February 25, 2021

How to Prevent Print Spooler Crashes in Healthcare Environments

Day-to-day hospital operations rely on quick, accessible, and secure printing. Unfortunately, healthcare tech solutions tend to be anything but; on top of that, the environment is susceptible to the nemesis of printing: print spooler crashers.

Print servers and the spooler service can be difficult to troubleshoot and cause a myriad of problems across the entire healthcare system. In this post, we’ll discuss print spooler crashes and share our proactive approach to eliminating these frustrating issues before they even start.

What is a Print Spooler and What Happens When It Crashes?

As a refresher, the print spooler temporarily stores all of the print jobs in a server until the printer is ready to complete each job. It processes all incoming traffic and permits users to continue working without waiting for each print job to finish — a critical feature for fast-paced work environments where multiple employees need to print multiple files simultaneously.

While this storage process seems relatively straightforward, unstable files, such as corrupted PDFs, can cause major print spooler problems. As the software attempts to translate data into a print job, it needs to decompress the file within the spooler and take up processing resources. Typically, this memory usage only causes minor delays — but when the file is corrupted, it continues to take up megabytes for processing until it overwhelms the server and causes a crash.

The typical at-home solution to this problem is a system restart. However, when a server crash occurs in a high-speed hospital environment, even a quick restart can lead to inefficiencies across clinical workflows.

Moreover, the real problem is not a single user struggling to print one corrupted file. When the print server hosts hundreds of printers and thousands of users — many of whom have to print the same file or access the same application — one unresponsive print job (and users pressing “print” over and over) causes a domino effect that severely impacts speed and performance.

The result? Hundreds of tickets to the help desk reporting slow or crashed print jobs.

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How to Optimize Printing and Prevent Spooler Crashes

Your hospital may not currently have a problem with full-on spooler crashes, even if you periodically experience printing delays or slower average print times as usage increases. However, if you’re looking toward growth — like hiring more staff or expanding the campus — one slowed-down system can quickly plague the entire network. When a single job overwhelms the print spooler, hundreds of print jobs within the system screech to a halt.

The goal for all healthcare print systems should be simple: all printers must be available at all times for any authorized user. There are two ways to make this possible:

  1. Eliminate print servers completely
  2. Decentralize print servers for easier management

In our opinion, the former may not be the ideal solution. The print server carries out a critical job, and removing it from the local network will only redirect the traffic flow (and the points of failure) elsewhere. Plus, if you switch to cloud-based solutions instead, a single WiFi glitch can take your entire hospital system offline. Either way, removing the print server creates a large-scale problem often outside of SysAdmin control.

Instead of handing over control of your printing jobs to a remote service, reduce risks and downtime across your network by decentralizing your printing operations. Distributing print jobs across various spoolers reduces the pressures on your current systems and offers a proactive solution to print spooler crashes.

If one spooler encounters a problematic file, users can still rely on the other online servers for time-sensitive print jobs. That means fewer delays and support tickets since 100% of your users don't rely on a single spooler. SysAdmins can’t control a bad PDF. However, print spooler problems are significantly more manageable on a by-user basis than when they impact an entire network.

A Proactive Approach to Print Spooler Management

When critical issues are properly consolidated and decentralized to be less impactful on the overall system, you'll see fewer spooler crashes and more efficient printing operations. When crashes do occur, they'll be easier to identify and resolve in a timely manner.

A virtual print driver software can help SysAdmins create a more reliable printing infrastructure. Virtual driver software hosts all spooling on the terminal and print server, which reduces client-side printing delays, boosts server performance and prevents print spooler crashes. Plus, by consolidating unoptimized print servers into fewer, more efficient servers, SysAdmins regain control over the entire server network.

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With Tricerat’s centralized print management, you can unite disparate systems in a secure and highly controlled way. By seamlessly layering onto clinical and non-clinical applications, we deliver quick, secure, efficient, and flexible print management solutions to healthcare environments. Plus, with our ongoing 24/7 support, you can alleviate some of the burden on hospital IT support staff.

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