Network Printing

lor the sake of clarity, we need to provide some working definitions for the components of network printing. This is because the terms are very similar in construct, yet have important functional differences. The following terms will be used throughout this chapter:

Print device: This is the hardware that prints the electronic data onto paper or other printable media. Examples of print devices include laser, inkjet, and dot-matrix printers.

Print server: This is the system to which the print device is attached. It is accessible from other devices on the network and provides the functionality (services) needed to convert documents into printed paper. The print server can include an operating system, such as Windows 2003 Server, or it can be a hardware device such as a Hewlett-Packard (HP) JetDirect device that has its own embedded operating system.

Print driver: This is the software that provides the interaction between the print device and either the print server or the system requesting print services. Print drivers are typically available at the device manufacturer's website, or may be included with the print server operating system. Print drivers are typically available for the most common Windows operating systems, including Windows 95 and later.

Print spooler: This is the operating system service that stores and processes print jobs.

Printer: This is the overall, logical concept of the print device and its print driver that attaches it to a print server. Local printers are attached directly to your print server or are otherwise referenced through a local port, such as LPT1. Network printers are mapped to print devices attached to some form of network server and are most commonly referenced through network shares, such as \\ServerName\ShareName, or through TCP/IP ports, such as IP_192.168.0.2.

So now that we've provided a description of basic printing concepts, we still need to provide a working definition of network printing. For the purposes of this chapter, we will define network printing as the ability to print from a workstation to any nonlocal (remote) printer. The remote printer may be attached directly to the network, or it may be attached to a system functioning as a print server. In either case, sharing the printer from a print server allows you to take advantage of Windows security. Network printing will ideally support multiple platforms, including the latest versions of Windows, UNIX, Macintosh, and NetWare.

Printers shared on the network are preferable to local printers in small- to large-sized businesses, since you can centrally administer and configure them. Print processing occurs relatively quickly when sending a job directly to a printer, and the location of the print device is independent of its proximity to a server or workstation. The only requirement is a connection to the network, either wired or wireless.

Active Directory provides Group Policy support for network printing, and printers can be configured for or by members of a particular security group. In addition, the printers can be registered, or published, in Active Directory, providing a convenient method for end users to locate print devices that meet their needs.

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