Today’s print servers and networks handle and process massive quantities of data. Rather than simply moving data to printers, most print networks backup files, secure files, and sometimes create online print queues and print history that can be accessed and utilized for months to come.
With digitization services, some businesses automatically log files and scans into an archive. As a result, print networks and servers can be large, costly, and often quite slow.
If your organization relies on print, it’s crucial that your print networks meet your needs to the fullest. That often requires optimizing networks, improving hardware or software, and sometimes creating processes to ensure networks are managed and maintained.
These tips to improve print servers and networks will get you started.
1) Conduct a Needs Analysis
Depending on your print network setup, it’s likely not optimized for your current needs. Most organizations install print servers and create a network and then simply add onto it. The result can be a network that is overloaded and unable to meet current needs.
You should be able to look at your organization and its print needs to answer questions like:
- How many users are on the network?
- How many devices are on the network?
- How many of these users/devices are creating requests at the same time?
- How are files stored? Is there a digital queue or print archive? Are you storing digital files of all or most printed documents? Are you in the process of digitization?
- How are printers accessed? Via network? Cloud? Private network? VPN?
- What security measures are in place?
- How large are print files?
Each of these questions can help you narrow down whether your print network is actually capable of meeting current needs.
2) Identify Bottlenecks and Pressure Points
Bottlenecks and pressure points are one of the most common reasons for print networks to slow down. Here, most of a network is capable of handling load, but single points on the system are not. This can result in the entire network slowing down. This type of issue is also relatively easy to fix in that you can do so by upgrading a small portion of the network. Network monitoring or management software is a valuable tool to identify this sort of issue.
For example, are processors causing issues. Is memory capacity large enough? Are background processes consuming resources that would be better assigned to print? What does the system look like when you print? Network management software, even if it’s Windows or OS Task Manager, can give you a good idea of where and how resources are being used, when and how. This can help you identify gaps so you can improve them which will improve your network as a whole.
Hardware placement is an important consideration when looking for bottlenecks. For example, if most of your requests are coming from one room, you might have to optimize network access for that room. Hardware bottlenecks can be significant because they can put a large amount of load on a single server while others are being under-utilized. If this is the case, you may have to rewire your network configuration or manually readjust how and where load is distributed.
3) Assign a Print-Management Point Person
Most organizations have print. In fact, many organizations use 1-3% of their total annual budget on print, but don’t have anyone in charge of printers. Instead, printers are left as an afterthought for IT, typically falling under general responsibilities. This is especially true when organizations rent or lease printer hardware, because they assume less responsibility for printing.
Assigning a single point of contact for print means that someone is always responsible for the network, for hardware updates, and for anything that might go wrong. Assigning responsibility means someone is always accountable, you always know where to go, and you always have someone to fix the problem. This will result in greater quality of results for your print network. While print might not make up all of this person’s responsibilities, it should be a priority.
Importantly, you likely want to assign a point of contact for printers, even if you’re outsourcing most of your printer services to a managed print services provider. Why? It’s important to have an internal person who knows what’s going on, why, and how to react. This will also be crucial if you ever decide to switch service providers and need someone internal who knows what’s going on.
4) Manage Updates & Software Patches
Printers are essentially miniature computers that are mostly set up around printing, handling data, network management, and security. If they aren’t up to date, they will slow down, will suffer lag, and may become security risks.
Creating an update policy to manage software and patches will improve your network as a whole because it ensures;
- your printers are always secure;
- printer network software is always up-to-date and compatible with interfaces on employee computers, and;
- software is updated to ensure it performs at optimal speed.
Keeping printers and print servers up-to-date can be difficult if you don’t have remote management and remote updates in place. However, it is crucial that you manage and update software across every device on your print network.
5) Upgrade Print Hardware and Software
Sometimes the best way to improve a print network is to upgrade your hardware, software, or both. Old print servers might be slow, might not have the processor capacity or memory to handle load, and might not scale or network effectively. If servers lack features like cloud access and remote-update support, they will likely add to costs and may be costly to maintain and update.
Similarly, your network architecture and software might benefit from an update. If software doesn’t cover needs like user access management, remote updates, VPN access, data-management, manual load redistribution, etc., you likely want to update and improve.
Your print network will affect the speed and quality of print, your ability to scale printers, and your ability to digitize. Upgrading, optimizing, and improving will affect business results. When you’re ready, switching to managed print services may be the cheapest way to upgrade and optimize your print network.