Heres a dilemma thats frustrated many an IT pro for
years. If we truly are in the electronic
age and everything is becoming digitized, why, oh why, are we spending so much
time troubleshooting and accommodating printing issues? Printing is the bane of our existence, always
rearing its ugly head when we least expect it.
We can customize the interfaces of a new system to work with existing
applications and deftly coordinate a multi-site client rollout to appear
seamless to the user, but its troubleshooting the printing problems that drive
us absolutely bananas!
Users seem to print more now than ever. Replace a paper system with an electronic
system and what happens? Users print reports
and screen dumps. Most of whats printed
out is thrown right into the trashcan. A
quick search on the internet reveals that numerous organizations and educational institutions report a
sustained gradual increase in paper usage.
That can be an entirely separate topic for another day, but my point is
electronic systems arent decreasing the amount of printing by users, theyre
increasing it. And as it increases, the
more importance is placed on the printing infrastructure and the more IT staffs
walk around with headaches from chasing down the myriad of resulting issues.
To compound the problem, the cost of printers continues to
go down while the quality of lower end printers continues to rise. So its becoming increasingly easier for
staff to justify purchasing personal printers.
Everyone can create a reason for why they need a printer of their very
own. Mostly, managers play the
confidentiality card. They cant be
expected to print performance reviews and other confidential documents on the
departmental printer. Okay, fine. I can
accept that. Plunk a printer down in
their office. But then staff reports
that they need printers for the mobile laptop carts. Reason they cant walk down the hall to the
units main printer. That would negate
the benefit of having the mobile cart in the first place. Then the billing department reports that they
require individual printers to print each customers account screen. Reason
its easier to read the printouts than the screen.
See where this is going?
Its a runaway train headed down a steep cliff. It appears weve spoiled our users into
expecting technology coddling. Think of
someone at home frantically looking for the TV remote instead of walking over
and turning the channel (Im not saying Ive never done it.) Ive
got to have it now and I shouldnt have to move to get it.
So what is wrong with so many printers scattered around the
workplace? It complicates the printing
infrastructure and can severely hinder the deployment of thin client based
solutions. The more printers installed
in an environment, the greater number of model types, and that means there are
a greater variety of print drivers. It
becomes impossible to keep up with the number of drivers needed on Citrix and
Windows Terminal Servers; keeping up with the model type, platform and whether
its PCL 4, 5e, 6 or PostScript (please, anything but PCL 6.)
Printing in thin client environments has improved in recent
years. There are better universal
drivers from companies like HP and Citrix; better but not perfect. And special features such as duplexing are
usually forfeited when using a universal versus model specific driver. Citrix MetaFrame Presentation Server 4.0 has
an improved printing architecture, but still has its challenges. Unless you can keep up with print driver
mappings and experimenting with which driver type works for different
applications, you will always have a fair share of printing issues to
For example, a user with an attached scanner connects to a
Citrix server and the session hangs because the server cant correctly map a
driver for the scanner. All subsequent
client sessions stall keeping anyone else from accessing the published
application, and the print spooler service hangs, not stops, preventing print
jobs from successfully printing. For a
solution, you can ferret out individual printers and add mappings each time, or
choose to only connect a clients default printer, or even install a local
printer on the server and disable client printer connections altogether. But troubleshooting printing issues will
continue to consume a better part of your time.
Sure, you can attempt to standardize on the printers being
deployed and drivers used. But models
get phased out and replaced, and drivers get updated by users with proper
rights or local IS staff, etc. Its not
quite as easy to maintain as one would imagine, especially in large
corporations. Depending on the company
you work for, chances are good that IT doesnt have the political clout needed
to keep certain departments and users at bay when attempting to
standardize. There may be times when you
cant tell someone no to having a personal printer or no to certain brands
So what is the solution?
I dont exactly know. Maybe you
can tell me. IT isnt generally a
revenue generating department so our influence sometimes falls short compared
to a department that is a company cash cow.
Sound off and let me know your experiences!