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I need to add the Print Services role to one of the windows Server 2008 R2 machines on my network and I am looking for advice on the best option.

Setup:

I have a small network with six smallish Dell printers and one large multifunction copier/scanner/printer/fax machine. The desktop clients are all Windows 7. Currently all printers are defined on the primary DC and shared through Active Directory, but there is no true print server in the mix. Each print queue is maintained independently in the memory of each printer. I have to start providing print capability to linux and Mac users, specifically to the multifunction printer. The only driver available for the multifunction printer is a postscript driver which behaves badly on anything but Windows. I am attempting to use LPD ports to enable the Mac and linux clients to use the big printer.

I do not have additional hardware to use for new machines, but virtual is an option.

Here are my current options. Please feel free to add more if there is something I completely missed.

Options:

  1. Install printing services to the existing DC (where the printers are currently defined). I do not like this option because of previous bad experiences with the print spooler going south and causing issues on Server 2003. In 2008 R2 can I take this risk on a DC?
  2. Install print services role to the existing file server.
  3. Create a VM (likely running on the file server) with just the printing services role enabled. This would allow better control over file vs. print at the cost of RAM on the file server.

I really like option three for separation of duties, but I would like to know what others think.

Note: this question is about where to put the print server. if I cannot get the Mac and linux clients to work with LPD ports I will ask that as a separate question. I need something to centralize printing just to get a better handle on the volume and any recurring problems.

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2 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You are correct in wanting to avoid the DC. Printing hasn't really changed on Windows since 2000. Keeping the DC's as stable and minimal as possible is of the utmost importance.

Having said that, I have successfully used a 2008 R2 DC as print server for about a dozen fairly busy printers. So it certainly is possible.

Look at it this way: By installing it on a VM, you're introducing needless complexity into the mix. You have to support an additional VM environment, and desktop virtualization isn't enterprise-stable. Unless you can use Hyper-V or some other bare-metal hypervisor, this is the wrong solution.

By installing it on the File Server, you avoid tainting a DC and keep complexity to a minimum. It's the best choice simply by default.

As an aside, it's surprising to hear of a PS driver not working well on a Mac. But I digress.

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The hardware for the file server can support Hyper-V (already checked) and space for the VM would not be an issue. I think what I was looking for with the VM solution would be the ability to migrate the VM to another host down the road as the server farm grows. –  TopHat Aug 16 '11 at 5:45
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If you have (future) Linux and Mac users wouldn't Cups be an option? I had it in use on my previous job to handle all network printing and had little to no issues with it.

Cheers, Wim

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