IT Challenge #4 – Troubleshooting Printing Problems
Thursday, February 07, 2019
by Lou Bartlett
The importance of printing is often underestimated. That is, until someone is unable to print a document that is critical to their job. It is one thing if a worker is unable to print an email that they could easily read on a screen. It is quite another matter for someone who needs to print a shipping order in order to complete a sale. In the second case, business processes come to a stop and that results in financial consequences. Such situations bring a sense of frustration and urgency.
What can be done to prevent business processes from being delayed or coming to a full stop due to temporary printing failures? Let’s first look at an IT environment that involves both workplace printing and application printing. In a traditional IT setting, the print environment would include multiple Windows print servers. These servers typically manage print originating from Windows systems as well as back-end applications such as SAP — or, in a healthcare context — Cerner or Epic applications. Many of these larger organizations have separate teams responsible for the Windows environment and the application environment.
Those readers whose organizations have multiple support teams will recognize the following scenario: within SAP, a shipping note needs to be printed, but the print is not being processed. The user calls the helpdesk, which determines that the issue is related to SAP. They are not authorized to access the SAP system and therefore send the request to the SAP team. These support people are highly specialized and are there to make sure the SAP system is running reliably and efficiently. Dealing with printing issues is not an efficient use of their time. They now need to confirm that there is no problem with the SAP system, after which the helpdesk can step in again and solve any printer- or print server-related issue.
Think of the time and resources that are spent on what is likely a very simple matter. But in order to determine the cause of the problem, multiple people from different departments need to get involved.
It is easy to understand the complexity of solving a print problem, even one caused by something as simple as a print driver. But even when it comes to traditional Windows printing, it can be difficult to identify the origin of a printing error. This is especially true in those multi-server environments still common in the majority of large enterprises today and in the foreseeable future. If the connection to a print server is lost, people are unable to print. A server upgrade could cause issues. The printer itself could be unavailable. The wrong print driver might be installed. A new print driver may cause issues. There are many possibilities. Quickly pinpointing vulnerabilities like these can limit the chances that a printing problem might occur.
Centralized print management software can offer the IT department a complete overview of all printing activity within the organization. This is true whether the documents represent ‘regular’ Windows printing or output from critical back-end applications such as SAP. Because a single system manages all printing, it becomes easy to identify and solve printing problems. Organizations can even redirect print jobs and notify the user of where they can collect their output.
Another way to reduce the impact of employees being unable to print is to enable them to troubleshoot print problems on their own. Through use of an end user self-service portal, they can view their print jobs and determine the cause of the problem. They can then choose to resubmit the print job, choose another device, or call the helpdesk.
These are two ways to quickly resolve printing problems while minimizing business disruption. The end user self-service portal and IT administrator portal offer great value to large enterprises that have major print volumes they rely on for day-to-day business processes. There are many complexities that organizations already have to deal with on a daily basis. Solving printing problems need not be one of them.