January 08, 2010, 6:00 PM — Print servers, a networked device that directs print jobs to non-networked printers, used to be big deals. Early printers didn't have network support built in, so print servers fooled the printers into thinking they were connected to a single computer with an RS-232 or Centronics parallel printer cable (look those up in the archives, kids).
Today, network support directly inside the printer costs a fairly negligible amount of money. Servers and NAS (Network Attached Storage) units often include printer support, so many people think there's no reason for print servers today. Not quite true, friends.
A big reason for a print server is to get printers out where people are, not where the servers are locked up for security. You don't want people messing with servers, but you do want people using a shared printer. Hence, a print server may help you keep servers separate and printers public.
For some groups, wireless print servers make great sense by putting working printers where no network connections are available. Mobile work groups may want to set up a printer near the team, and a wireless print server turns that from a chore to a snap.
If your company still uses an old PC as a “shared print server” using Windows workgroup functions, a print server will be a relief. You'll be able to print even when that old PC is turned off and you may be able to scan from Multi-Function Printers back to your computer, not the computer tied to the printer. Much easier, not expensive, and this promises to open a printer bottleneck and increase user satisfaction with printing in general, and the specific printer they'll be able to use much more easily.