Cloud storage as a new service for the online print sector?

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Despite all the scepticism, we are all keen on using it – cloud-based data backup and storage. In our private lives we love synchronizing our photos and documents with Amazon, Google et al. Yet what’s the story in our professional lives, where do we store our layout files for our print jobs? Could this be a new customer service for online print providers?

Every print provider has been here before: “But you printed the flyer for our event in July 2014 – we’d like to order another 1000 copies of the same flyer – although with a few minor amendments!” And you do indeed find most customer data in the well-organized data archive of any conventional print provider. If you’re lucky in open layout file format, as customer amendments are often more involved than previously advised. But how do online print providers deal with this issue? For how long is print data stored and for how long is it available to customers for reprint purposes? And if it has been stored, how do providers go about amending the data, if it is only available as a PDF file? Wouldn’t it be a good idea if print providers offered customers cloud storage facilities for their print data as a customer service at the provider portals?

Customer service is a major priority to both digital media providers and users. The whole marketplace seems to be teeming with cloud offerings and unlimited storage capacity. The US online print provider “Shutterfly” is taking an important and interesting step in the right direction, in my opinion. In addition to its general print offerings, this online print giant is providing free, secure and unlimited photo storage capacity to its customers, which it claims can never be deleted.

But I think that here too people should be bold and take the next step. The customer has to submit their print data to the online print provider via an upload function. In order to manage the deluge of data (jobs involving several uploads are no rarity), the data is deleted from the server after a certain period. But is that really necessary, given that we are living in the cloud era after all? Customer service is all about support – so why not include data archiving. Print data, like open raw data, could be archived using cloud outsourcing –reordering is then child’s play for the customer, because it is convenient!

smart data archiving using cloud outsourcing is a customer service bonus.
smart data archiving using cloud outsourcing is a customer service bonus.

Sufficient storage capacity is now available at discount prices. The “Amazon Glacier” cloud storage service, for example, is priced at 0.012 USD net per GB per month. The cost savings compared to procuring and managing your own storage capacity are immense, particularly for data that is only seldom accessed. But the emphasis really is on “seldom used data”.  Since Amazon doesn’t want to come away empty-handed here either, data transmission prices need to be considered carefully in advance.

All incoming and outgoing data transfers are free of charge, provided transmission is within the same Amazon Web Services Region (AWS). If data has to be transferred between AWS regions, 0.020 USD per GB is charged. According to the AWS pricelist, the transmission of outgoing data into the Intranet costs 0.090 USD net per GB for up to 10TB a month – and the next 350 TB cost 0.050 USD.

zipperkopf BerdZipper_erkennend

 

 “Customer service will in future be a major distinguishing feature in the online print industry. Cloud services are an important component of that.” – Bernd Zipper

 

However, given that only the storage capacity that’s actually used is billed, this solution could be of interest not just to the big boys in the print market, if one is thinking in terms of proprietary data quantities. Of course this service should definitely not be provided, on data protection grounds, without the consent of the customer and providers need to amend their own General Terms of Business. The analysis of archived data also requires exact wording as well as feasibility tests.

My take: whether customers will be offered archiving free of charge or whether they have to pay for it in future is a marketing decision. Both Shutterfly.com and Gelato.com have already opted to go down the cloud outsourcing route. Companies definitely need to include this issue in their next IT decisions and marketing plans and budgets. It is certainly the right path to go down in terms of customer service and retention.

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