As network techies or SysAdmins, we usually have hundreds of balls in the air at any one time, and often end up postponing the planned work when putting out relentless spot fires. Print servers are usually at the end of the line and become one of the easiest systems to leave for another day, that is until something goes bang!
I know this all too well with a long history in IT, starting as a school admin, then into corporate as an email and System Engineer, Regional Team Lead then on the other side, helping to sell copier solutions in pre-sales.
Now that I support PaperCut and listen to your stories, I wanted to share my top 5 tips for a smooth running print system, combined with my own network admin experience of course.
The support team are usually immersed in the 1’s and 0’s of programs and systems, and can sometimes forget the basics.
As pointed out by a customer on Facebook, it’s often the simple things that get in the way of users.
Make sure you don’t run out of paper (embarrassing)
Make sure a few sensible people know where the toner is kept!
Make sure your users have a basic understanding of how the printer works.
A tale as old as time:
A teacher kept complaining that the printer had no paper in the tray and was adamant that it had enough in it. I went to the printer room and found 200 sheets of ‘paper’ was sitting in the output tray on the top of the MFP, and the A4 tray was in fact empty, to which the teacher remarked “I told you it has plenty of paper”. and breathe…………………..Scott Hudson, a tolerant admin in the UK.
Tip 2: Manage print driver deployment
A print driver is just like any other piece of infrastructure software and should be managed with the same degree of importance. In fact, as it’s an OS level program, it’s probably even more important. Consider testing thoroughly before rollout.
A corporate retailer story:
A large retail company (name withheld to protect the implementation team) deployed a new print driver as part of a rollout. Users reported that print jobs were ‘sent’ but never came out of the machine, to the point where the printer would start to make the right noises and then just…stop. However, when IT installed the print drivers directly on a user’s desktop, the problem vanished. It turned out that deploying the driver through Group Policy caused a few dll’s not to be overwritten correctly, and yes they wound up in dll hell.
Tip 3: Beware the “untrusted” printer
Is there a problem printer sitting somewhere in your organization that users have just decided to avoid and not tell you about? Maybe it’s been quite literally dropped off the back of a truck during delivery and is now out of alignment, you know…the one where paper jams all the time and frustrates users, or people print to it and nothing comes out.
If students printed to a particular copier at our school from a Mac workstation, the job wouldn’t be released even though they could see it on the release screen, nothing came out of the copier. Windows users could print fine. Hmm, let’s eliminate the possibilities:
We have a Windows and Mac print server, and the issue only occurred from the Mac server.
All students print to the virtual queue and then log into the copier to release their job. A Mac user would print to the virtual and walk up to any of the copiers to release their print job, except this one.
Looking at PaperCut NG, the virtual queue and device are configured correctly to release jobs.
This worked last year, however, there were only a few users who’d print from a Mac and then it stopped working for this one copier.
The copier hasn’t been touched until now and the school want to implement BYOD which means more Macs in the environment.
After logging into the CUPS interface, we noticed there was a job in the queue from 2015 that was in error state! Once this job was deleted from the queue, the problem was resolved, Mac users can now print to this copier. Jason, Victorian school tech.
Tip 4: Backup your print server
That initial print server setup may only take minutes using a virtual machine, but if something goes wrong, restoring a print server that’s had constant new drivers and hundreds of IT hours re-configuring could be a disaster.
The reality is that print servers are always changing, so make sure your print server is backed up!
Disaster strikes an Ivy League university server room:
A large university customer (who asked to remain nameless) had a power supply catch fire in their server room and lost their print server. You’d be correct in thinking that hardware would become the focus of this recovery, but no. A mere three days later, the servers were up and running. But, it did take them days to find the right print driver version combinations that actually worked as they did before! Make sure that your print system is part of your disaster recovery plan.
Tip 5: Monitor print system health
You probably already monitor your network, uptime and other app servers, so why not monitor your print server and print management infrastructure? Print System Health Monitoring, a feature standard in PaperCut NG and PaperCut MF allows IT departments to monitor their entire print environment using industry standard monitoring tools, such asPRTG and Zabbix.
Large print environments can be complex, Chris Maclachlan from Melbourne University talks about their challenges.
