Using network printers is a cost-effective strategy. However, a level of management attention is required in order to obtain those benefits. This lesson focuses on how to manage a shared printer.
After this lesson, you will be able to:
- Describe the tasks required to maintain a network printer.
- Manage printer users.
Estimated lesson time: 15 minutes
After a printer has been shared to the network, it needs to be managed and maintained. Printer management tasks encompass two areas of responsibility:
Printers connect either directly to a computer's printer port or to the network through a network port device. A network port is much like a stand-alone network interface card. One interface connects to the network, and the other interface connects to the printer. Internal models plug directly into a slot in the printer; external models operate in a compact box slightly larger than a NIC. These require a small, low-voltage power supply to operate. When properly configured, the network port becomes another shared resource on the network. Configuring such devices is the administrator's responsibility.
Maintenance tasks include:
Most of these are routine tasks that can be learned easily. Users generally do not mind doing jobs such as reloading an empty paper tray or even changing the toner if there are clear, systematic instructions for such tasks located near the printer.
However, problems can develop when no single individual is responsible for the printer. It is not unusual for everyone who uses the printer to assume that someone else is taking care of any problems that arise. As a result, simple problems sometimes remain unresolved until a frustrated volunteer decides to take on the responsibility of remedying the situation.
The printer is like any other shared resource. Users must not only be given permission to use it, they must also be assigned a level of permission. (For more information on assigning permissions to network users, see Lesson 1: Making Networks Secure in Chapter 10.)
Users can manipulate print jobs on shared printers. With the appropriate privileges, users can move their print jobs ahead of other users' print jobs in the print queue or delete another user's print job entirely. To avoid user conflicts, it is best to limit the number of users who have these privileges.
The administrator determines which users will have which privileges. Network operating systems provide utilities that the administrator can use to implement appropriate printing permissions. The Windows NT Server Print Manager, for example, features a series of windows, as shown in Figure 11.3, that guide the administrator through the user-management process.
Figure 11.3 Setting user privileges with Windows NT Printer properties
In addition to understanding network printer implementation and maintenance, network administrators should also be aware of any components that affect printer performance or behavior. One of these is called a page-description language (PDL).
PDLs tell a printer how printed output should look. The printer uses the PDL to construct text and graphics to create the page image. PDLs are like blueprints in that they set specifications for parameters and features such as type sizes and fonts, but they leave the drawing to the printer. The Hewlett-Packard Printer Control Language (PCL) is another dominant form of print file formatting.
PDLs and PCLs can have an overall negative effect on network activity because of the large size of files that pass from the application to the printer, even in vector applications. PDL and PCL files are always significantly larger than the equivalent data file—sometimes as much as five times larger. The resulting high volume of network traffic can consume valuable resources.
As shown in Figure 11.4, the administrator does not have to be seated at the print server in order to manage a network printer. Most current NOSs offer utilities that an administrator can use to manage a printer from any computer on the network.
Figure 11.4 An administrator can manage the printer from any network computer
For example, from a remote computer, an administrator can:
In a small network—one in which all the servers and computers are relatively close together—the ability to direct the printer from a remote location might not seem like an important feature. However, in a large network in which the printer is in one part of a building and the administrator's computer is in another, this feature can be very helpful.
The same utilities used for local printer management are used for remote printer management. The administrator simply chooses the printer to be managed, and the network operating system presents the screens which prompt the administrator through the process.
The following points summarize the main elements of this lesson: