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I administer a 3 stooges environment. Linux server hardware, Windows Server VMs, Mac clients.

My Mac clients RDC to a Windows 2008R2, each client has their own USB printer. The USB printer is forwarded to the RDC server. Currently we have a mix of printers and headaches all over the place. I'm wondering if anyone out there has a similar Windows/Apple mix and what printer they have running locally.

Alternatively, my suggestion was to purchase ultra cheap network printers and install directly to the Windows Server 2008. The environment is a store, sales reps have customers sit in a cozy environment and each rep wants their own printer.

Recommendations?

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Each rep wants their own printer.... bangs head on desk –  SpacemanSpiff Jan 11 '12 at 17:47
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@SpacemanSpiff To be fair, if they are good sales guys and they make the company money, I'd give them their own printer too. But I would make sure that every single printer was identical ;) –  Mark Henderson Jan 11 '12 at 19:44
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Love the Three Stooges comment... –  Mei Jan 12 '12 at 15:27
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Of course they want their own printers. Because walking is hard. –  Bart Silverstrim Jan 16 '12 at 17:51
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I can't offer a solution to your problem, but I can offer recommendations to fine yet reasonably-priced liquor.... You deserve it. –  gWaldo Jan 17 '12 at 2:59

5 Answers 5

up vote 16 down vote accepted

My Mac clients RDC to a Windows 2008R2, each client has their own USB printer....each rep wants their own printer.

For the love of $DIETY, do not allow this to happen on your watch. Here's why. In our environment we have between 350 and 400 workstations. We have about 220 devices that have printing functionality. About 90 of the these devices are tried and true business line HP LaserJets (recommended and supported to a degree by IT). The rest are a complete menagerie of different models, make and quality. A lot of these devices are COTS all-in-one "Costco-special" devices. A lot of of them are entry level SOHO printers and MFDs. A lot of them are a wide variety of copiers. Largely people have pretty much been able to get what they want.

These devices (and this kind of setup - which it sounds like you're leaning toward) is incredibly resource consuming to manage. One just because of the sheer variety and two because locally attached COTS devices suck. For the amount of time (read as: money) staff has put in trying to cajoling these devices to work we could of easily replaced most of them with a more appropriate business line product.


Some general advice:

  • Standardize your printers. You should at most support only a half-dozen or so different models (something like the following list). Pick models based upon durability reviews, availability of support (both in terms of hardware and software drivers), degree of network management, consistency in both the push button menu interface and any web-based management, available utilities (e.g., JetAdmin), price of consumables, degree of modularity regarding replacement parts, availability of security features (secure erase, etc.) and last but not least IPv6 compatibility. Here's a sample list - something like should satisfy most of your use cases.

    • Entry level desktop model,
    • Entry level multifunction device,
    • Mid-grade multifunction device
    • Mid-grade black and white printer
    • Mid-grade black/white and color
    • High end black/white and color printer

  • Buy a support contract with each printer from a local contractor (or the manufacturer if their response time and price is reasonable) that specializes in office printers, copiers, etc. These devices are very complicated and if they need anything more than a fresh toner cartridge you are time and money ahead by having an expert service them.
  • If your budget allows it, keep a spare or two on hand. People come to rely on printing as an integral part of their workflow (this is exactly why you don't want them to rely on a COTS printer). If it breaks and you have to wait two days (or two weeks!) for a tech, you'll look like a hero when you show up with a loaner in 15 minutes.
  • Centralize your print queue management. You want to spend the least amount of time configuring client-side printing settings as possible. You're in a difficult spot because you're going to have to integrate your Mac OS X clients with your Windows Server environment (a quick google says this is possible). Baring that - build a CUPS print server and have it manage all of the print queues. CUPS is pretty well documented, widely implemented and well supported by most "Real Printers".
  • If at all possible deploy/map/$VERB_OF_OS_VENDER'S_CHOICE your printers using some sort of centralized management utility. GPOs are the standard way to do this in the Windows world, Puppet or some other configuration management software comes to mind for Linux and Unix. Again the idea is to minimize the time spent configuring client side printing settings.
  • Ensure that your print queues have names that are relevant to users. No one knows where the HP45000dn is, but everyone knows where admin_bw is located.
  • Have proper A/PTR records for the printers - why record all of their statically assigned addresses in an Excel document when DNS can do this for you?
  • Be wary of architecture compatibility issues with drivers. If you run a mixed 32bit/64bit environment this can really bite you. If clients pull the wrong drivers they have the potential to crash the print spooler service on the server - killing printing for everyone. You then are tasked with trying to find which profile (or /home in OS X) has the incompatible driver, this is not trivial as the Event Log will just give you a "the spooler has crashed" error.
  • HP's Universal Driver is a great idea... one driver to rule them all! It fits with the System Administrator's mantra of "Centralize, Simplify, and Automate". But a word of a caution, it is not as Universal as advertised. Be careful using it with SOHO or COTS printers. They are not as well supported as HP claims. (This is just another reason to not use SOHO/COTS printers in a business setting)
  • Printer and MFDs can actually pose a pretty serious security risk. They come configured with all kinds of bells and whistles turned on by default (IPX, AppleTalk, SNMP, FTP, Telnet, SMTP, etc.). Turn them off if you don't need them. Also, a lot of devices now store local copies of print jobs or scanned images on an internal hard drive. You should verify the your model has the ability to securely delete stored data. Keep this in mind before you surplus these kinds of devices.
  • Do not allow people to 'share' their locally installed printers. This will generate numerous help desk calls when the individual whose personal printer is shared turns their machine off for the weekend and all of sudden people's printer dropped off the network. Ideally you don't want any locally attached printers at all.
  • Avoid Oce like the plague. We've had two devices of the same model, made a year or two apart. One speaks SMB/CIFS, one speaks "non-standards-compliant" SMB/CIFS (read as:no scan to network share functionality). Go figure. Additionally despite coming across a wide variety of these devices in my very short career I've yet to find two user interfaces that are alike. Sharp isn't much better.
  • Always install the bare driver. If you pop the manufacture provided CD in, you'll get UpdaterThis, MediaCenterThat, GoogleBar, BingBar, etc.
  • And finally a little humor... Why I Believe Printers Were Sent From Hell To Make Us Miserable
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Fantastic answer - and the last link makes it all worthwhile. That link should framed and hung on a wall - and mercy! It looks like you can do just that... –  Mei Jan 12 '12 at 15:26

Almost any major-brand network laser printer made in the last ten years will happily talk to Linux, Windows, and Macintosh clients. I've had HP, Brother, Lexmark, Ricoh, Xerox, and more work just fine.

I would base your decision off some quick per-page costs (if you have high volume), ease of procuring supplies (does your existing office supply company carry the toner cartridges, for example? The admin assistant will love you if they do), and so on - with some quick checks in google with the model number and some relevant search terms looking for widespread reports of issues.

If the printer supports postscript (most network printers do, and usually also PCL/5), things will be even easier. The macs will probably be the easiest to set up; enter the printer hostname or IP, and OS X figures out the rest; even that may not be necessary as many current printers support Bonjour (auto discovery protocol.) If it's a 10.6 or 10.7 client, they'll download the drivers or PPDs if necessary. Earlier OS X clients may need PPDs or a driver downloaded from the company's support site to support all the printer's features (such as a duplexer unit.)

Brother makes about the cheapest network laser printers that are decent; I've had one for personal use for years with no issues, and we have one in our workgroup at work that has worked for 2 years without issue and light duty. Both are duplex, 1200dpi, and quite fast. FYI: Brother uses separate drum cartridges (HP and others use an integrated drum+toner cartridge.) That makes the toner cartridges cheaper/simpler, but you still have to replace the drum at some point.

If your staff print any confidential documents, HP sells some network printers with numerical keypads that make entering a PIN very painless. User prints (a PIN number is set in the print options), walks up to printer, enters PIN, and the job spits out. HR, legal, and finance people love that, but so might your sales staff if they're worried about other staffers poaching clients.

Another recommendation: keep around a backup printer, configured on everyone's machines, but turned off or with no paper; if you have to buy an old HP laserjet 4-series off Craigslist, so be it! If you yank everyone's personal printers and the new printer blows a gasket, people will get out the pitchforks with lightning speed. Buying the printer from a local vendor who will provide quick on-site support might be worth it, but having a second printer around as a backup is probably much cheaper and will give you time to get the printer serviced by the manufacturer.

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Quick answer bring in a managed print services company.

I've worked in companies that have had similar setups. The last time I tried to work on a business class printer a spring flew out never to be seen again and the unit never worked after that. I shouldn't have been touching the thing in the first place but my boss insisted on my trying to fix it despite my pleas that I wasn't the man for the job.

What a print management company will do for you in my experience is make your life easier. They will come in and show management how expensive these "bargain" inkjets are from a supply and maintenance perspective. They will often suggest replacing or not repairing those costly beasts and putting in a few well placed higher end machines in. The arrangement I have with my managed print services co is that they will charge us a per page fee for all of our jobs (1 cent b/w 8 cents color from copiers), we'll get "free" toner, parts and service in exchange. I haven't opened up a printer since much to the delight of all the printers out there.

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I apologize if this comes off more rant than helpful, but I almost completely agree with @kce (with the exception of standardizing on a half-dozen models; Two models (if there are options like a bigger paper tray on one), maybe three...).

I reiterate: "do not allow this to happen on your watch". Personally, I would take a "Say 'no' or I walk" stance. (Note: I am not you, but I feel this strongly about it.)

First, standing up to walk to a printer: not a big deal.

Second, I don't care how nice or expensive it is, Inkjet Printers are unprofessional.

Third, and most important, there is no way that I would allow those $DIETY-AWFUL Printer Software Install Disks make it onto one of my servers. As cheap and poor-quality as the printers are, they drivers and 600MB of OTHER software are of even worse quality.

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You could just get a networked printer and set each client apple up individually to print to the printer.

Never done it with macs but I used to avoid doing this as for some strange reason ricoh 22xx copiers could take half an hour to print pdf's when set up this way but would print them out quick if the job was spooled to a server.

However I had to change my preference with the brother 5890/6490 printers that were deployed to some sites - to get them to scan you had to connect each client direct to the printer rather than queued via a server.

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