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Print Server: What is it and what is it for?

When most users find the phrase  “print server” in their head, an image will surely appear with several rack units mounted one below the other, with hundreds of flashing lights. Nothing further from reality. If we’re ever toying with the idea of ​​making the way we print more flexible, we have to get away from that outdated idea.

Nowadays and thanks to new manufacturing and miniaturization techniques, it is possible to find in any computer store print servers even smaller in size than a modem , very cheap and that can provide us with an exceptional service, both for the company and for home.

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What is a print server?

A print server can be an extremely useful tool in the office, since it  will allow us to use a printer remotely , avoiding the arduous task of transporting the file to be printed on a pendrive or similar to the computer that has the printer connected. In addition, it saves us the need to have the application with which we develop the work installed on said PC.

Here you can learn about the other types of printers as well as what a paper printer is .

But you may wonder,  can we no longer do that by sharing a printer in Windows?  Yes, indeed it is, but the moment we turn off the PC to which said printer is connected, any opportunity we have to use it escapes.

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On the other hand,  if we connect a print server to the network, we will make sure that the printer is always available , regardless of the PCs that are turned on at that moment. A similar situation can be observed in the case of  NAS (Network Attached Storage) , which will continue to serve files even when all PCs on the network are turned off.

A  print server , or  Print Server  as it is also known, is a small device that we can connect to any available port on the router or modem, and thus make any printer that we connect to this print server accessible from all printers that are part of the network, that is, it will basically allow computers on a network to access the same printer.

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Print server types

The first thing we have to understand is that a print server can be both internal and external. The internal print server is one that is included in the printer itself, as long as its brand and model provide the ability to connect to the network.

The external print servers are devices that connect to the printer port to provide this capability network models that do not have this feature, which today are the majority.

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In the market there are several types of print servers , and their price varies according to the possibilities offered by each one. From simple adapters that allow you to connect a parallel interface printer directly to the router, to print servers via  Wi-Fi,  with USB device sharing capabilities and NAS capabilities. At this point we must evaluate our needs and decide the purchase based on it.

These types of devices are capable of  supporting a wide variety of printing protocols such as Internet Printing Protocol, Line Printer Daemon, Microsoft’s network printing protocol, NetWare, NetBIOS, NetBEUI or JetDirect, which makes them particularly flexible, since we can print on them from practically any operating system.

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Although using a print server offers many advantages, the truth is that they also have certain limitations, to which we must pay special attention, since the specific objective of the purchase could be compromised  .

Some models of multifunction printers on the market are not 100% compatible with print servers . Most of the features of multi-function printers (such as fax and copier) are not supported by print servers.

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Some printer models, such as the GDI type, do not allow their use by print servers. It should be noted that GDI (Graphical Device Interface) is a system that uses PC resources to print, thus freeing up the printer, this makes their prices much cheaper. So it is essential to investigate that all our printers are perfectly compatible with the print server model that we are going to buy. To achieve this, it is best to refer to the website of the manufacturer of the server device.

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USB print server

Basically a USB print server is that device that must be physically connected to the printer through the USB protocol, with the print server itself connected to the router. This allows us to connect the printer to the network and share it without the need for it to be tied to a specific PC, that is, we will not need to turn on any computer except ours to be able to print remotely.

Wireless WiFi Print Server

A server of this type is similar in characteristics and uses to the USB print server, except that it provides the advantage offered by the wireless capacity, which allows us certain benefits such as not having to wire the print server, with which Using a printer remotely is easy and simple, as well as convenient, since we can put the printer in the place that best suits our needs.

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Connection diagram of a print server

Although connecting a print server seems like a difficult task, the truth is that it is not at all, the only thing we need to install a print server correctly is to have a little patience and know some details in advance, such as for example the location of the printer and its intended use is more than sufficient.

To make connecting a print server a pleasant task, here is a basic connection scheme using a print server:

Benefits of a home print server

So far we have talked about using a print server at work, but  we can also benefit from its features at home . Instead of having a printer connected to each computer in our home, we can have only one, and all its residents will have access to printing, which will also help us save on supplies, since it is not the same to have to buy toner , ink or paper cartridges for each of them, than for a single printer shared by all computers and mobile devices in the house.

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But not only in the supplies we can save by installing a print server, since we can also forget about the long network cables that most of the time are difficult to hide, especially in a house.

By installing a print server, especially if it is of the wireless type, we will be able to locate the printer in the place of the house that best suits us, and to be able to print on it from any location without problems and with total comfort and security.

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