Printers

Configure IT Quick: Configure print queue servers for efficient printing

Improve printing performance with these tips


When setting up a large printer farm, you might use a Hewlett-Packard JetDirect print server, with print queues set up on Windows 2000 servers. This setup is efficient, but you could still end up with slow print times if your print queue server experiences a bottleneck. In this article, I will explain several ways in which you can clear up print queue server traffic jams and optimize print speed on your Windows 2000 server.

JetDirect printer troubleshooting
Although there are several ways you can optimize a print queue, there’s no one method that will instantly increase printing performance. Instead, I recommend using the techniques I explain in this article in conjunction with the techniques in my previous article “Troubleshooting a JetDirect print server.”

Adjusting processor time
Windows 2000 is a true multitasking environment, and as such, it assigns different amounts of processing time to processes. This makes for a very useful feature for a print queue server. The more processing time a process receives, the faster it will run. So if you assign more processing time to network printing, print queuing will occur much quicker. Just remember that any time you give one process more processor time, other processes are getting less. This means that you may have to play with the settings to fine-tune the way that your server runs. You don’t want to handicap the server because all of its resources are being used for printing, unless the server is a dedicated print server.

To adjust the processor time, right-click the My Network Places icon and select the Properties command from the context menu. You’ll then see a window that contains icons representing each network connection. Right-click your primary network connection and select the Properties command from the context menu. From the properties sheet, select File And Printer Sharing For Microsoft Networks and click Properties. You’ll then be presented with a screen where you can control the way system resources are used for file and printer sharing. By default, the file and printer sharing mechanisms are set to minimize memory usage. Try experimenting with some of the other settings such as Balance or Maximize Data Throughput For File Sharing (remember that printer hosting really is a form of file sharing) to find the best settings for your printer spool. As you adjust the settings, send print jobs through to test how they affect the process.

Creating a print pool
You can also increase your Windows 2000 server's print queue performance by creating a printer pool where a single print queue hosts multiple printers. Generally, if three printers service a single queue, documents will print in a third of the time that they would if a only a single printer serviced the queue.

However, there are some limitations to printer pooling. First, all printers involved in the printer pool should be the same type. If all the printers are directly connected to a server via a parallel port or a USB port, you could technically get away with using different types of printers, as long as they use the same driver. For example, if you’re using a JetDirect print server, you’ll more than likely have to use the same type of printers, because the latest JetDirect servers can detect the actual type of printer that’s being used, regardless of the driver.

Another big limitation with printer pooling is that there’s no way of controlling which printer will print a document. So you should also place the printers next to each other to keep users from having to run all over the building trying to figure out which printer printed their documents. Although internal JetDirect cards offer the best performance, the JetDirect print servers with three ports are ideal for printer pooling, because they allow you to easily place three printers next to each other.

With Windows 2000, creating a printer pool is easy. Begin by creating a standard print queue and linking the queue to one of the printers. Then, right-click the icon that represents the print queue and then select the Properties command from the context menu to open the printer’s properties sheet.

On the properties sheet, select the Ports tab. Then, select the Enable Printer Pooling check box. Finally, use the Add Port button to add references to the other printers that will be in the printer pool. When you’ve finished, click OK.

When setting up a large printer farm, you might use a Hewlett-Packard JetDirect print server, with print queues set up on Windows 2000 servers. This setup is efficient, but you could still end up with slow print times if your print queue server experiences a bottleneck. In this article, I will explain several ways in which you can clear up print queue server traffic jams and optimize print speed on your Windows 2000 server.

JetDirect printer troubleshooting
Although there are several ways you can optimize a print queue, there’s no one method that will instantly increase printing performance. Instead, I recommend using the techniques I explain in this article in conjunction with the techniques in my previous article “Troubleshooting a JetDirect print server.”

Adjusting processor time
Windows 2000 is a true multitasking environment, and as such, it assigns different amounts of processing time to processes. This makes for a very useful feature for a print queue server. The more processing time a process receives, the faster it will run. So if you assign more processing time to network printing, print queuing will occur much quicker. Just remember that any time you give one process more processor time, other processes are getting less. This means that you may have to play with the settings to fine-tune the way that your server runs. You don’t want to handicap the server because all of its resources are being used for printing, unless the server is a dedicated print server.

