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Print Server

Introduction

A print server is a computer, network device, or software program that controls print requests and provides network administrators and end-users with printer queue status information. Both large enterprise networks and small or home office (SOHO) networks use print servers.

Print Server

Print servers receive print requests from PCs, queue them, and subsequently route the requests to designated printers. Additionally, print servers might be cloud-based or physically located. When print requests come in more quickly than they can be processed, print servers assist. Print servers assist in offering more management and control over print requests for an organization that has a large number of devices, or devices spread across various geographic areas.

In a large organization, a dedicated computer serving as a print server may manage hundreds of printers. A print server, which serves the same purpose as a dedicated print server but frees up important disk space on the office's few PCs, is typically a small network device or specialized plug-in board the size of a hub.

How are print servers operated?

The software needed for a print server may be installed on a computer's operating system or be a component of a server, network device, or application. Network printing management is made possible by software on specialized PCs or network devices.

  • In the event that servers are used, computers can communicate with available printers by connecting to the server via a network.
  • Printers are connected to dedicated print server devices via USB, parallel, or wireless connections. Usually, devices are connected to several additional printers as well as the local area network (LAN).
  • Multiple printers are networked with print servers installed on computers.
  • Printers may have built-in print servers.

The client-server architecture is used by print servers. To keep control over print queues, print servers establish direct connections with network printers. The print server is what gets a request to print a file made by a user on behalf of an authorized client. After that, the print server handles request information, including file and print requirements. After that, the request is queued and issued to a certain network printer. On the specific printer, the files are printed in the order they are queued.

Additionally, print servers may support a variety of proprietary and non-proprietary printing protocols. Printing protocols facilitate communication between the printers that handle requests from clients and the clients making the requests.

They are divided into the following protocols:

  • Specific print activities are handled by dedicated protocols like Jetdirect or Line Printer Daemon.
  • Generic protocols that treat printers like remote drives, including Server Message Block (SMB).
  • Wireless protocols that allow devices to use printers wirelessly, like AirPrint.

Why an organization might need a print server

Print servers are very helpful for businesses that need to print a lot of documents and have multiple printers. Here, they help with the management of each connected printer's print queues. Print servers are helpful for additional purposes, including the following:

Managing several printers from a central location. This facilitates the monitoring of printer health, software updates, and bottleneck prevention for printers spread throughout an office or building.

Print servers are able to control the queue for every connected printer, which increases efficiency. To better serve customers, print servers can also route requests to quicker local printers. The processing power required for printers to handle large queues is offloaded to a specific device.

Downsides of utilizing a print server

However, there are drawbacks to printing servers. The possibility that print servers will become a source of venerability for companies is a significant drawback. If the server fails, it will affect all printers attached to it.

An executable file from Microsoft that controls the printing processes is called Windows Print Spooler. It allows every system in the service to function as both a print server and an administrative or print client. An attacker could have gained system access on machines by exploiting a zero-day vulnerability in Print Spooler. Part of the PrintNightmare problem, which affects Windows Print Spooler and print driver configuration settings, is this vulnerability.

History of print server technology

Many endpoints could initially be connected to a single wide area network (WAN) connection point due to terminal servers. Print queuing was eventually included by terminal server designers as printers were connected to the servers as they developed. Having specialized print servers grew increasingly typical as time went on.

Although they may not be as necessary now as they previously were, print servers eventually become a crucial component of networks. Hard copies may no longer be as crucial or useful to some businesses, which may only need to rely on digital files. Furthermore, print servers' features are occasionally included pre-packaged in other network appliances.

Additionally, cloud-based "serverless" printing solutions are available. When a print server is hosted remotely and users access it via the internet, they can manage prints using public or private cloud services. Users do not need to own or manage a physical print server while using this option.

A print server is still an option for organizations that rely on printing physical documents, but it is up to the organization.

Why do I need a print server?

In a networked setting, a print server serves as the primary hub for managing print jobs and assigning them to different printers. By eliminating the need for a direct connection between every computer and every printer, it simplifies and speeds up the printing process. Strong arguments for utilizing a print server include the following:

  • Centralized printer management: A print server simplifies printer management by centralizing tasks, including driver installation, printer configuration, and maintenance. This centralized approach reduces the effort for IT personnel while ensuring consistent printer settings across the network.
  • Enhanced print job efficiency: Print servers queue up and expedite the processing of print jobs by prioritizing print jobs based on user or department needs. This guarantees that urgent documents are produced on time and helps prevent printer overload.
  • Enhanced security: Print servers can enforce secure printing regulations, such as requiring job release codes or PIN authentication to prevent unauthorized access to private data, in addition to being shielded by the network firewall. This protects confidential data and stops unauthorized printing.
  • Cost-effective solution: Print servers are an affordable choice for businesses and organizations with several printers. Print servers can lower overall IT costs by removing the requirement for several direct connections and centralizing printer administration.
  • Flexibility and scalability: Print servers can grow with a business as it grows. When the number of users or printers increases, it is comparatively simple to connect more devices to the print server to handle the additional load.

What is print server software?

A computer can serve as a print server with the help of print server software. It distributes print jobs to network printers, handles print jobs, and keeps an eye on printer status. The operating system may come with print server software already installed, or it can be purchased separately.

