Print Management Guide - Printer Pooling
Is printing critical to the day-to-day operations of your business? Do you have a backup printer? Do you know how, or have the time, to put the backup printer in place?
We often get calls from people who depend on their printers more than they realize, so when a printer goes down they need it fixed fast! Wouldn’t it be nice to have a redundant backup already in place? If one printer goes down in a pool, the next is already in service. This means when a printer goes down, you don’t need to worry about expensive over-night shipping of printer parts, the high cost of on-site service, and unproductive down-time. One on-site service call would practically pay for a good backup printer! How much did your last service call cost? $200? $300?
A printer pool is simply a group of 2 or more printers that use the same logical printer on your computer. In other words you would install a printer in your Printers and Faxes folder and have it connect to more than one physical printer. See below. If the first printer in the printer pool is busy, an incoming print job is assigned to the next available printer in the pool.
Other advantages of a printer pool:
- If someone sends a large print job to the printer, other users won't have to wait for it to finish.
- If a paper jam or some other printer error occurs, print jobs won't get backed up because the next available printer will take over.
- All the printers in the printer pool must be able to share the same driver, so ideally the printers in the pool would be similar models. In our example we used Laserjet 4000's, although the Laserjet 4000 driver often will work with many other models of HP Laserjets. We could very well have used Laserjets 4000, 4050, 4100, 5, 2100, or many other combinations of models that might work with the same driver.
- Ideally the printers in your pool should be placed in the same physical location because users will need to search the printouts on each printer to find their specific print job.
Physical Setup of the Printer Pool
Below is a sample printer pool--we set up 3 LaserJet 4000 printers with JetDirect network cards. We assigned unique IP addresses to each of the printers' JetDirect cards, and then ran cabling from the printers to an Ethernet hub. We then connected the hub to a network node.
Software Setup for the Printer Pool
The following example uses Windows XP: you will want to select "Add a Printer" from the Printers & Faxes section of the Control Panel. This will open the Add Printer Wizard.
In the Add a Printer Wizard choose "Local printer attached to this computer.
Select "Create a new port" and -- assuming you're pooling using JetDirect cards like we did in our example above -- choose "Standard TCP/IP port" or "HP Standard TCP/IP Port".
A new wizard starts "Add TCP/IP Printer Port".
Enter the IP address of one of the printers in your pool, and give this port a unique name.
Finish the rest of the "Add New Port" wizard.
Back to the Add Printer Wizard, choose a printer driver that will be compatible with all the printers in your printer pool. Many of HP's drivers are generic enough to work with many different models. For example the Laserjet 4 driver and Laserjet 4000 driver work with many monochrome Laserjets.
If asked, you can keep your existing driver.
Assign a name to your new printer pool; this is the name your computer will assign to the printer pool. If you want this to become the default printer on your local computer, choose Yes.
You will probably want to share this printer so that other users can see it in their list of available printers. Now assign a network name to your new printer pool that will be recognizable to all users on the network.
Now open up the Control Panel, Printers & Faxes folder, and find your new printer pool. View its Properties. (right click or double left-click and choose properties)
Open the "Ports" tab.
Checkmark the "Enable printer pooling" option.
Then click "Add Port..."
From the available types, choose "Standard TCP/IP Port" or "HP Standard TCP/IP Port", then choose "New Port..."
The "Add Printer Port Wizard" starts up, enter the IP address and port name of the second printer you want to use in the pool.
Finish this wizard as you did previously; and continue clicking "Add Port" under the Properties of the Printer Pool and continue adding the IP address and port name for each of the other printers you want to use in the pool.
Finally, when you've added all the printer ports you wish to use in the pool (in our example three), checkmark each one of those ports and then click Apply/Close.
Now you are ready to begin using the pool. Here's a good test to see if your pool is working: open up a large file and hit CTL+P several times to repeatedly print the file. You should notice that when several large jobs are sent to the printer pool at nearly the same time, the print jobs will be divided up among the available printers.