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Wireless Printing Opportunities

12 Feb, 2004 By: Troy Wireless & Connectivity Solutions imageSource

Wireless Printing Opportunities

and, more recently, 802.11g Wireless LAN technology (or “Wi-Fi” as it is
commonly called) has become very popular during recent years, but many people
still view it as a way of allowing laptop computers to access hardwired Local
Area Networks. With the advent of wireless peripheral devices, however, this
perception may be changing.

Wireless LAN print server performs the same function as traditional print
servers like TROY's PocketPro and HP's JetDirect, except that it doesn't require
any network cabling. Like a traditional print server, a Wireless LAN print
server lets multiple computers share printers over a network. These computers
can be running a variety of different network operating systems, such as
Windows, UNIX, NetWare, etc. The print server automatically handles the queuing
process if more than one job is sent to the printer at a time. Because of the
11Mbps bandwidth of 802.11b, and the 54Mbps bandwidth of 802.11g, the
performance of wireless print servers is similar to that of a hardwired print

Potential Clients

Although a wireless print server has many advantages, many people still question
the need for it. This is because, as mentioned previously, they view the
wireless LAN as a way for laptop computers to access a hardwired LAN. Under such
a scenario, the laptop computer can simply print to one of the hardwired
printers on the LAN. While this is certainly true for many of today's enterprise
networks, there are many applications where wireless printing is advantageous or
even essential. And, these applications, examined below, will become even more
feasible as the cost of 802.11b continues to drop.

Printing— One of the earliest uses for wireless printing was for applications
where the printer needed to be mobile. A typical such application is barcode
printing in a warehouse. In this application, the warehouse personnel need to
print out barcode labels and affix them to the items in inventory. Since the
warehouses can be very large, it is impractical and too expensive to have fixed
hardwired printers everywhere. A mobile printer is impractical with conventional
hardwired LAN technology, because it is usually inconvenient or even impossible
to find a network outlet every time the printer is moved. But by using 802.11b
wireless capabilities, the printer can be put on a cart and easily moved to
where it is needed.

are another place where mobile printers are gaining acceptance. This is because
many schools have already installed extensive wireless capabilities on their
campuses. An 802.11b print server allows the printer to be easily moved around,
thereby saving money by eliminating the need for a printer in every classroom or

Standoff— Although most new commercial buildings are already wired for
Category 5 twisted pair cabling, this is not true for the vast majority of
houses and for older buildings. In many cases, running cables in a house or
older building can be very difficult. For example, to run an Ethernet cable from
the upstairs to the downstairs of a typical house would either require drilling
holes in the walls and ceilings, or running a very long and ugly cable along the
baseboards. In very old commercial buildings, the situation may be even worst
because of the concrete walls used in such buildings. As a result, installing a
hardwired network printer can be very difficult in such environments.

situation where cabling may be impossible is buildings or offices where the
lease prohibits drilling holes in the walls and ceilings. In addition, if a
tenant must move frequently, a wireless network makes sense since it eliminates
the need to remove and install cables with each move.

Buildings— As mentioned previously, most existing office buildings are already
wired for Category 5 cabling. But a brand new building may not yet be wired.
With the cost of wireless falling, it may make often make sense to consider a
completely wireless LAN rather than going through the time and expense of wiring
a building.

example, a Fortune 500 company is currently implementing wireless networks in
all of its new branch offices. In addition to cost, one of the reasons for doing
this is to simplify the installation process for the remote personnel. Since the
computers are all wireless, it obviously makes sense that the printers are
wireless too.


With the cost of wireless printing falling, it makes sense to use it for other
applications. For example, it is often nice to have a printer in the conference
room for a meeting, even though it may not be cost-effective to have the printer
in this room on a permanent basis. By using 802.11b connectivity, the printer
can be easily moved anywhere it is needed, and you don't need to have a network
outlet available.

addition, companies are constantly expanding, downsizing or reorganizing. This
means that employees are being moved around and offices are being reconfigured.
Because of this, the office printers may also need to be relocated. With
conventional hardwired printers, this means running a new network cable from the
wiring closet to the printer and installing a new network outlet. With the
Wireless LAN, you simply move the printer to the new location and plug in the

Needs Cables?

If you've ever been in a wiring closet, you can appreciate the difficulties of
cable management. The larger the network, the more difficult the cable
management task becomes, particularly when printers must be frequently moved.
Wireless printing greatly simplifies the cable management problem. There's no
need to worry about which cable goes to which printer. The network manager needs
only to keep track of a relatively limited number of wireless access points that
are connected via cables to the wiring closet. 

should be obvious that there are a number of advantages to connecting printers
with 802.11b wireless technology. But what it really boils down to is if the
cost of a wireless connection is about the same as the cost of a hardwired
connection, why would you want cables? Now that the cost of 802.11b is
approaching or, in some cases, even lower than a hardwired connection, more and
more people will undoubtedly consider using this technology for connecting all
of their printers.

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