IT managers and system administrators who manage print environments will need to decide whether to use print servers or configure direct-IP printers on all their endpoints. There are trade-offs for either approach, and several factors come into play when deciding which method is best for the organization.
The size of an organization makes a difference
In small companies with a handful of employees, the differences between using a print server and managing printing via direct IP are not that obvious. However, as the organization grows, and as locations multiply, the pain points stemming from IT’s print-management choices are more pronounced.
Direct IP printing is efficient but does not scale well
With direct-IP configurations, your users have the freedom to manage their own printers and profile settings. You gain the advantage of local spooling and rendering of print jobs—and those jobs go directly from the workstation to the printer. This is the most efficient way of printing and reduces overall network traffic. A driver issue or a job stuck in the queue will only affect one user. Direct IP is also very cost effective because there is no additional print management hardware to buy or maintain.
However, it is very time-consuming to configure printer drivers on every workstation and then keep up with changes and driver updates. A simple task of changing out a printer could require IT staff touching all affected workstations, which is time-consuming. In a dynamic environment, these efforts will inevitably fall behind, and user productivity will be impacted.
Figure 1: Direct IP has many advantages, but is not scalable.
Print servers offer advantages but are single points of failure
A print server can alleviate some of these problems because it’s a single point of management for drivers, profiles, and print-job auditing. You can set printer permissions and use Group Policy to map printers to users or workstations.
But print servers also introduce some headaches and vulnerabilities because they are a single point of failure for everyone attached to that server. When every printer driver lives, works, and spools on the same device, most organizations encounter performance and functionality issues.
Mapping printers via GPO is not always reliable, especially with laptop users. If there are multiple locations, and only one print server, some of your print-job traffic will traverse the WAN, often increasing the time it takes to print. On some WAN links, large print job traffic can cause congestion and impact other communication across the link.
You can install print servers at each location, but depending on how you deploy them this can get expensive in terms of hardware, licensing and maintenance costs.
Another thing to consider is that a Windows print server is typically set up for Windows clients only. There are ways to support Mac clients, but they come with limitations.
Figure 2: Print server benefits and disadvantages
PrinterLogic: The best of both worlds
What if there was a way to get the centralized management benefits of a print server while maintaining the stability and efficiency of direct-IP printing?
PrinterLogic eliminates the need for print servers while providing a way to centrally manage and install direct-IP printers. The solution lets you easily convert an existing Microsoft print-server environment to direct IP and manage all the printers and drivers from a single web-based admin console.
In addition, PrinterLogic gives you more visibility into printing activity with a robust reporting feature that allows you to see details about every print job and summaries by user, department, printer and more.
Figure 3: PrinterLogic offers centralized management plus the efficiencies of direct IP
To find out more about the PrinterLogic advantage, visit us at www.printerlogic.com for a demo and a free 30-day trial.
Before joining PrinterLogic as a pre-sales system engineer, Ken spent 20 years supporting and managing IT infrastructure for small businesses and startups in California’s Bay Area. He relocated to St. George, Utah for a lifestyle change and joined PrinterLogic for a new career challenge. He enjoys leveraging his experience on the other side of the sales equation as he helps companies recognize the value that PrinterLogic’s solutions offer.