Print Management

Printer Management can sometimes be a tedious task that most sysadmins dread. I myself can recall an instance spending an absorbent amount of time at a printer trying to work out why it was jamming only to find the tiniest shred of paper hidden away behind a roller that was left behind after a user had cleared the jam themselves by tearing the bit of paper out of the printer. Printer management can include a lot more than ensuring they are operational and clearing Jams. Printer management can include managing a central print server for the efficient delivery of a printer to implementing solutions to save on printer consumables and encouraging a greener I.T.

The first question you should ask when installing a printer is do you need a centralised print server for printer management? This will always depend on how many users and printers you have on your network?, will you need to lock down the printer in any way? and do you have a server already that you can potentially use as a print server and has the capacity to run print services?.

Print servers allow you to create a central point of printer management, troubleshooting print issues and easily install printers for your users. A centralised print server that is installed in a larger environment with many printers and users is highly recommended that you can have a dedicated server that will just handle print management. For high redundancy and availability, you can also cluster print servers together so if one goes down your printers will still stay online to your users.

Where do you start when it comes to creating a centralised print server? Firstly, on a windows server machine, you will need t install a new Print and Document Services role which opens the right firewall ports on that server and installs the print management MMC.

Printer Management

The next step will be to start installing printers. You will have to make sure you have your drivers ready and downloaded. These days it is recommended that you use the PCL6 driver and install both the 32 bit and 64-bit drivers to ensure you cater for all of your potential workstations. If you miss this step and do not install both versions the computer will get an error when installing the printer. During the installation, you will also be asked what port to use. When selecting a port do not select auto-detect and manually choose the TCP/IP port and enter the IP address of the printer. If you choose auto-detect there’s a possibility that it will install the printer using the WSD or web services port which can be troublesome and when set it sometimes can not be changed so it’s better to use TCP/IP which is more reliable.

When choosing a name for your Printer it is important to choose a good naming convention. If you are in a large environment try and a naming convention that includes the use of the location and also the department so when it comes to troubleshooting issues it will be easier to locate and retrieve details from the printer. It is a good idea to try and stay away from using the make or model number. You users can get set in their ways and if you chose to change the printer down the track your users can still print to the same name printer and avoid confusion. Also, make sure the printer is labelled so the user can distinguish which printer they have printed to.

The next step will be to lock down the printer. By doing this you can allow only certain people or departments to print to particular printer. One of the easiest solutions you can use is group policy to install the printers to your users and then set a particular printer as their default. Not only can you look down where users can print but you an also lock down your printers by specifying what they can print. You can do this by installing multiple printers on the print server with different settings that are hard set. For example set up one printer that is hard set to print B&W and one for colour. Then install printers each of these printers to users depending on their needs. One other setting I would also always hard set is to force printers to print with duplexing as a default. Users may not like it but this will save a heap of paper if set as default.

Some of the new multi-function office printers on the market allow you to set up a function that holds the print job at the printer until it is manually released. I have seen on many occasions where you will find a pile of uncollected print jobs sitting next to the printer. The reason for this is typically users will send a job to the printer and forget they have sent it and never end up collecting their jobs. Enforcing the user to manually release the print job when at the printer, sometimes with a code that can be handy if the job is sensitive, can greatly decrease paper and ink wastage.

Have you ever printed out a colour document and the colour on the print out just doesn’t quite match the colour that you had hoped for on your computer screen? When you deal with a marketing department you may get a request to have print outs come out as close as possible to the colour of that which is shown on the screen. PCL6 print drivers are not really optimised for this and sometimes you may need to revert to a postscript driver for these users to improve the colours on the print outs. Some applications like Adobe will have custom drivers that will help with the colour print outs with some makes and models of printers.

A common issue the support team will have with printers is a job will fail for a reason and will start holding up the print queue. A user can not typically see there is an issue at the queue so when their job does not come out they will just keep selecting print on the same job over and over again which makes the queue of jobs even larger. Usually for the I.T department to resolve this issue with a problem print job is to simply stop the print spool service on the print server and remove the problem job or even the majority of the duplicate jobs in the queues and start the spool service again. This will usually do the trick and everyone is then happy printing again. Take note of the person who printed the problem job and pays them a visit so they just do not break it again by sending the same print job.

You will start finding your users and devices are becoming more mobile and there is an increased need to print from these devices that are wireless. New copiers will have included wireless technologies such as Airprint, Wifi direct print or Cloud print built-in. All you need for some of these solutions is to make sure your wireless devices are on the same VLAN or network as your printer. Whatever you’re set up just make sure that the Wifi network has access to print from its network to the LAN network and the correct ports are open.

Scan to email is heavily used on printers and it is important to keep the address books up to date. You will have some users out there that when their address is not in the address book they will manually type their address and with some printers, this can be a tedious task. This can be frustrating for the user but once they have done this they will often not notify I.T and then become frustrated again when they go to send another email. Keeping the address books up to date will avoid these frustrations and also when departed users are taking up valuable real estate in these address books it looks poorly on the I.T department. If you have a standard make of machine on your network you can often create one address book that you can keep up to date and import to all of your printers.

Once you have your printers installed and working like clockwork it will be time to set up some monitoring on these printers. This monitoring can include either just a ping monitor to make sure it is always available or use your monitoring tool to monitor consumable levels to send out warnings when the cartridge ink level is less than 10%

Lastly, when it comes to printer management, it is obvious that you will need somehow to track your printers in one central system and have a holistic view of your printing environment. It is important to document all your printers, models, IP addresses and locations so this information can be easily referenced.

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