It is important to monitor the health and trends of your print environment, especially in a large complex environment. Do not underestimate making small changes, keep a close eye on your environment over the next 24 hours, especially disk I/O and sudden changes in printing and error trends. We have seen large spikes after seemingly small changes, and if we were not monitoring our environment it would have led to outages and long wait times for our users.
We also had an issue once, where we had a high number of errors at exactly 24 hour intervals. We found that an expensive job was running every 24 hours, which happened during peak times in our environment. After changing the interval time of the job, we resolved the errors.
Monitoring our environment has led to a vastly improved experience for our students and staff during these times.
These are just a couple of my own experiences, battle scars I wear, some proudly. I’d love to hear your stories around printing, feel free to add to our stories below, we can only learn from our experiences!
And, if you’re keen to get monitoring to make sure these stories don’t happen to you? Try PaperCut NG free for 40-days, or upgrade to 16.1 through the Administration page of your PaperCut NG or MF instance. For local configuration and support contact a PaperCut Authorized Solution Center in your region.
There aren’t many companies where you can prank the CEO and CTO, but we managed to do it last week! With a team growing at a pace faster than our agile development, we moved HQ once again, only two years after the last growth spurt.
In keeping with PaperCut’s ‘qwirky’ fun culture, we couldn’t let our founders go without getting punk’d as happened to our mild mannered Tech Support star, Josh in 2014.
Taking a well earned vacation when PaperCut HQ moved from Mount Waverley to Hawthorn in 2014, Josh was told (by our CEO Chris) to go to the old, empty office when he returned back to work! This time, we’ve turned the tables on both Chris and Matt!
Using some secretly placed mobile phones and GoPro cameras, we managed to capture 65 people abandoning our cramped Hawthorn office in inner city Melbourne to our custom designed, very green new headquarters in Camberwell, a leafy suburb 8 kms from the city center.
Watch it here, tell me what you think below or share it out to your friends and colleagues.
Our culture greets you as soon as you exit the elevator, with a grassed reception, a virtual reality screen and lots of chill out spaces including the /dev/coffee cafe, now bigger than ever for the perfect espresso, macchiato or whatever takes your fancy.
And hey, as Matt says, if you’re ever in town, drop in for a coffee!
ps. If asked, Josh will deny that he turned up to the old Mount Waverley office!
Printing is an essential service in business that is often overlooked until it is not working. IT departments can find much of their time taken up firefighting urgent issues that cause printing to go offline when it’s needed the most, like exam time in a school, or branches with customers waiting.
Imagine if your IT team could receive real-time alerts as soon as any part of the print environment is not working, and be able to anticipate potential issues and avoid the outages all together.
Print System Health Monitoring allows IT departments to monitor their entire print environment using industry standard monitoring tools, such as, PRTG and Zabbix. You might already be monitoring the status of your printers and servers, which can help a lot, but often does not tell the whole story. It’s not just about monitoring individual components, but also the overall system usage.
The Print System Health Monitoring interface linked to a monitoring tool, showing a device/printer in error.
With the Print System Health Monitoring interface you can:
trigger alarms as soon as outages occur rather than waiting for someone to report an issue
put charts on your dashboard to monitor real-time printing activity to identify changes in printing behavior
monitor trends in printing resources and usage over time so you can plan for expansion to address bottlenecks before they occur.
So, you’re looking for the absolute, most recent stuff from PaperCut for your multi-function devices? We want to work with you!
You may already be familiar with PaperCut’s Early Access program. Taking on Early Access makes you a part of the inner circle, working more closely with support teams (with a dedicated email address) and software developers with access to all of the latest features on offer.
From version 16.1, PaperCut MF will be released initially as Early Access. We anticipate removing PaperCut MF from Early Access in late June.
The PaperCut NG release cycle remains the same, and is available now. You can get started today by downloading the 40-day trial.
Within each release number, PaperCut also issues enhancements, fixes and patches. From 16.1 we’re changing the name from Bug Fixes to Maintenance Releases which more accurately reflects the updates to PaperCut NG and PaperCut MF.
Secure password encryption
As industry standards around password protection are continuously evolving, we have updated encryption for internal users to offer increased levels of security.