Printing isn’t something I generally think about very often.
In fact, I hold myself in high regard as someone who had gone paperless well before it was fashionable.
Then, the work-from-home reality of 2020 kicked in and I realized I had been living a lie. It wasn’t until I had been stripped of the convenience of our office printer that I realized how often I needed one.
Whether your teams are working from home or not, the fact is that the promise of the paperless office has yet to be fulfilled.
Statista’s Forecast on U.S. paper end-use market output 2020-2024 states that end-use paper consumption is expected to rise by 0.3 percent by 2024. It is estimated that currently, US-based offices are using paper at a rate of over 12 trillion pieces of paper per year.
Document printing at the office is still a thing
There are a number of reasons why paper is still king in many office settings.
First, employees tend to use printing and scanning as ad hoc businesses processes. For example, it might be seen as easier and more efficient to show up to a meeting with printed notes for the whole team in case anyone forgot to bring their laptop.
Perhaps half the attendees bring their own printed copy with them so they can keep an eye on the agenda while responding to emails during the meeting.
Now a meeting for eight people has produced a dozen pieces of paper.
More legitimately, certain transactional processes such as in HR, accounting and legal departments, printing and scanning tend to be part of a daily workflow, such as scanning purchase orders, printing out invoices, or acquiring signatures.
Any time there is discussion about the failure of the paperless office, the environmental impacts rightfully take center stage, but what about the security pitfalls associated with all this data?
We don’t often think of paper as data in the same way as their electronic counterparts. Because paper is a physical medium, printed files tend to have less mobility associated with them and can often be forgotten in a corporate security structure.
The problem is while paper may indeed have less mobility, it also has no traceability. A piece of paper that is out of sight might be out of mind, but it’s also out of your control.
Let’s go back to my eight-person, 12-piece-of-paper meeting.
How many of those pieces of paper get left behind after the meeting?
When someone finds those papers, should they go in the shredder or in the archive?
What could go wrong if a well-meaning employee just wants to bring some scrap paper home for his daughter to color on?
Is the content on those papers something you want stuck to someone’s fridge?
Visual markings still matter for document security
In a paperless world that is anything but paperless, it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves that visual markings still matter when it comes to protecting sensitive documents.
Document handling and marking requirements can often differ based on the corporation, the business unit, the types of content being marked, or even the methods of sharing.
For example, a document shared via email, may not require visual markings, but that same document sent via mail or FAX or intra-office memo may.
In many cases, these markings are mandated and therefore cannot simply be left to the discretion of employees. One of the most common settings Titus customers use is the automatic application of headers/footers to printed materials.
Legal teams may require a specific footer to printed PowerPoint files, the corporate communications team may require a copyright, or “property of…” statement for any printed media, and human resources departments often require watermarks for printed PII material to assure it’s not left lingering on a network printer in reach of prying eyes.
Lastly, printed visual markings lie at the heart of the vast majority of data security mandates regulating government departments and their contractors.
How Titus helps address the need for classifying sensitive documents
What so many customers of ours appreciate about the role Titus plays in their workflows is the flexibility to fulfill these unique business requirements in a way that can be as transparent as possible to the creator of the file.
Take, for example, the creation of a document containing sensitive information.
Upon save, classification and metadata are automatically applied. In this case, no headers or footers are necessary because the content is electronic and because the Titus metadata protects it from being shared externally.
However, when the user prints the document, company policy dictates that, due to the nature of the sensitive data within, specific headers, footers and even a diagonal watermark are to be applied to provide “due-diligence” legal protection against unauthorized sharing.
Watch this demo of how Titus Classification Suite lets you use the print command as a trigger for protecting your sensitive documents:
The paperless office has been “around the corner” for almost 30 years now. In a perfect world, we’d be done with paper by now, but I have a feeling that it will continue to be a major part of the business world for another 30 years.
Until the time comes in which the printed page is no longer a valuable business tool, It’s imperative to select tools, like Titus, that have the flexibility to work at fulfilling real-world business requirements, not the business requirements of the perfect world.