Canon’s UniFLOW tames the Wild West (of Networks)

November 20, 2009

About 3 Months ago we installed a Canon uniFLOW solution at a prestigious International business school in the Boston area. We had tried to provide a solution that would meet the needs of their very diverse network using a number of different technologies but each fell short, until we proposed and installed Canon’s UniFLOW.

So what was so unique about their network? Here are some of the challenges that we faced.

The School is looking to track their students (~250/year) copy & print on three Canon MFDs. The following criteria need to be met:

1. There is no Active Directory Login for the Students – Local Authentication. This caused several “solutions” to be non-starters. In the spirit of full disclosure their actually is an Active Directory, but the students are NOT forced to login to it before printing.

2. The system needs to track prints & copies (faxes or scans are optional). It also came to light during the install that only the students would be charged, the faculty & staff would not be charged, but they did want to still track their print & copy usage. No Problem with Canon’s UniFLOW.

3. Student bring their own Computers with a wide variety of (OS) Operating Systems (several Flavors of, XP, Vista, Home & Pro, MAC  OS  X.4 & 5, both 32 & 64 bit systems) The Home versions of XP & Vista caused a couple of Solutions to drop out of the running.
4. Minimal prep work should be done to the students Computers. – Good documentation was the key! Screen shots and simple instructions allowed the diverse student population to set themselves up with minimal support from the IT Dept.
5.  Students should have an initial level of access (dollar amount or clicks) across all 3 Canon MFDs. We (NECS) were the first Canon uniFLOW install in the USA to integrate with PAYPAL! This allowed the school to give the students an initial printing allowance, and then the students could replenish their printing budget as needed with little to no IT involvement.
6. Students should be able to go to a specific staff member to add value to their account and have the staff member reactivate their account or add value to an active account. UniFLOW \ PAYPAL integration made it unnecessary for the staff to be involved in this process. Causing significantly lower support overhead for the school. this was a HUGE benefit to the school.
7. The Canon MFDs currently have eCopy SSOP embedded. There should be no conflict with this app. Because there was a sensitivity to cost, the initial implementation met this criteria but we did NOT integrate the two apps. This has been proposed as a future enhancement so that UniFLOW will pass forward the student or staff login credntials to the embedded eCopy SSOP app. This would allow the students \ staff to login to BOTH UniFLOW & eCopy SSOP when they tap their school security card on the MFD proximity card reader.
8. There are 6 Lab PCs that will need a Pop Up type of authentication so that multiple students may use it while still billing their prints to their accounts. This knocked out another solution we looked at. We loaded the Canon UniFLOW client with a pop up on the Public PCs in the Lab so that each student would get a pop up for their credentials each time that they printed.

9. It would be nice if the solution would provide true follow me type of Printing. Where a student could use a universal print driver and pull down the job at any Canon they chose to use. Canon UniFLOW allows Students & Staff to simply login to any Canon MFD running the UniFLOW MEAP app. by tapping their school issued security card on a proximity reader attached to the Canon MFD. The first time they tap their prox card it asks them to login to the UniFLOW system which will import their user info from the Schools Active Directory. They NEVER need to login again unless their AD pasword changes. Once they login in to ANY Canon MFD running the UniFLOW MEAP app they can then release their print jobs. Thus the print jobs “follow” the student(s) to whatever Canon MFD that they choose to login to.

This was a tall order from a good customer, after trying a couple of “solutions” that failed to meet all the requirements, Canon UniFLOW tamed the wild west (of networks). It was a true “solution” for this school. We combined Software, Hardware & Know How to solve the school’s business problem!

That’s my $0.02
Vince McHugh


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