Why mobile printing is such a pain and how to make it easier

Smartphones and tablets weren't designed with mobile printing in mind, but there are some ways to get hard copies from mobile devices.

The world has become increasingly mobile and cloud-based, but sometimes users just need a printed copy of a document. Unfortunately, mobile printing technologies haven't evolved at the same pace as devices and operating systems have.

Despite the fact that mobile devices look and feel like computers in miniature, they don't always operate the same way. It's pretty easy to print from your desktop computer, but printing from a smartphone or tablet can be a lot more difficult. There are some workarounds and third-party applications that can help ease mobile printing woes, but until mobile printing technology evolves, there will be challenges for IT and users to face. In the meantime, here are a few common questions and possible solutions around mobile printing.

What is remote printing?

When you use a computer to print to a distant printer, it's known as Remote printing. There are apps and programs available for most computers that enable remote printing, but it's sometimes possible to set up remote printing through the operating system without using an app. In businesses, remote printing can be an alternative to using fax machines: You can send files over the Internet to a printer almost anywhere.

What is mobile printing?

Mobile printing is wirelessly sending data from a smartphone or tablet to a printer. Depending on how you carry out mobile printing -- via third-party app or cloud printing service -- you can send a print job right from your mobile device to the printer, or you can route the job through a computer connected to a printer.

What are some of the challenges of mobile printing?

Today's mobile devices have not been designed to have printing as a capability. Even more problematic is that IT has to juggle all the different operating systems that come into the enterprise. Users bring different devices to work and expect to be able to print from them, but finding ways to print from so many different devices and OSes remains a challenge for administrators. IT also has to help employees send files to the right printer, and has to manage converting the data stream so files print accurately. Users' mobile devices also have to be connected to the same network as the printers in the office, which can become a problem in companies where mobile devices access a guest network.

Are there any ways to make mobile printing easier?

More on mobile printing

Common remote desktop printing problems and their solutions

How an enterprise mobile printing app solves some problems, but not all

How does virtual desktop printing work on mobile devices?

Apple and Google came out with Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print respectively. These services let users print wirelessly, but they have limitations. For example, if you want to print from your iOS device to a printer that isn't AirPrint-enabled, you need a third-party app. If you want to use Google Cloud Print, the printer has to be connected to your Google account, it has to be configured to use CloudPrint through Google Chrome, and it has to have cloud printing capabilities. Oh, and your mobile device making the print request has to support Google Apps. Many printer manufacturers have applications that allow devices to print to their specific printers, and there are workarounds for most mobile printing woes. Unfortunately, we all have to wait for mobile printing technology to catch up to printing demands.

Dig Deeper on Wearable devices and emerging technology