As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Henning Volkmer, CEO of ThinPrint, Inc., about using the Windows Azure platform to deliver its innovative print solution. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN:  Provide a quick overview of your company and the services you offer.

Volkmer:  Cortado and ThinPrint specialize in offering innovative print solutions and leading mobile business applications for any cloud strategy. Our solutions range from print management solutions for distributed network environments, solutions for the virtual desktop environment market, and confidential printing with various authentication methods. With our solutions, organizations are able to seamlessly integrate home offices, mobile employees and complete branch offices into an existing IT infrastructure. ThinPrint customers benefit from high-quality and fast printouts, reduced administration costs, optimized security and full control of the entire print environment, together resulting in significant cost savings.

MSDN:  Who are your customers?

Volkmer:  Cortado’s ThinPrint customers include some of the leading companies in all industries around the world. Cortado solutions are deployed among many small and mid-sized corporations and also help some of the world’s largest companies manage and optimize their print environments.

MSDN:  What was the biggest challenge you faced prior to implementing on Windows Azure?

Volkmer: ThinPrint wanted a platform that would collect user data, analyze, transform and report it back to the users. A solution capable of reporting cost averages needs data from more than one user and the ability to order supplies from within the application needed an easy connection to the Internet. ThinPrint determined if all of these services would run on premise at each customer, the setup effort would be far too great and customer costs with supply delivery companies such as Amazon would be almost impossible.

MSDN:  Why did you decide to adopt Windows Azure?

Volkmer:  As a long standing Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, it was logical to use a Microsoft solution to help scale our datacenter while guaranteeing high performance access from all over the world.

MSDN:  Is your solution deployed and live?

Volkmer:  Yes, Printer Dashboard was released in March 2011 and has seen a rapid adoption rate across the globe.

MSDN:  Is your solution 100% in the cloud or is it a hybrid model?

Volkmer:  Printer Dashboard is a 100% cloud solution. Everything from the intelligence to the user interface resides on Windows Azure and is fed with data from agents on the customers’ network.

MSDN:  Can you describe the solution you built with Windows Azure and how it helped address your challenge?

Volkmer:  Printer Dashboard is based on Silverlight and hosted by Windows Azure, which allows administrators to monitor printer environments in real time and from any location via a web browser. With just a single click, the user obtains information on the status of printers within the organization as well as printing volume, paper jams and consumables data such as toner and paper levels, regardless of printer location.

MSDN:   What makes your solution unique?

Volkmer: Printer Dashboard captures the printing costs of all users and reports the average values back to the users. This offers objective information about the average cost of individual printer models. It also allows you to see that you’re paying more or less money for printing than the average user. Service documents detail the consumption of material such as toner, and offer early notifications when a replacement is due, which can significantly reduce downtime and avoid bottlenecks. Printer Dashboard also collects user feedback on error messages of printers and explains the error messages and points to possible solutions saving customers time and money.

In addition, materials such as toner, ink and paper can easily be ordered directly from within the application, further simplifying the process.

MSDN:  What are the benefits of using Windows Azure?

Volkmer: As with any new project we experienced a few challenges but thanks to the excellent Microsoft support everything was resolved quickly and with great flexibility.  We are also using the Windows Azure Application Monitoring Management Pack to keep on top of our applications perfomance and availability. In case and problems are reported we can easily log in for example via Remote Desktop Services to address the issue.

Printer Dashboard is a real cloud service - only the agent feeding data into the cloud is run locally on a PC or server - everything else happens in the Windows Azure environment. This guarantees availability with full redundancy at 99.9% of the time and allows us to scale the solution to exact customer demand. This offers us a great way for us to control operational cost and offer a cost effective solution to our customers.

To read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit:  www.windowsazure.com/evidence


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