Direct IP Printing or Print Servers - Which one is better?

By Arron Fu, CTO on November 10, 2016


Issues with print maintenance and figuring out how to properly configure your printing environment has always been a huge struggle for system administrators. The decision to set up dedicated printer servers or direct IP printing for your environment has both benefits and costs.

Direct IP printing

Direct IP printing has been a staple in most people’s lives, as it is the easiest way to set up for administrators by finding the IP and model number and then connecting it manually on the user’s machine. Some of the many benefits of direct IP printing include:

  • No single point of failure on the network, since there is no central print server 
  • Users have complete control over their own drivers and print settings
  • Lower network traffic, since print jobs are spooled on the local machine
  • Lower maintenance and cost

While the benefits of direct IP printing are great for lowering costs and eliminating printing downtime, administrators have to manually manage printers and drivers for each individual machine, while having no control over printing profiles and permissions.

Related: Why Everyone Should Print To A Virtual Print Queue

Printing through a print server

For a small environment direct IP printing would seem to work quite well, but as you scale up, it soon becomes unmanageable as a corporate printer management strategy. Working with dedicated print servers can provide your environment with a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Centralized print management, allowing system administrators to manage all print devices from a central console
  • Increased employee productivity due to less print support related issues
  • Statistics and archiving in which administrators can audit and keep track of who is printing what and when
  • Automated driver updates, which are pushed out in bulk
  • All queued print job names, status, and sizes are easily managed from the central console
  • Increased security as a print server allows you to total control over who can print what and where
  • High availability due to clustering and pooling of printers
  • Complete control over settings of user’s printer profiles

One thing to note, printer servers come at a cost as now you open yourself up to having a single point of failure while incurring heavy costs from expensive hardware, software licensing, and maintenance.

Related: Enterprise Print Management - Reap the Benefits of VDI & Solve your Printing Issues 

The Answer

Both set up environments will have its problems and advantages as we talked about above. Deciding upon how to configure your printing environment, whether it be through direct IP printing or print servers, really comes down to your needs. If you are a small office desktop environment looking for a simple solution, then direct IP printing would probably be enough to fill your needs. If you are managing a larger desktop environment, printing through a print server would be beneficial overall, if cost is not an issue.

However, the best option would be to incorporate a solution that has the best of both worlds. Serverless printing eliminates the need for print servers and gives you a way to centrally manage direct IP printing. You should note, this type of printing solution works only with Windows desktop environments. If you are running a VDI environment, major issues can occur such as bloated WAN print traffic, print server instability, and a lack of mobile printing.  In this case, you are better off looking at other third party printing solutions that support VDI environments.

Just remember to look for a print solution that provides the ultimate goal of creating a print environment that increases workflow, cuts down costs and causes less IT headaches. 

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