My colleagues in the printing industry get excited when they talk about printing. I am no different myself. We could not be happier if someone asks us what we do (for work). In my case, I start by saying that I work for Cirrato, a software company that helps save large organizations a lot of money by removing print servers. There is almost always a follow up question: what are print servers? Every time it's a confrontation with the fact that 99% of the people I know in my personal life, do not know a lot about printing. Let alone print servers. They simply print and collect a document. It isn’t until I explain more about ‘traditional’ printing when they realize that it is indeed pretty beneficial what my company offers. So this article is about what I tell people at birthdays and other social events when they ask me what it is that I do (or better said: what Cirrato does). So here is 'explaining centralized print management in less than 5 minutes'.

Traditional printing with print servers

First we look at how most organizations still print. When someone submits a file for printing, the job is sent to a print server where it gets processed. Then the file is sent to the printer. Imagine hundreds or thousands of people in an organization printing their emails, documents and other files. All those files travel over the network to the print server. And from the print server to the printer. Even if that printer is located within a five feet radius, the job can still travel a long way to get there.

If the print server is at another location, the job will be sent to that location over the wide area network. During peak office hours, internet availability and speed can be impacted heavily. Internet pages will load slowly. Internet downloads will take longer. More and more organizations use internet to call as well (ever had a skype conversation with ‘cracks’ in it?). Obviously that is not a desired way of working. A solution to that problem is having multiple print servers, preferably one at each location. But these servers come with a cost.  

Also, in either scenario, whether the organization has local or remote print servers, a connection to a print server is always required in order to print. If the server cannot be reached, the print job cannot be processed and the job will not be printed. (When I get to that last part, I have touched on something that person has come across and instantly there is more interest in my story. Because who has not had issues trying to print before?)

Printing with Cirrato

Then I tell them that the alternative to printing with print servers, is printing with Cirrato. An enterprise print management solution that helps organizations remove print servers. How does it do that? By not sending the entire file over the network. Instead it only sends a small ticket to the Cirrato server. That ticket contains all the details of the print job. After the server has checked it, the ticket is sent back and the file is sent straight to the printer.

Sometimes I get the following question: “why can’t the job not be sent straight to the printer, why does it need to send a ticket to that server first?” That has to do with managing printing. The information in the ticket is checked for the following:

  • Can the selected printer produce the print job?
  • Is the proper print driver installed?
  • Is the user allowed to print that job?

The server also applies policies and saves the details for reporting purposes. This last bit is a part that I skip (unless I get asked that question), because I try not to get too detailed.

Going back to the ticket. It is the only file that travels over the network, resulting in a 99% reduction in print related network traffic. The one Cirrato server can easily manage all tickets. We used to have the magical number of maximum 30,000 printers that the one server could handle. But we have customers with a lot more that still print without problems each day.

So no more need for multiple expensive print servers. Printing is quick as the size of the file no longer impacts processing speed. And there is another benefit. If the Cirrato server cannot be reached, people can continue to print. Provided they select a printer they have used before. This means that printing works, even without a connection to the server.

When I finish with that last statement, I can’t say that I see amazement. But I do get the occasional ‘we should really have that at my company’. That is all I need to be happy and move on to the next person who asks me what it is that I do. And I repeat the story, for as many times as I am being asked to tell them about my work.

Obviously there is a lot more around this way of printing or printing in general that I and my colleagues in the printing world would like to tell. And we certainly could talk about it for many hours. But for those ‘outsiders’ who do not get as excited about printing as we do, a short story, like the above one, will suffice. After all, I doubt anyone of us print fanatics has ever been asked to please keep telling more about printing. No, we leave the specifics for the office, meetings and industry events when we can discuss among ourselves. About IT infrastructure, redundancy, failover scenarios and much much more. Because we really can keep talking about it all day, every day!

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