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Virtualization Comes to Enterprise Printing

1 Apr, 2012 By: Arron Fu imageSource

Visualtization in Enterprise PrintingIt starts with “Where is the document I printed?!” Or “Which printer did I print to?!” And “My computer isn’t connected to the printer closest to me?!” Sound familiar? So let’s examine the increasing role that virtualization plays in changing the face of enterprise printing environments today.

Virtualization is not new to the enterprise IT world. Across the industry, virtualization technology has revolutionized storage, business intelligence and enterprise resource planning processes. The reason virtualization works so well in these scenarios is simple: they are multi-element environments which are central to business efficiency and they are often located disparately across an enterprise.

For many progressive companies, the topic has long been on the corporate agenda but only recently has it been elevated to the action plan. For these companies, the case for virtualization is a sturdy one, propped up by its four primary benefits: cost reduction, environmental impact, an increase in workforce agility and more security.

Virtualization adds many benefits to enterprise printing. The parallels are clear, but the question is why more businesses haven’t given their printing processes a similar ‘virtual’ makeover.

On paper, they have all the elements that have made virtualization a valuable and successful initiative in other business areas. They contain thousands of individual printers each with their own driver, an increasingly mobile workforce that expects to print wherever they are in the world and a growing level of consumerization with personal devices like tablets and smartphones entering the enterprise.

Mapping this number of devices across the enterprise becomes a major issue for the IT administration department, the helpdesk and the network. Today, adding printers to a network on an ad-hoc basis involves a high level of technical knowledge (driver mapping, installing, upgrading).

As a result, the printer has a very physical presence for each employee. It is necessary for workers to know exactly which printer they are using for their own projects. This approach can make it difficult to locate a printer and actually use it if the proper driver is not installed on the device in question. System upgrades present another problem when there is no virtual or central location in play.

For example, an end-user may install a printer on a desktop computer using Windows XP, but later upgrade to Windows 7. This can cause incompatible printer driver issues causing the printer to not work. Magnify this problem across an enterprise environment and the problem quickly compounds itself.

Printing right on queue

Now picture a world where printers operate at maximum efficiency – all the time. Large numbers of multi-page documents can be split into a number of whole copy jobs and directed to alternative print queues. This increases the print engine speed to the sum of the utilized printers. In short; virtualizing your printing environment means additions or changes to this environment actually enhance both the user and the network experience.

Now picture standing around waiting for a one page document while your colleague prints a 72 page presentation. A central, virtualized system will make this a thing of the past by creating a virtual print queue (VPQ). Once routed to the VPQ, print commands sent to busy or non-functioning devices can be re-directed to other devices for immediate printing.

Gone are the days when you physically need to know which printer you’re printing to. And, operating system upgrades, which used to necessitate a similar upgrade to a printer driver, no longer present a problem. Virtualization not only safeguards the printing process, but if a printer goes off-line for any reason, printing is automatically re-directed to an alternative device of your choice. The introduction of a VPQ offers options for load balancing across printers which include combining the power of available printers to optimize print engine speed and setting maximum job sizes for individual printers. Office departments typically produce documents that demand a higher specification machine just to cope with this task. These jobs can now be shared between printers in the same or even different departments.In fact, a single VPQ created by the virtualization process will reduce helpdesk calls by as much as 35%. According to research powerhouse Gartner, more scrutiny than ever is set to be placed on a printed document before it reaches the printer tray.

They have predicted that organizations will reduce printing volumes by as much as 10% through fleet management as a direct result of virtualization-based projects.

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