that provides print, copy, scan and fax control through software embedded in clients’ on-premises devices - with a cloud-based print logging, benchmarking and comparison service. “More broadly, we want to adopt the cloud to stay on the edge as a technology company and remain relevant to our customers,” says Dance.

To achieve this, PaperCut began developing PaperCut Views, a free cloud-based service providing printing analytics and insights for small businesses and home offices, and started running it in a public cloud infrastructure. However, a discussion about where the business wanted to be and what the software development landscape may look like in five years prompted Dance and co-founder Matt Doran to consider options for the future.

Solution

“We believed that Google’s Platform as a Service approach would ultimately win out over Infrastructure as a Service,” says Dance. “In addition, when we delved into the specifics of services such as the Google BigQuery data analytics warehouse, we found they were market leaders in terms of functionality and performance.”

PaperCut began its Google Cloud Platform deployment with some internal pilot projects. These projects involved deploying internal licensing and customer management databases on Google App Engine and Google Compute Engine. After a year of internal systems work, PaperCut decided to commit PaperCut Views to the platform. Following the decision, the business took nine months to bring the print analysis product to market. An agreement with HP, Inc. to ship PaperCut Views with the vendor’s printers provided a fillip to the business and vindicated its new strategic direction.

PaperCut Software is now running PaperCut Views on GCP. This enables businesses to understand their printing, forecast paper and toner usage, and identify areas where they can save paper. The HP, Inc. version of the product has been enhanced to enable toner ordering from online office supplies organisations and has to date been shipped with thousands of the vendor’s printers. The agreement with HP, Inc. has enabled PaperCut Software to scale PaperCut Views before providing similar functionality as an option to users of its on-premises products. In April 2017 more than 19,000 customers were running PaperCut Views.

PaperCut Software is taking the lessons from PaperCut Views and investigating how they can make them work with their existing product suite. “Over the next 12 months we hope to get a significant percentage of our on-premises customers choosing to enable our cloud services,” Dance says.

PaperCut Views is now tracking about 45,000 printing devices in real time and providing users with critical information such as user printing and equipment error events. Client edge computing queries printers and sends the information to an API running in the Google Cloud. Google Cloud Pub/Sub or Task Queues create asynchronous message flows that Google App Engine listens to and updates Cloud Datastore accordingly. The messages are also streamed into Google BigQuery for analysis through Cloud Dataflow. Memcache expedites and lowers the cost of query responses.

Benefits

The scalability provided by GCP has enabled PaperCut Software to support demand peaks of up to 10 times average traffic for PaperCut Views without compromising sub-second response times or near-perfect availability. GCP has also provided the security needed to win confidence from customers in the new cloud product. “Security and vulnerability scanning is an automated feature and avoids us having to hire or procure the services of security experts in our own company,” says Dance.

Reduced costs, lowered time to push out builds

Working with GCP has not just delivered technical and business benefits to PaperCut Software. “The biggest advantage for us as a business is that GCP is a modern platform and a modern way of thinking,” says Dance. “This is flowing into our culture - not just the development teams working in the cloud, but the teams working on on-premises software.”

By undertaking detailed analysis and using monitoring tools such as Google Stackdriver, PaperCut Software has been able to make changes to its software to reduce the operating costs for PaperCut Views by about 30 percent. In addition, by moving its build environment onto Google Kubernetes Engine, the business has been able to slash the time required to push each build out from 30 minutes on average to a few minutes. Furthermore, PaperCut Software has also been able to limit its investment in DevOps experts to one person on the system administration side, rather than also being required to recruit similarly qualified experts on the development and production sides.

PaperCut Software is now taking into GCP a service that enables customers to manage printing from bring-your-own devices, as well as its internal systems that manage client licensing and ordering.

With GCP providing the platform, PaperCut Software is poised to move components of its on-premise products to the cloud sooner rather than later. “GCP has given us the confidence to build our business and work with high calibre partners and we look forward to continue working with Google to expand into new markets in future,” says Dance.

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