There are numerous varieties of print server software available, each with a unique set of functionalities.

Among the most typical characteristics are:

  • Print job queuing and management.
  • Printer status monitoring.
  • Job accounting.
  • Secure printing.

Businesses and organizations without a large, complex network infrastructure that needs a dedicated printer but has several network printers can benefit from print server software. It can lower IT expenses, boost security, and increase the effectiveness of print jobs.

Printing protocols

Printer and computer communication is governed by a set of rules and conventions called printing protocols. They are required to ensure that print jobs are transmitted and received accurately.

While there are a number of printing protocols in use today, the following are the most popular ones:

  • Line Printer Remote (LPR): Originally designed for Unix computers, LPR is an outdated protocol. This simple technique is still followed by a lot of people today. When LPR prints, the entire job is sent to the printer at once. Thus, LPR can be slow, especially for high-volume assignments.
  • Internet Printing Protocol (IPP): IPP is a more modern protocol based on HTTP. Despite being a more complex protocol than LPR, it offers a number of advantages, including the capacity to monitor and cancel jobs. IPP is the suggested protocol for newly purchased printers and is growing in popularity.
  • Server Message Block/Common Internet File System (SMB/CIFS): The SMB/CIFS network file-sharing protocol allows printing on Windows networks. SMB/CIFS is not as robust as LPR or IPP, despite being a simple and easy-to-use protocol.
  • JetDirect: The proprietary protocol known as JetDirect was developed by HP. Although it is not as widely supported as LPR or IPP, HP printers commonly use this protocol.
  • TCP/IP: TCP/IP is the most commonly used network protocol in the world. It is used for a plethora of network operations, printing being only one of them. A reliable protocol for printing over wired and wireless networks is TCP/IP.

Common issues and troubleshooting

When managing print servers, several common issues might arise, such as printer faults and network issues. These issues can aggravate users and make printing challenging. It is necessary to quickly identify and resolve these issues in order to maintain a seamless and productive printing environment.

1. Network connectivity: When there are issues with print server network connectivity, it's critical to ensure that the print server is physically connected to the network.

Verify that the print server is correctly connected to the network and has a functional IP address. Ensure that network wires are securely connected and look for any damage.

2. Print job failures: A number of factors, including incorrect printer settings, improper print data, or insufficient storage capacity on the print server, can lead to print job failures.

To address print job problems, review the print queue on the print server to identify any failed or delayed print processes. Terminate stalled jobs to free up resources and make way for new positions.

3. Print queue management: To prevent delays in printing operations, efficient print queue management is required. Watch the print queue and terminate any stalled or failing tasks to maintain a seamless workflow.

4. Security vulnerabilities: Confidential data may be in danger due to security vulnerabilities in print servers. Regularly apply the latest security updates to the print server's operating system and printer drivers to safeguard against security risks. To access the print server and network, create strong passwords.

Make sure that firewalls and other security technologies are always protecting your servers.

Benefits of a Print Server

A print server can assist with many administrative duties in the workplace and offer additional conveniences to the staff, in addition to enabling all members of your team to use the printer at the same time.

1. Easy Administration

If you have a print server at the workplace, fresh print job requests will not be routed directly to the printer. First, the print server will receive them, after which a queue will form.

This facilitates improved management of printing resources and updates to printer settings for the system administrator in your office.

A print server can assist with several common and helpful management techniques, such as setting color printing quotas, checking user identity, and watermarking printed papers.

Such actions provide a greater degree of protection for all employees and the official documents that the printer handles.

2. Show Print Job Status to Users

During office hours, we frequently need to print documents on a tight timeline. Our computer's ability to indicate the percentage of the printing work that has been finished and the estimated time it will take to finish the remaining tasks is quite helpful in these common instances.

This is made feasible by a print server, which provides the user who started the process with the print job status. From the respective software, you can view the total number of pages that need to be printed as well as the number of pages that have already been printed.

3. Higher Cost-Effectiveness and Productivity

Your company will be more cost-effective if it has a wireless print server because it will require fewer devices to provide the same results.

This kind of single server can allow every employee to use a single printer without interfering with each other's work. It also oversees the queued jobs, allowing them to be pushed forward, backward, or deleted completely. This streamlines the entire procedure and maintains productivity levels for the entire year.

How Does A Print Server Connect to The Printers?

It is possible to connect a print server and printer in a few different ways. The servers have one or more ports, so if one connection fails, you may rely on the next to continue working with the printer.

1. Ethernet

For a very long time, Ethernet has been the main connecting method for network devices. As a result, it's no surprise that printer servers use the same common connectivity solution.

Additionally, this port can directly connect to the router, which will facilitate device internet access.

2. USB

On print servers, USB ports are the most commonly used type of connectivity. Each device has a USB connector built in, so you can use a cable to connect it right away to the printer's USB port.

By attaching the printer to their assigned port, certain routers can also function as USB print servers.

3. Wi-Fi

If you don't want to deal with the hassle of cables, you can use a wireless print server. All of the client PCs and printers are already available, so all they need to do is join the Wi-Fi network. Using this simple strategy, workplaces can reduce clutter across the office space.


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