Print Management: Microsoft is getting it right

Summary:It's not very frequent that I compliment Microsoft software, but in this case there is a reason to do so. In setting up a print server for Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 using the new Print Management console, I can see that Microsoft finally got things right with print services.

It's not very frequent that I compliment Microsoft software, but in this case there is a reason to do so. In setting up a print server for Windows Server 2008 and Windows 7 using the new Print Management console, I can see that Microsoft finally got things right with print services. Now, everything can be managed within a console and what's ever more useful (in my opinion) is that IT admins can connect to remote machines and manage printers there as well. This was also somewhat possible in earlier versions of Windows (like XP), where remote printers could be managed using Windows Explorer and browsing to the "Printers and Faxes" share. But, the new Print Management console allows complete administration locally and remotely for printers, printer drivers, ports, deployment, etc.

While the Print Management is a new and improved tool in Windows, GNU/Linux has already been doing this for years with the CUPS software. Like the Windows printing services, CUPS (Common Unix Printing System) also offers printing services in the same fashion. CUPS runs as a system service, and has complete remote administration capabilities as well with Gnome and KDE interfaces, and even takes it one step further with an additional web-based interface. And, CUPS also introduces some nifty features like automatic printer discovery for local and network shared printers (from another CUPS server). For example, installing a printer that does not have proprietary drivers, basically requires the user to turn on the printer and plug it in to the system. The Linux kernel will detect the printer and, if possible, CUPS will install it automagically without any user intervention. CUPS can also automatically detect network printers (shared from other CUPS servers) and install them as well, again without any user intervention.

CUPS also has an additional package (called "cups-pdf" in Fedora), that will install a PDF writer. Microsoft does not have this yet in Windows, but I suspect they will in the future.

Windows 7 and Server 2008 is a good attempt by Microsoft to get closer to what CUPS offers today. I suspect that both products will become more alike as we move forward. Either way, both offer easy administration of printers which is a huge plus.

Topics: Open Source

About

I have been a systems administrator of both Windows and Linux systems for over 17 years, in educational institutions, enterprises, and consumer environments. Throughout the years running Linux and Windows side by side, I have seen Linux countless times surpass Windows in performance, reliability, cost savings, and more recently user expe... Full Bio

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