To adjust the processor time, right-click the My Network Places icon and select the Properties command from the context menu. You’ll then see a window that contains icons representing each network connection. Right-click your primary network connection and select the Properties command from the context menu. From the properties sheet, select File And Printer Sharing For Microsoft Networks and click Properties. You’ll then be presented with a screen where you can control the way system resources are used for file and printer sharing. By default, the file and printer sharing mechanisms are set to minimize memory usage. Try experimenting with some of the other settings such as Balance or Maximize Data Throughput For File Sharing (remember that printer hosting really is a form of file sharing) to find the best settings for your printer spool. As you adjust the settings, send print jobs through to test how they affect the process.

Creating a print pool
You can also increase your Windows 2000 server's print queue performance by creating a printer pool where a single print queue hosts multiple printers. Generally, if three printers service a single queue, documents will print in a third of the time that they would if a only a single printer serviced the queue.

However, there are some limitations to printer pooling. First, all printers involved in the printer pool should be the same type. If all the printers are directly connected to a server via a parallel port or a USB port, you could technically get away with using different types of printers, as long as they use the same driver. For example, if you’re using a JetDirect print server, you’ll more than likely have to use the same type of printers, because the latest JetDirect servers can detect the actual type of printer that’s being used, regardless of the driver.

Another big limitation with printer pooling is that there’s no way of controlling which printer will print a document. So you should also place the printers next to each other to keep users from having to run all over the building trying to figure out which printer printed their documents. Although internal JetDirect cards offer the best performance, the JetDirect print servers with three ports are ideal for printer pooling, because they allow you to easily place three printers next to each other.

With Windows 2000, creating a printer pool is easy. Begin by creating a standard print queue and linking the queue to one of the printers. Then, right-click the icon that represents the print queue and then select the Properties command from the context menu to open the printer’s properties sheet.

On the properties sheet, select the Ports tab. Then, select the Enable Printer Pooling check box. Finally, use the Add Port button to add references to the other printers that will be in the printer pool. When you’ve finished, click OK.

Using multiple queues
One of the biggest ways that you can optimize network printing is by controlling how much data is sent to the printer. The less data that’s sent to the printer for each job, the faster the print jobs can be serviced.

I showed you how a single print queue can service multiple printers, but the reverse is also true. Multiple print queues can service a single printer. There are several ways to optimize printing by simply creating multiple print queues and controlling who uses each queue and when.

Print quality
You should first consider print quality. Although it varies among print drivers and printer manufacturers, when printing to black and white laser printers, the default setting is often set to print using the highest possible quality. For example, the default setting for the print queue connected to my HP LaserJet 1100 is to print all jobs at 600 dpi, which is a higher quality resolution. If a print job doesn’t need the higher resolution, the resolution can be set to 300 dpi. By selecting the lower resolution, print job time will be cut nearly in half.

An effective method of optimizing speed via print quality is to create two different print queues on your server's queue and call one Standard Quality and  the other High Quality. Use the Standard Quality printer as the default printer for users. Then, allow users to send business letters or other jobs that require a higher resolution to the High Quality printer. This solution will ensure that the Standard Quality printer won't get bogged down with a slower-printing, high-resolution job.

Once you create the two different print queues, you can adjust the resolution on the Standard Quality queue by going to Control Panel | Printers, right-clicking the printer icon, and selecting Properties to open its properties sheet. On the General tab, click Printing Preferences | Advanced. On the next screen, you can adjust things like printer resolution, half toning, printer optimization, economy mode, etc. The default resolution will most likely be set to 600 dpi. Click on the 600 and a drop-down box will appear from which you can select a lower resolution. The resolutions available will depend upon which driver is installed.

Printer priority
You can also create multiple print queues, each with its own priority. Create a series of queues for each printer and then open the printer’s properties sheet. On the Advanced tab toward the top are two options. One controls what times of day the print queue is available for printing. The other option controls the queue’s priority. To change the printer’s priority, adjust the number next to the Priority option. (Click the up arrow to increase the priority and down to decrease.) To lower the priority of the printer, raise the number. (The default is set to 1.) In a printer server farm of three printers, I like to set one printer with a priority of 1 (highest), one with a priority of 2, and one with a priority of 3 (lowest).

