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I have a SBS 2008 Server/Windows 7 environment. We have approx 25 users & 6 Networked printers.

What is the recommended way/what are the advantages disadvantages of having all the printers shared through the Server 2008 Print server vs having workstations connect directly to the workstation printers.

Off the top of my head using the server 2008 print server is a single point of failure but Should make it easier to deploy/manage the printers.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Deploying a print server has many advantages. To start you can deploy printers through group policy which requires no user interaction at all. Alternately you can list them in the directory and allow users to quickly and easily connect to them on there own. You also have centralized management so if a user calls with an issue you don't have to install the printer on your machine or take control of their computer to test it. Also with print management it allows you to list in an easy to browse interface all ports, forms, drivers, and printers available on the server.I personally manage (with other admins) 100's of printers and I could not imagine supporting a large volume of printers without a print server.

Keep in mind though there are disadvantages particularly when installing lots of drivers on one system like you would on a print server. Each driver is going to want to install it's own print processor and method for processing data. I have had a server refuse to allow connections to printers one day for no reason even after no additions or changes were made on that server. Even a call to Microsoft's paid techs was unable to resolve it, my only option was a clean install. Currently I have a print server that will randomly stop printing, with nothing in any of the printer queues, it's almost like it won't accept print jobs. The only problem I find with it is there will be 100's of files in the spool folder that need to be deleted. This is on top of the centralized point of failure, which you already mentioned.

I have only touched on what I personally find useful or a pain with using a print server. I am sure I have missed a lot of functionality that is available if there is a particular obstacle you are trying to overcome just ask.

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My concern is that my SBS server is doing a lot, (Exchange, File sharing, Sharepoint) And i don't want to have performance problems hosting the print server there as well. Also Someone from the printer manufacturer already came in and setup all the printers with the clients connecting directly to them so it will in the short term be more work for me to switch everyone over to the print server but long term I think it will make it easier to manage –  cpgascho Jan 4 '11 at 20:15
    
Not in 2008 I don't believe, but in 2011 I think it will. I was planning on setting up a second server for BES, QuickBooks, so maybe I can run the print server from there as well. –  cpgascho Jan 4 '11 at 21:22
    
SBS is a solution designed to be a "one server many hats" solution. It's designed for small environments (like yours) where the SBS server is the AD\DNS\Email\File\Print\Sharepoint server. –  joeqwerty Jan 4 '11 at 21:33

In a small environment I like to have the SBS Server handle the print serving. Its generally made management & maintenance much easier. As for being a spof, thats true that it is but if your server is "down" printing is likely not going to be your highest priority.

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Those are pretty much the trade-offs, for an environment that size. Of course, the printer itself is also a SPOF. However, if the server fails and a user needs to print, you can always connect them directly when required.

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Easier to deploy and manage - that's the name of the game and nothing else is needed. Would you rather setup the same 6 printers 25 times (150 printer installs! yay!), or would you prefer to do it once and then just 'connect' the computers to the shares? Better yet (and if available), once you have the printers defined, use GP to roll them out, no user-visits required on your part.

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In a similar sized company I have one printer that I cannot get to work properly through the print server (32/64 bit driver issues). I can assure you that having to manage each printer connection separately is a whole lot more bother than simply pointing to the printer on the server and selecting "connect".

As for that single point of failure, in general a server going down creates far more of a problem that just some documents not coming out of the printer. Remember, queued documents will normally start printing where they left off when the server comes back up.

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If it were me, I would go with a print server. It will be much easier to manage and maintain. However, it will be more expensive to go this route due to the cost of the server and OS licensing.

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