The Problem With Traditional Print Mapping (and How to Fix It)

Print mapping refers to a traditional form of printer setup and installation. System administrators "map" designated network printers to certain users or devices, enabling end users to send jobs to that printer.

Despite its name, print mapping doesn't offer users clear directions to get their document from the computer and onto paper. In fact, print mapping has major flaws: it's difficult for end users to handle themselves, creating an enormous workload for sys admins. And even then, print mapping policies tend to crash without warning or explanation, bringing operations to a grinding halt.

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Mapping out the Problem

For complex environments — especially schools and universities with numerous end-users and a variety of permission levels — print mapping is a huge headache. Configuring printers for students and faculty is a never-ending process, complicated by issues like the trend of bring your own device (BYOD), budget constraints, hybrid network environments and security for student data.

At the same time, printing is integral to education, from tests to assignments to permission slips. Unfortunately, traditional print mapping simply doesn't cut it for the hefty needs of a school system.

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Admin Workload

1. Cumbersome Setup

Print mapping requires significant configuration, all of which must be handled by sys admins. Sys admins are often required to manually add printers to each user's desktop, from library computers to student laptops. In theory, any user that logs into the system will then be able to use that printer.

But the workload to accomplish that goal is substantial. Any change of device, from desktop to printer, represents hours of work for sys admins. New students, often arriving in huge numbers at the beginning of the school year, need to be individually managed. Any print payment systems or restrictions add another wrinkle.

2. Limited Management Capabilities

Even when setup is complete, management isn't straightforward. Sys admins must set up group policies to manage print permissions and preconfigured settings for all of their users (again, creating a significant amount of work on the back-end). Because the admin has complete control, end-users can't address any issues that crop up or any printers that work incorrectly. All errors must be referred back to IT, inevitably leading to significant handholding for end-users and a flurry of low-level help desk tickets.

With policies, admins also have minimal insight into the process, and users have limited control over their print capabilities. Sys admins often can't know who's logging into which computer and which printers that user will need.

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Unexpected Policy Failure

There's another major flaw: policies are notoriously difficult to force onto a desktop. Even when setup and management is done perfectly, policies might not configure correctly and fail without warning. Policy failure isn't the fault of the user or the admin, but it creates significant headaches for all parties and stalls printing.

Improperly configured printers can even result in documents printing incorrectly, backlogs, clogged queues or even nothing printing at all.

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Solutions That Don't Fix the Issue

System admins looking to address these problems will likely turn to traditional solutions, such as print servers. Servers reduce the amount of configuration required and store all print settings on a single machine, centralizing the system. They also queue up print jobs to reduce backlogs. Servers are incredibly powerful, capable of managing complex environments, creating simple processes for end-users and reducing setup workload.

There's a caveat here, however. While servers will significantly help, they don't address all the issues a school faces. Servers can be expensive and resource-heavy; they route all printing over your school's network, eating up bandwidth. They represent a single point of failure, bring all printing crashing down when the server malfunctions. Servers can also be too inflexible for a school environment, where users are often on the move.

That's not to say that servers aren't a good solution — they're just not a perfect solution, unless you supplement that server with the right tools to address its weak points.

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A Roadmap to Successful Printing

Tricerat has spent several decades creating solutions to all of these problems. We also have a long history of optimizing print systems within the education industry in particular, from working with school districts to attending major education conferences.

Whether you go with print servers or a managed print driver system, Tricerat's solutions are tailor-made to reduce the workload of sys admins, lower overall costs and enable end-users to manage their own print needs.

These benefits include:

  • All the powerful features of a print server or management system, personalized for your needs
  • Self-service capabilities, so students and faculty can add or remove their own printers and update their own print preferences risk-free
  • A user-friendly interface, including a map view of printer locations within your buildings
  • The ability to print with any device on your school's network — even your students' personal computers — with a convenient app, enabling stress-free BYOD setup
  • Full mobile print functionality, with print capabilities for everything from cloud-based devices to smartphones: students can print from anywhere with ease
  • A system that layers on top of your existing environment quickly and easily, with minimal startup work required

Want to learn more about how Tricerat can optimize printing in your school system? Check out our case study to see how we helped the Brainerd Public School District reduce workload for sys admins and minimize the total cost of printing.

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Tags: Tricerat Blog, Simplify Printing

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