Print Management Revisited

We have some good news on the print management front for Windows and OS X, and for computers brought from home.

We looked into one commercial solution, but we didn’t like the $21,000 price tag too much. We had heard of other schools successfully using PCounter, which is much more affordable, but we were having some real issues with the demo version. For computers brought from home, for example, there were a lot of steps for adding a LPT port for printers, including the addition of a Windows component. After all that, the web page that would have to be logged into for every print job appeared to have problems in different browsers. As a general rule, we try to avoid torturing users.

PaperCut NGThings looked glum for a moment, but then a web search revealed PaperCut NG, a new version that is cross platform and also uses a web page for authorizing print jobs, or can also use clients that are available for both PCs and Macs. This is a big deal for us, because we hope to have a fairly simple pop-up client for everyone that shows remaining balance, price for the print job, etc., for every print job. Everyone on campus needs these “reminders” about the resources they are using.

We installed the demo version of PaperCut NG on our Windows Print Server, and we were pretty amazed. The whole program is controlled through a web page, and it automatically created accounts for everyone in Active Directory, automatically recognized every print queue on the print server, and in a few minutes was logging every print job coming in by user, file name, size, printer, etc. Pretty attractive.

Our next step is to learn how to control only some printers but not all, so we don’t have to worry about controlling accounts for everyone on campus, but we could if we wanted. For testing, though, we want only one printer triggering account queries. After we have that, we’ll test the client pop-up software, and the user web page for authorizing print jobs. From what we’ve seen so far, however, we won’t be surprised if Papercut NG will do the job for us– but I’ll report more after testing. The cost is a bit more than PCounter, but the functionality seems much more advanced.

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