Hardware Print Servers
Hardware print servers allow many users on a network to access a single printer. A hardware print server can manage network printing through either wired or wireless connections. An advantage of using a hardware print server is that the server accepts incoming print jobs from computers, thereby freeing the computers for other tasks. A hardware print server is always available to users, unlike a printer shared from a user's computer.
Dedicated PC Print Servers
A dedicated PC print server handles client print jobs in the most efficient manner and can manage more than one printer at a time. A print server must have the following resources to meet the requests of print clients:
- Powerful processor - Because the PC print server uses its processor to manage and route printing information, it must be fast enough to handle all incoming requests.
- Adequate hard disk space - A PC print server captures print jobs from clients, places them in a print queue, and sends them to the printer in a timely way. This process requires the computer to have enough storage space to hold these jobs until completed.
- Adequate memory - The server processor and RAM handle sending print jobs to a printer. If server memory is not large enough to handle an entire print job, the hard drive must send the job, which is much slower.
A computer that has a printer attached can share that printer with other users on the network, as shown in the figure. For example, in a home network, users can print documents from wherever they are in the house by using a wireless laptop. In a small office network, sharing a printer means one printer can serve many users.
Sharing a printer from a computer also has disadvantages. The computer sharing the printer uses its own resources to manage the print jobs coming to the printer. If the computer user on the desktop is working at the same time as a user on the network is printing, the desktop computer user might notice a performance slowdown. In addition, the printer is not available to others if the user reboots or powers off the computer with a shared printer.