Choosing a printing method for your company is often a trade-off between convenience and control. Whether direct printing or shared print queues are right for you will depend on your employees’ needs, your workflows, security standards, and compliance considerations.
To find the best option for your organization, let’s take a look at pros and cons of these two printing methods.
With direct printing, a computer is hooked up to a printer, and sends print jobs directly to it. In an office setting, several computers in a work zone (a floor of the building, a department, etc.) are linked to a printer that they share. It’s the simple and easy way to get documents printed, but what you gain in convenience, you lose in security and customization.
- Cost – Unless you are springing for a high-end printer for each employee, direct printing is the more cost-effective method. No further network equipment or software is required.
- Simplicity – Not only is direct printing easier to set up, but it’s also easier to train employees on its use and avoid errors. Fewer moving parts mean fewer things can go wrong, which is great for smaller IT infrastructures.
- Speed – When time is of the essence, direct is better. You’ll even get faster network speeds due to lower bandwidth requirements.
- Limited management capabilities – Because each printer is an island, you have to keep track of each one separately, including maintenance and supplies for each. There is no central dashboard, which is especially problematic for large organizations with dozens of printers installed.
- Poor scalability – As offices grow, adding more and more individual printers becomes exponentially costly and time-consuming.
- Lack of modern features – Features such as secure printing, print job tracking, or centralized logging are not available with direct printing, making it harder to secure systems and control costs.
Shared printing queues
With shared print queues, all of the print jobs on the network are first sent to a centralized print server, which can be physical or virtual. From there, the jobs can be logged, audited, and sent to the appropriate printer. Generally, fewer printers are needed, as they only need to be connected to the print server instead of nearby devices.
- Lower hardware requirements – Fewer printers are required because you don’t need one for each workstation or work zone; one printer can be shared among many users.
- Better visibility – Because all jobs go through the print server, you can find out what’s been printed and by whom at the drop of a hat. Everything from printing trends to ink and toner levels are also tracked by the centralized print server, making it easier to manage your printing and resupply needs.
- Enhanced security – With shared queue printing, you can implement secure printing features, user authentication, and more to ensure the security of your organization and meet compliance requirements focused on printed documents.
- High complexity – Setting up a print server, configuring printers, and managing print queue permissions is difficult, particularly for small businesses with limited IT expertise.
- Slower workflow – During times of high demand, printing queues and lines can get long because of the small number of printers. Printing also takes up network bandwidth with shared queues, so you might experience slowdowns.
- Single point of failure – With centralization, there is a risk of the server going down and taking your company’s ability to print anything with it.
Which method is best for you?
When deciding which printing method to choose, consider the following:
- Business size: If your office is on the small side with low printing needs, simple direct printing is likely best. The bigger the business, the more appealing a shared queue becomes.
- IT expertise: A shared print queue brings advantages, but it also requires expert management to ensure efficiency and security.
- Growth: Direct printing is great for smaller offices that won’t need to expand, but shared print queues are more scalable and cost-effective as an office grows.
- Security and compliance: Are you on the hook for ensuring the data safety of the documents you print, or in a high risk industry? If so, shared print queues are what you need.
- Volume: If your employees need to print large amounts of documents on strict timelines, direct printing will provide, while shared queues might be too slow.
If you’re still unsure about which printing method is best suited for your business, you can always ask our expert IT consultants at CDS. We’ll take the time to assess your printing needs, budget, and company circumstances to find a printing solution that works for your company. Call us now to get started.