A print server is a small device that allows you to connect multiple computers to a single printer or MFP. This solution is used in those offices that do not have a computer that is always on and connected to the desired printing device (and thus acts as a separate print server). In general, it provides access to a printer from all authorized PCs on the local network – so that all employees can print the documents they need whenever they want.
Choosing the right printer-server for your specific conditions is not that simple – it is a complicated device with many parameters which are not clear at first sight.
In the next section of this article, we will review all the important technical characteristics of print servers that you should pay attention to when purchasing them.
The main features of print servers that you should pay attention to:
Print servers can be wired or wireless.
Wired models are cheaper but connect to the local network only with wires. This may prevent them from being conveniently located indoors, but if your office has enough Ethernet outlets, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Wireless print servers are a bit more expensive, but they are free of wires. This model can be placed almost anywhere – it will most likely connect to your local WiFi network without any problems.
Even the old 802.11 b/g standard is not too important for printing documents (even large and colorful ones). However, for compatibility with some older devices, if there are such in your organization, you may need to support older standards like 802.3 and 802.3u.
If you choose a wireless print server, you may have a question about the type of antenna it has. It is best to choose a model with an external antenna that is not hidden inside the case and will provide excellent signal reception and transmission. But if the print-server is located in a place where the WiFi signal level is high enough, you can do without it.
Here it is necessary to consider the size of your office and the place where the print server is supposed to be located. It all depends on the size of the organization and the number of employees (and therefore rooms with them) that will connect to the printer. It is also worth considering the thickness and number of walls between the print server and the router – manufacturers usually specify the range without obstacles in the signal path.
Wired network standard
The main thing is to make sure that the wired print server you choose supports the 10/100BASE-TX standard. This is enough to work smoothly on any local network.
Ports for connecting wired printers
Some print servers support connecting multiple printers or MFPs at once. If you need this capability (you have several printing devices for different purposes in your office), choose a model with two or more USB ports.
Also, pay attention to the presence of the old LPT-type port. It is useful if you are using an old printer that cannot be connected to your computer or printer-server with a USB wire.
By the way, if there is such an opportunity, before buying, go to the site of the print-server manufacturer and make sure that the selected model supports work with your printer or MFP. It is not obligatory, but this way you will be sure that the two devices are fully compatible.
Assigning an IP address
This is up to the abilities and wishes of your system administrator, who serves the local network. The best option, which will work for almost anyone, is to assign an IP address automatically using DHCP.
Management and Diagnostics
The most convenient ways to manage and diagnose the system are via a Web interface and a separate Windows utility. Usually, even the most advanced user can do the initial configuration with them.
Network administration professionals can resort to more flexible and quicker, but more complex methods such as Telnet.
To choose the right print server, we recommend checking our list of the best print servers.