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“I have to tell you, when our customers are given the option of on-premise or on-cloud, I think there’s a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt that drives the decision. Ninety percent of my customers will put it on premise.”

Those were the comments made yesterday by Stephen McWilliam, executive vice president at Avanti, as a member of a panel on “Breach Is The New Black: Data, Privacy and The Cloud” at Graph Expo. The six-member panel was moderated by Deborah Corn of the PrintMediaCentr, which presented the program.

The discussion is timely because more and more print providers are working with data to fuel their personalization services, Corn noted. At the same time, high-profile data breeches (and the public relations crises that follow) seem to be a regular feature in modern news crawls, fueling the F.U.D. among print providers about letting third parties handle their customer data.

Yet when asked what future data and privacy trends print providers should be gearing up for, the panelists were nearly unanimous: regulatory compliance and data integrity will become more important—and more print shop software will move to the cloud.

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If you only read news crawls, then that may seem like a contradiction. But the panelists offered deeper insights. Several argued that security should be handled by IT professionals, as the cloud provides. Because IT expertise is scarce in many small and medium-sized print shops, they typically are far less secure without the cloud than they would be with it.

In a post-panel conversation, panelist Eric Thibodeau, workflow business manager at Xerox, pointed out another advantage: cloud services, by definition, provide disaster recovery services. That’s because data is not only backed up, it is backed up off-site, an expensive proposition to replicate independently.

And security isn’t the only print challenge the cloud addresses. Another is automation, a growing requirement as providers increasingly produce more jobs each day in smaller quantities and more media than ever before; a fast path to unprofitability when relying on manual processes. But the cloud eliminates the two greatest barriers print providers face to adopting automation: lack of IT support, overcome because cloud systems are installed, managed and hosted securely by cloud providers; as well as large upfront capital costs. With the cloud, customers only pay for the services they need and use.

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And more and more functionality is becoming available on the cloud, making it a more compelling alternative. For example, at Graph Expo, Xerox has introduced cloud versions to complement on-premise versions of two of its leading offerings: Xerox FreeFlow® Core, it’s primary automation offering which won a 2015 MUST SEE EMS award, and Xerox FreeFlow Digital Publisher, which creates both print and mobile/online communications simultaneously using a single, unified workflow.

“I think the key trend in software to help run the print shop will be that trend towards the cloud,” McWilliam said in his closing remarks. “And as people become more and more comfortable with it…that fear, uncertainty and doubt that I talked about I think will diminish over time.”

The other four panelists were: Stefan Karlsson, founder and chief technology officer, arifiQ; Linda Kish, director, Mail Center Solutions, Pitney Bowes; Paul Abdool, vice president, Enterprise Solutions, Solimar Systems, Inc.; and Dennis Amorosano, vice president and general manager, Business Imaging Solutions Group, Canon U.S.A.

When it comes to the cloud, do you have any fear, uncertainty or doubt? And if so, what?