Sunday, September 21, 2008

Automatically mapping printers

A while back I came across one of the new 'features' in server 2003 R2, a method of centrally managing printers through the ‘Print Management’ snap-in, and then deploying those printers to workstations or users through a GPO.

This sounds clever, but I believe it's really just an automated method of creating a computer startup/user logon script, which uses a control file to determine which printers are to be installed and then runs a commandline utility to install those printers (pushprinterconnections.exe).

This made me reconsider the approach to managing printers for workstations, and similar or better functionality could be provided by one or more of the methods below:

  1. Use policy to deploy all printers for a building/floor/subnet to workstations. This would be the least management, but probably the least effective as there could be dozens or hundreds of printers per building/floor/subnet.
  2. Have a startup script that automatically adds a default printer when a user first logs on. The default would have to be either based on AD subnets and a mapping file between these subnets and default printers, or possibly based on user information such as location and department, which would be used to query AD/printer names to map appropriate printers, eg a user location of 'Building 1/Floor 2' and department of 'Finance' for a user could easliy be translated to a printer called FINPRINT1 with an AD location of 'Building 1/Floor 2'.
  3. Have a process that exports MAC/PCs connected per floor switch, which would be used as a control file to automatically map printers based on floor. This would typically require assistance from your friendly data communications team.
  4. Use 'DHCP snooping' to further identify where clients are coming from. For example, DHCP relay agent option 82 can be used to insert the switch MAC address/subscriber VLAN/port, SNMP information to the DHCP request packet (when using layer 2 DHCP relay agents as opposed to layer 3 ip helpers). This information could potentially be parsed by the DHCP server to identify the switch/port clients are coming from by parsing the circuit-id/remote-id. The output could be used as a control file to automatically map printers based on floor.
  5. Use the information from 4 and information on floor patching to construct a virtual map of your floors/buildings, which would place one or more workstations close to one or more printers, and map them automatically.
  6. When you build each workstation (this wouldn't work for roaming devices), create a control file that indicates physically where this workstation is located using the Microsoft format for subnet locations, eg Building/Floor 1/West Corner/Pod 4. Populate printer locations to this degree, and then your logon script could search the AD for matching printers and map those that are closest. You could also use this information to create a shortcut called 'Find printers' that uses 'rundll32 dsquery,OpenSavedDsQuery %Config%.qds' to open a saved query file that you've populated with this location. You would then need processes in place to update this control file as the workstation moves, otherwise it becomes incorrect - worse than nothing at all.
  7. Do nothing clever and let users add their own printers

Of course the 'nothing clever' option normally wins out, but in a large organisation one of the options above could add real value, and if done correctly would not be high maintenance.


Manage Printers with New Group Policy Features in Windows Server 2003 R2

RFC 3046 - DHCP Relay Agent Information Option

Configuring the DHCP Option 82 for Subscriber Identification

Wayne's World of IT (WWoIT), Copyright 2008 Wayne Martin.


digital signatures said...

I am not sure but I think My employer organization implements the 6th option as you outlined above and it seems easy to handle and manage for setting up new workstation.which one you suggest is better in all except the 'nothing clever' the last option?

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netsuite retentions said...

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About Me

I’ve worked in IT for over 20 years, and I know just about enough to realise that I don’t know very much.