Hacking copiers, software focus raised at conference

Hacking copiers, software focus raised at conference

You might think you've heard about every possible security vulnerability in your network, but what about your copiers?

"Network-connected output devices are becoming an absolute primary target of people, foreign and domestic, who are penetrating networks," according to Jim Joyce, senior vice president for office services at Xerox Global Services. "The reason for that is many of them are large devices with large disk drives, with a fair amount of memory and are network connected and are not secure. This laptop [I'm using for this presentation] is probably 10x more secure than any of the output devices we have in our environments today."

Joyce, speaking Tuesday at the two-day Office Document Solutions conference in Boston, was among a number of presenters who implored makers of printers, copiers, scanners and other such devices to start thinking about more than just selling boxes to customers.

Joyce said during an interview after his speech that Xerox has poured some US$20 million in recent years into technologies to better manage office and document systems and is putting a particular emphasis on security these days. He noted that some machines, such as multifunction devices, might have several operating systems in them that could provide security holes if not protected.

Look for Xerox in the months to come to deliver more in the way of technologies that would enable document systems to be able to identify content so that companies can better prevent intellectual property and other confidential data from getting swiped. Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center has been working on such technologies, Joyce said.

Meanwhile, other office document product vendors said they too are looking to go beyond just dumping boxes on their customers.

While the term "solutions" might qualify as the single-most overused word in the IT industry over the years, presenters embraced it as a fresh concept capable of bringing new life to their industry.

Charles Pesko, a director at InfoTrends/CAP Ventures, greeted attendees at the consulting and research firm's event by stating that the U.S. copier market is maturing and that "solutions" are the answer to revenue growth. Not only do solutions - in the form of software, support and maintenance - offer revenue opportunities themselves, but vendors that succeed here will also see a rise in hardware sales. For every dollar in solutions sold, a company will sell $4 or $5 of hardware along with it, he said.

"A lot of people just don't get that yet," he said.

Among the biggest opportunities are document capture and creation, document management and document output management, said Joel Mazza, another InfoTrends/CAP Ventures director.

A panel of vendor representatives from Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Sharp Electronics and Toshiba America Business Solutions agreed that solutions are the way to go, but said it is difficult to change overnight given that the hardware business is worth tens of billions a year whereas the solutions market is a sliver of that. Most of them said they are not making money on solutions so far, but consider their efforts in software, support and more as an investment that will pay off in the long run.

Bill Brewster, vice president of marketing for Konica Minolta Business Solutions, said that every RFP his company gets includes a demand for at least one of four solutions offerings, such as security, device management, document management or workflow. The fact that delivering solutions can help sell boxes isn't a bad thing, he said, but emphasized that vendors need to commit to developing strong software and support offerings to make the solutions attractive.

The vendors also acknowledged they need to address how to encourage value-added resellers and other channel partners to sell the software given that current compensations systems are largely hardware oriented

Wayne Lyle, IS director for the east coast law firm Preti Flaherty, shared with attendees his organization's experiences making strategic use of office document systems. Over the past few years the firm, which has 80 attorneys in five offices, has rolled out software from eCopy and Interwoven to streamline handling of documents as well as voice mail, e-mail and even dictation. The system has enabled attorneys and their assistants to scan documents into a network system that allows for easy access and secure storage of documents that previously would have been stuffed in filing cabinets or stored elsewhere. "We feared electronic images were just going to explode and nothing would be there to control what we were doing," said Lyle, who works in Portland, Maine.

Having a document management system in place has been particularly important given the rise of regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA. Even though those rules wouldn't typically apply to a law firm, Preti Flaherty is a full-service outfit that works with healthcare and other businesses that do have to stick to those rules. "We get hit with those regulations from all sides because our clients do," Lyle said.

Lyle said in an interview following his presentation that the firm's system handles roughly 1.5 million documents (largely in Word) and requires a couple hundred gigabytes of storage. But he foresees a time not far off when the law firm will need to split its master database to handle burgeoning volume.

On the broader issue of office document system vendors needing to go beyond offering just boxes, Lyle said he is all for it and noted that the integration between his scanning, document management and office equipment played a key role in his purchase decisions. Partnerships between vendors are important given the variety of office equipment at most companies and the specific needs of organizations in different vertical markets. "I just hope it's more than talk," he said.

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