For more info on network printing
Check out this article, "Workarounds for slow network printing."

Security
On the printer's properties sheet, you will also find the Security tab, which allows you to control which users have access to a particular print queue. (Remember, that’s access to the queue, not to the actual printer.) From within this tab, you can remove and add users and groups and alter the permissions for each. This is very handy, because you could restrict all but a select group of users from using the High Quality printer. In one instance, I created five print queues and assigned one group to each queue. Although not as efficient as using priority, this was yet another way to optimize your print queues.

Putting them all together
Let’s say that there’s a group of people in your office that prints very small print jobs. You could create a high priority print queue that only these users can access. The high priority will ensure that their jobs print before all lower priority jobs.

Suppose that another user sends one huge report each month. For this scenario, set up a special low priority print queue that has restricted printing times and that prints in a lower resolution. This would prevent this huge report from slowing up smaller print jobs.

For everyone else, assign a medium level print priority with a decreased printer resolution. By assigning everyone a specific print queue based on job responsibilities, you can effectively manage your office print queue traffic.

Using multiple queues
One of the biggest ways that you can optimize network printing is by controlling how much data is sent to the printer. The less data that’s sent to the printer for each job, the faster the print jobs can be serviced.

I showed you how a single print queue can service multiple printers, but the reverse is also true. Multiple print queues can service a single printer. There are several ways to optimize printing by simply creating multiple print queues and controlling who uses each queue and when.

Print quality
You should first consider print quality. Although it varies among print drivers and printer manufacturers, when printing to black and white laser printers, the default setting is often set to print using the highest possible quality. For example, the default setting for the print queue connected to my HP LaserJet 1100 is to print all jobs at 600 dpi, which is a higher quality resolution. If a print job doesn’t need the higher resolution, the resolution can be set to 300 dpi. By selecting the lower resolution, print job time will be cut nearly in half.

An effective method of optimizing speed via print quality is to create two different print queues on your server's queue and call one Standard Quality and  the other High Quality. Use the Standard Quality printer as the default printer for users. Then, allow users to send business letters or other jobs that require a higher resolution to the High Quality printer. This solution will ensure that the Standard Quality printer won't get bogged down with a slower-printing, high-resolution job.

Once you create the two different print queues, you can adjust the resolution on the Standard Quality queue by going to Control Panel | Printers, right-clicking the printer icon, and selecting Properties to open its properties sheet. On the General tab, click Printing Preferences | Advanced. On the next screen, you can adjust things like printer resolution, half toning, printer optimization, economy mode, etc. The default resolution will most likely be set to 600 dpi. Click on the 600 and a drop-down box will appear from which you can select a lower resolution. The resolutions available will depend upon which driver is installed.

Printer priority
You can also create multiple print queues, each with its own priority. Create a series of queues for each printer and then open the printer’s properties sheet. On the Advanced tab toward the top are two options. One controls what times of day the print queue is available for printing. The other option controls the queue’s priority. To change the printer’s priority, adjust the number next to the Priority option. (Click the up arrow to increase the priority and down to decrease.) To lower the priority of the printer, raise the number. (The default is set to 1.) In a printer server farm of three printers, I like to set one printer with a priority of 1 (highest), one with a priority of 2, and one with a priority of 3 (lowest).

For more info on network printing
Check out this article, "Workarounds for slow network printing."

Security
On the printer's properties sheet, you will also find the Security tab, which allows you to control which users have access to a particular print queue. (Remember, that’s access to the queue, not to the actual printer.) From within this tab, you can remove and add users and groups and alter the permissions for each. This is very handy, because you could restrict all but a select group of users from using the High Quality printer. In one instance, I created five print queues and assigned one group to each queue. Although not as efficient as using priority, this was yet another way to optimize your print queues.

Putting them all together
Let’s say that there’s a group of people in your office that prints very small print jobs. You could create a high priority print queue that only these users can access. The high priority will ensure that their jobs print before all lower priority jobs.

Suppose that another user sends one huge report each month. For this scenario, set up a special low priority print queue that has restricted printing times and that prints in a lower resolution. This would prevent this huge report from slowing up smaller print jobs.

For everyone else, assign a medium level print priority with a decreased printer resolution. By assigning everyone a specific print queue based on job responsibilities, you can effectively manage your office print queue traffic.

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