In this digital era, printing and scanning are essential services that most businesses require. As large amounts of vulnerable data and information need to get transferred to various points, more and more organizations opt for centralized networks with a print server. Print servers can not only centralize the networks and configure all your printers but also lets your users access their designated printer easily. Another big reason to set up a print server is that it enforces the company’s policies across the network and even over different geographical locations.
Advantages of setting up a print server
Installing a print server has several advantages over the conventional setup where every device must have its own printer connected via a USB, such as easy access, security enhancements, cost and space savings, and improved print management.
Can handle complex situations
Unlike the traditional ‘one PC-one printer’ setup, you can achieve group settings, and add new users or update print permissions whenever necessary. It is also easy to keep track of print metadata which makes it easier to monitor, restrict or prioritise users or jobs. With a print server, it is easier to process large print volumes, simultaneous print jobs and accommodate smart devices like phones and tablets.
Easy to set up, run and update
Print servers allow you to easily follow the printer set up steps on your computer operating system and install them for your users. You just need to follow the steps that are given in your operating system manual, and you can get a new print server up and running quickly. It is easier to manage, maintain and update the settings on the server directly, without bothering the user and updating settings on each network computer.
Centralized print management
Servers allow you to create a central point of printer management, consolidating all functions and users into one system. This also reduces the frequency of user error. Other print server controls include print processing, print prioritization, print policies, even print reporting and auditing, where you can fathom where the resources are being used.
It also lets you connect to the precise printer that is suited for your tasks. For instance, whether you need a high-resolution colour laser printer for a poster or a normal black and white printout, you could choose accordingly.
Speed and security enhancements
Servers ensure that companies do not suffer from slowing network speeds or security issues like data theft. Printer’s process large amounts of sensitive data, and when done on individual printers, it is difficult to monitor the process for data loss and other security issues. With network security practices constantly changing, having a system that keeps ahead of any threat and ensuring all information remains secure during the transfer will improve information security.
Imagine an office where every computer is connected to a printer via a USB cable? That’s a lot of desk space and dangling wires, isn’t it!! A print server frees up a lot of desk space. In addition, a print server gives you the flexibility of shared printers via Wi-Fi.
Best practices for setting up a print server
There are a few contributing factors that affect the performance and scalability of a print server. Variables like infrastructure, hardware specifications, type of print jobs, network latency and even print server releases, could vary from network to network. Therefore, it is not possible to formulate a single one-size-fits-all solution for all print server implementations.
So, what are the best practices and recommendations you could deploy to make the most of your print server? Let us take a look at some important best practices for setting up a print server.
The number of users
So, how many users are connected to your print server? The performance of a print server can get affected when too many clients connect; it can cause a large drain on your systems’ resources. When you are setting up a print server for your network, take into consideration the system resources like server strength, memory and storage capacity and decide on the number of active users that seem to be manageable.
It is not just the active clients that affect a printer server. In some cases, passive users can also cause a server to show an increase in loads. For instance, when a user has a print job, he/she establishes a connection with the server, invoking a spooler activity and subsequently, the system resources are allocated immediately. On some occasions, while establishing a connection to the server for a print job, the user may unintentionally not terminate the application on their workstation. This may hold the connections open for many hours, even after the job is completed. Here, the print server can become constrained due to the number of clients that are connected passively when the client forgets to terminate the connection.
Also, print activity does vary during the course of the day. The number of users connected to a print server may be less in the forenoon but may show an increase in activity during midday, and a gradual decrease at the end of the working day.
Use client-side rendering when possible
With the client-side rendering option, the print system on the client translates the document to a printer-specific PDL before it sends the data stream to the print server. However, if the server-side rendering is configured instead of the printer-side rendering or the client cannot use the client-side rendering, the client print system sends the document directly to Print Server and the document is rendered to a printer-specific PDL locally.
Client-side rendering can reduce the amount of processing the server is expected to do. This can not only speed up print times but prevent the spooler from crashing as frequently.
Fewer and uniform drivers
Having a large variety of drivers for your print server runs the risk of not just increased incompatibilities but also more server-side rendering. This could, in turn, increase the chances of server crashes and printing errors. While installing drivers, go for a few divers that are uniform in features. This could lead to a more efficient and stable printing system.
The operating system of the print users
The compatibility of the operating system of the print clients and printer server drivers plays an important role in the performance of the print server.
For instance, in a situation where the printer users have a Windows 7 operating system, but the print server has been installed with v4 printer drivers, then server-side rendering is used instead of client-side rendering. And when there are print jobs sent from different users at the same time, the workload on the server increases. This could also lead to frequent server crashes. On the other hand, if Windows 8 operating system is used, it leads to client-side rendering that offloads the processing to the client instead of to the server. Then it routes the job directly to the printer, instead of passing it through a centralized print server, which reduces load and network traffic.
Network bandwidth and storage for print server
The network speed and storage capacity for your print server depends on a few factors such as the number of prints, size of the data, and frequency of print jobs. For example, high-frequency smaller print jobs have a different storage requirement as against larger print jobs.
When implemented correctly, print servers can improve the work process, increase the productivity and reduce the overhead costs of an organization.