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Considering third-party virtual desktop printing management

Third-party printer management vendors make printing from a virtual desktop easier for IT admins to set up and support. Learn some of the top platforms to consider.

Printing has always been one of the biggest pain points for VDI admins and end users.

With users working from home and in the office, IT administrators must tailor their virtual desktop printing architecture to support a variety of local printers. IT also has to account for the additional pressure on the bandwidth that these printing jobs require. Many users rely on tablets, laptops and other mobile devices to connect to a virtual environment. Some of them might rely on cloud-based print services from the virtualization vendor to connect to a printer.

The layer surrounding the management of print services for VDI environments as part of the native Windows stack has been subpar at best. For example, some faulty drivers cause print services and print spoolers to crash. Secondly, many have resorted to Group Policies to map the correct printers to users and groups, resulting in long login times.

Many organizations even rely on third-party management products to provide a secure and highly-available print service for their VDI environments.

1. PrinterLogic

The vendor PrinterLogic is in this third-party printing software ecosystem, and it provides centralized print management capabilities via either a virtual appliance or as a full cloud SaaS platform. The appliance or SaaS will hold all the drivers, and then IT admins will need to install a local agent on each workstation or virtual desktop. The local agent will connect to the service to download any required drivers into the session, which results in faster logon times. In addition, PrinterLogic's approach supports mobile devices running iOS and Android.

With the architecture that PrinterLogic uses, there is no need for a centralized print server. However, organizations that take the on-premises deployment approach will still need a virtual appliance for the service. In communication with the actual print jobs, all print traffic runs directly from the client to the printer using IP print protocols.

PrinterLogic also supports Secure Release Printing, also known as pull printing. This means the service holds print jobs on the endpoint until users walk over and release their jobs at the printer. In addition, it provides a self-service printer portal that allows users to find and install their printers using floor maps to show available printers. This feature is extremely useful for large offices.

With PrinterLogic's architecture, IT admins can remove existing Windows Print Servers since the agents handle all communication and spooling. The centralized appliance handles all management and self-service capabilities.

2. Tricerat

Another option is Tricerat, an established vendor in the print management market. Its virtual print driver -- ScrewDrivers -- allows users to take locally connected printers -- via devices such as USB, Direct-IP, Network -- with them into remote sessions such as a virtual desktop or hosted application. The terminal server or application server requires IT admins to install the ScrewDrivers Server component. Similarly, IT must ensure that the ScrewDrivers Client plugin is on the client computer.

Tricerat comes with a gateway proxy component that can route print jobs outside of the session agent to offload session hosts. This gateway also controls mobile printing services, but these services require a connection to an existing print server.

This platform comes in different editions. The essential package only contains the virtual drivers, so organizations that want centralized management similar to what PrinterLogic provides will need to get a higher edition.

Tricerat, unlike PrinterLogic, does not come with a pure cloud option. However, it can function in any cloud-based environment with proper configurations and components running on virtual machines and supports floor mapping to show printers. Organizations that deploy Tricerat can take advantage of compression on print jobs, saving bandwidth and ensuring that print spooling does not compete with the session.

3. Ezeep

Organizations can turn to Ezeep -- a subsidiary of ThinPrint -- for another proven print management offering. It provides most of the same capabilities that the other vendors do, such as mobile printing, centralized management, universal print drivers and secure printing.

Additionally, Ezeep offers a Hub device that IT admins can use to connect a branch office printer directly to their cloud-based service. This allows for simplified printer service connectivity. There is no need for branch print servers or VPN connections to handle print traffic back to a centralized print server. The architecture behind this offering is a cloud-based service, so there's no need for any appliances or print servers locally to handle print traffic.

The Ezeep printing technology also can provide different mechanisms to reduce bandwidth usage in a virtual desktop session by applying compression and caching print jobs. This offering uses a compression technology called Advanced Adaptive Compression, which analyzes the individual components of a print job and then compresses them into a simplified algorithm.

All three vendors provide a unified print driver and support different printers and virtual desktop vendors' environments, such as Citrix, VMware and Azure Virtual Desktop.

Which one should organizations choose?

These different vendors each have different approaches. Some print management options focus on providing cloud-based delivery, but they might not be feasible for organizations with strict security requirements.

All three vendors provide a unified print driver and support different printers and virtual desktop vendors' environments, such as Citrix, VMware and Azure Virtual Desktop. However, it is the small add-ons that provide the most value.

For instance, support for floor maps makes it easier for IT admins to handle printers in large offices. A simple method to connect printers to a cloud-based environment can help organizations with multiple smaller branch offices that IT needs to manage without local print servers at each location.

However, organizations also need to evaluate their current workforce regarding printers and endpoints that need to be connected. Secondly, organizations must consider which OSes are running within the virtual desktop environment, such as Windows, Linux and other thin client systems. Virtual desktop admins will have to map each of these systems to the different print management vendors.

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