Web to print takes a fair amount of infrastructure uncommon to the traditional PSP. Don’t make the mistake of letting your vendor manage this for you because they don’t have the resources nor the capacity to understand your process and workflow. They will definitely say they can, but don’t go that route. Bring on your own staff or a vendor you trust. If your vendor doesn’t have this capability, vetting the right IT services firm should be one of your first objectives prior to deciding upon a web to print architecture. Here is just a short list of hardware and IT services (in-house and/or outsource) one needs to maintain a robust web to print solution:
- Super High Speed Internet available 24/7 (cable speeds minimum, fiber much preferred).
- Gigabit Ethernet in house (regardless of a server based or an SaaS system) for very fast intake to your presses and fast uploads off the network for SaaS.
- Strong IT support for server based infrastructure to maintain servers, upgrades and troubleshooting. Software upgrades to server based solutions can be tricky and painful. Web to print service providers don’t really concern themselves with this as they often make much more money selling you these services at a very high premium.
- Bridge and backup servers to accommodate redundancy in case of a crash. Keep in mind you now own your client’s collateral and a crash can spell disaster at the most inopportune times.
- SQLServer or MySQL at the least, Oracle for super busy networks (overkill if you’re just starting out).
- FTP client software for uploads/downloads
- Storage servers for all client files (offsite is much safer than onsite)
- Strong multinational hosting vendor who either sells you shelf space and bandwidth at a secure collocation facility with multiple fiber providers or one who rents you servers on a month-to-month model allowing you flexibility and scalability. Hosting vendors are growing leaps and bounds due to the focus of moving everything to the cloud. Don’t rush into the relationship as there are many types from full service to “service your own server” environment which will require strong IT team and system architect.
- SQL or MySQL database software for bridge and backup database management.
- Backup software to run on multiple servers every few minutes to insure data safety and security.
To summarize, it’s not just the web to print software, it’s a log of network, services, hardware and other components that are required to run a robust system. Cloud services are touted everywhere but most of them are in their infancy and are missing major components. Regardless of whether you go with server based or SaaS, the costs are pretty comparable. SaaS requires a relationship with a vendor just the same as server. Server based solutions are more vulnerable for electrical or network outages while SaaS has its own set of vulnerabilities. Either way, the cost of the team, the network and the infrastructure must be factored in alongside the software and services of web to print when making the decision on which way to go. Most of us don’t have the option of whether or not to put web to print into play, the question is “how”. Use just as much due diligence in your web to print solution as you do in purchasing that 3 million dollar press and ask every question before you make the jump to avoid false starts or rebuilds.