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Printing problems can bring the most efficient companies to a grinding halt. Fixing those glitches is a high priority, and the responsibility usually falls on the shoulders of the system admin or IT department. From wasted resources to time spent putting out fires, the costs add up quickly.
Print servers alleviate these frustrations by preventing many of the issues that result in help desk tickets. Put simply, print servers connect printers to client devices like laptops over a network. The server accepts print jobs and sends them to the designated printer.
Direct IP printing is the most common alternative to print servers. In this method, users send print jobs from their own devices straight to a printer. This system is convenient for a smaller user base or a decentralized setting where a resource-heavy print server would be overkill.
So how do you choose between print servers and direct IP printing? Let's take a closer look at the advantages of each one.
Unlike direct printing, print server systems scale well as companies grow. You can manage group settings, add new users and update print permissions at need. A server can also handle increased print load: rather than users independently sending jobs to the same printer, a server distributes or prioritizes jobs to prevent backlogs. Tricerat's servers can even connect to remote print servers across a WAN.
Computer operating systems have made server setup easy to manage. As long as you follow the steps laid out in your OS, you can get a new print server up and running quickly. Your IT staff will also be able to maintain and update the server directly without the hassle of updating settings on each network computer.
Servers consolidate print management into one system. Responsibility shifts from scattered end-users to the IT department, reducing the frequency of user error. The system admin controls all print settings: job processing and prioritization, print policies like watermarks or color, even deleting jobs that don't meet print criteria.
Central servers also enable print reporting and auditing, so you can know where your money and resources are being used and reassess your print policies.
Servers reduce the need for handholding. They no longer have to add printers or update settings themselves, eliminating both stress and the potential for problems. The system admin creates print policies; the user simply opens up their desktop. Some print server solutions even have map views, allowing users to add nearby printers easily based on a map of the building.
Unfortunately, print servers aren't a perfect solution. That centralized management is advantageous, but it also implies increased workload for the IT department on the front end. Servers often require additional hardware, which can sap both money and network bandwidth. Configuring the server to meet your needs can be complicated; a more complex system often requires more complex solutions. Print policies are fickle and can malfunction without any clear cause, despite the best efforts of IT. Most significantly, servers represent a single point of failure: if the server fails, your printing stops.
Direct IP printing is just that — direct. Your workers can send print jobs directly to the machine they select, speeding up the printing process. And if anything does go wrong, such as driver issues or malfunctioning printers, it only affects one user at a time, rather than the entire network of printers. As a result, your end users are more productive and printing is straightforward and efficient.
Direct printing allows your users to manage their own printing. If your workspace has individuals with a variety of needs, they won't be constrained by blanket print policies. Users control their own print settings and profile, speeding up their print process. They can also self-service easily, choosing the machine they need from a map or drop-down menu.
Compared to print servers, direct IP printing is a svelte, streamlined system. Because users route traffic directly from their workstation to the relevant printer, your network isn't heavily taxed with print needs. You gain the benefit of local spooling and rendering of print jobs, rather than sending all tasks over the network to the print server. The self-service nature of direct printing means less work for support staff on everyday issues. It's also cost-effective and light on budget: unlike print servers, there is no additional print management hardware to buy or maintain.
Direct IP printing comes with its own limitations. Because direct printing is less centralized, it's time-consuming to configure printer drivers on every workstation. Software updates are inefficient. A simple task like changing out a printer could require IT staff to configure every affected workstation individually. Direct IP printing simply can't keep up with dynamic environments, workers on the move, growing businesses or ones with multiple locations. There's also less oversight and management capabilities in traditional direct IP printing: without centralized group policy management, your workers will set their own printing rules.
The ROI of either solution will depend on the needs of your business. If your company has a centralized office setup with relatively static needs, print servers may not be worth the cost and resources required. In that environment, direct IP printing is likely the ideal solution. For businesses needing more control over management, however, print servers are the right choice.
When implemented correctly, both print servers and direct IP printing will increase productivity and reduce costs for your business. For instance, you'll be able to reduce resource waste like toner by implementing company-wide print policies. Crucially, print management solutions enable increased productivity; both end users and IT workers will have more time to focus on their essential job functions, rather than getting mired in print malfunctions.
This is especially true for the IT department. System admins are no longer called in as support for end users. IT has to maintain one central server, rather than numerous individual direct print systems. That reduction in help desk tickets saves significant time and wasted salary — an IT admin no longer has to waste time on low-level print issues.
Tricerat's solutions are tailor-made to eliminate inherent problems and enhance the efficiency of your enterprise print environment. For print server printing, for example, our software implements a fail-over system: if your server ever fails, your printing will transfer automatically to the backup. Our direct IP print solution centralizes your drivers for increased efficiency.
Tricerat offers all the advantages of print server or direct IP printing, with none of the drawbacks. With over 25 years of experience, our expert team will reduce your costs and minimize your printing frustrations. Check out a quick demo of how Tricerat's ScrewDrivers® can improve your print management today.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2019 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.