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Levi, Ray & Shoup, Inc.

Windows Print Servers: Means to an End or a Point of Failure?

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For the longest time, large organizations seemed to regard print servers as an inevitable solution to a problem. Printing is slow? Put in another server. Too many printing failures? Put in another server. Need SAP printing on Open Systems? Put in a Windows (!) print server.

You get my point. Print servers were seen as means to an end, that end being a reliable print service for end users. Unfortunately, the result was a highly complex IT infrastructure that was time consuming to maintain and which made it difficult or impossible to identify problems. Such environments often consume too many IT resources, which would be better spent on activities related to the core business. Instead, time is spent resolving problems that could have been avoided if the organization had not installed so many servers to manage printing.

That last part also explains the exclamation mark in the parenthesis above, in the phrase about using a Windows server to manage SAP printing. So often we come across the situation where Windows servers are used to manage non-Windows output. Why? Maybe it is perceived as “easy” or “cheap.” But in fact, it is neither of these.

Want proof? Take a look at our customer testimonials and case studies. What you’ll find are organizations that probably started with similar print environments to your own but improved them with the help of LRS. One of our customers has a clever way of summarizing what I was saying above:

“You do not use Microsoft WordPad that comes with Windows Operating Systems as your word processor; you buy Microsoft Word.
For the same reasons, why would you use Windows Print Server software to handle output from your business-critical applications?
We chose LRS to handle that function for us.” 

- Charles Harris, Duke University Health System

There are a lot of reasons behind wanting to eliminate or consolidate (Windows) print servers. In some scenarios, servers may be seen as necessary or even advantageous. Some may be maintained as a form of reassurance or used to keep the Windows and application environment separate.

In exceptional cases like these, LRS can and does support the continued use of such servers. There are also many solutions on the market that promise a serverless environment, though some companies opt to not adopt them. It all comes down to what makes the most sense for the organization and what goals they are trying to accomplish.

And the two biggest goals we hear? Save money and reduce complexity. Every server removed equals not only a substantial cost saving, but also brings less complexity, which may be more valuable in the end. For the remainder of this article, let’s focus on the savings angle.

The average cost of a Windows print server per year

Opinions vary on the true cost of a print server, but everyone we’ve talked to seems to agree that they are not free. One international finance company found they saved 200,000 Euros per year by reducing the number of print servers from 45 to 4. Another LRS customer reported annual cost savings of $119,000 for the elimination of 12 print servers.

Gartner has estimated the cost to be around $5,000 per annum for licensing, storage and maintenance. The numbers vary greatly, and the costs don’t stop there. There are other expenses associated with an IT infrastructure that relies heavily on servers, namely the cost of power, cooling, and the expense of managing a complex bunch of servers.  

I’ll discuss these “hidden expenses” in a future article. But one thing is clear… even if you have spare servers sitting around that you have already paid for, turning them into print servers is not the best way to solve your printing issues. And it’s certainly not “free.”

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