Universal Print : End of print servers?

Hello friends

Hope you all are doing well !!!

Today we are going to talk about a new Azure service called Universal Print. Universal Print is a modern print solution that allows organizations to manage their print infrastructure through Azure from Microsoft. It allows employees to “print from anywhere“. This feature is very much suitable for organizations committed to cloud and replaces the requirement of on-premises print server.

Universal print architecture

There are many printers which are already universal print ready and connect directly to Universal print. Those printers which are not yet compatible to Universal Print, connect via Universal Print connector. The connector is a small Windows application that can connect many printers to the Universal Print, and can run on any Windows PC on the network. Good news is that printer manufacturers are releasing new printers that are Universal Print ready. Printers currently in the market may become Universal Print ready with firmware updates.

It uses AAD for authentication and stores all print queues in Office data storage. This is the same storage that stores customer’s Office 365 mailboxes and OneDrive files. Microsoft Endpoint manager can be used to deploy printers on user’s Windows 10 devices. Below is architecture diagram from Microsoft docs:

A Universal Print architecture diagram.

Prerequisites

  • Window 10 client device
    • Version 1903 or later
  • Universal Print Connector host
  • AAD or Hybrid joined devices
  • Universal print license – You can buy standalone license or is part of following subscriptions
    • Microsoft 365 Enterprise F3, E3, E5, A3, A5
    • Windows 10 Enterprise E3, E5, A3, A5
    • Microsoft 365 Business Premium

You can see configuration steps in details here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/universal-print/fundamentals/universal-print-getting-started

Considerations

Although universal print looks very promising solution but there are few considerations which need to be kept in mind as below:

  • Pull print – This feature is missing for now and may come in future. You need third party tool as Celiveo 365 to support pull print at present.
  • Dependency on internet – If device or printer don’t connect to cloud, they cant print.
  • Print job travel to cloud – This may not be issue for most of the customer as all the data in transit is encrypted using SSL (https) with TLS 1.2, but, still can raise eyebrows for few companies. Also, Universal Print is presently not available for US Government Community Cloud (GCC) or/and other sovereign clouds.
  • Limited support for heterogeneous environment – There are limitations like devices need to be AAD or Hybrid AD joined, connecter can only be installed on Windows devices etc.
  • Limited reporting capability
  • PowerShell support is in roadmap

Although, these are few of the considerations before you choose Universal Print as your solution, but it looks very promising. There can be multiple engagements where it can be utilized and replaces the need of third party solutions. I hope solution keep evolving and present limitations are bygone in future.

You can learn more about universal print here: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/universal-print/fundamentals/universal-print-whatis

I hope you found this feature interesting and I will see you soon with some other technical stuff. Till then, lets have our spirit high and fight back the pandemic. Thanks 🙂

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