A print server is a computer or device connecting one or more printers to multiple workstations over a network.The term “print server” refers to either hardware or software and is responsible for tasking the jobs from multiple workstations to a printer in the correct order and time. It enables users to print independently of a file server (which slows down the entire network) or a dedicated PC (which requires the purchase of additional hardware and software).
Print servers can be internal or external. An external one is more flexible since the same server can be kept even after printers are changed or upgraded. In general, a printer cable is connected to the print server, which is connected to the network. When a workstation is installed on the network, the default printer is then assigned to a network port instead of the standard parallel port. The print servers usually come with software which provides the proper network port needed by the printer. The port is configured to use the available network protocols to allow all workstations to print to the printer by default.Users with a direct IP connection to a shared printer must have that printer’s current version of the printer software available to them, as well as the permission to install and configure that software on their computer. This process may be manageable in a small office, but as the number of users or printers grows, distributing and updating this software for each potential printer user can become a difficult task.
Advantages to having a print server
To be effective in today’s network printing environments, print servers must be able to accept print requests from multiple platforms independent of whether a workstation is local or remote. Print servers are flexible in the fact they can support virtually all printer models and all network environments. Print servers are key in running an efficient network printing environment.
- Reduces administrative and management workload by centralizing local and remote printer management.
- Simplifies labor intensive functions experienced by users when using direct IP printer connections.
- The printer is now connected to the network with a direct and fast connection rather than a slow parallel printer connection.
- The computer does not need to wait to print before continuing with other activities because print servers utilize the queuing of the file server to capture complete print jobs quickly, which frees the user to return to other work.
- No limitations as to where shared printers are placed because you are no longer restricted to cable