As organisations make the move to using cloud authentication and authorisation using Azure Active Directory, one of the challenges to adopting full cloud has been the continued use and reliance of on-premises printers in office locations. In a COVID world, a standard non-administrative user working from home will normally be restricted rights to manage their own home printers.
Traditional processes for printing would typically be publishing these to Active Directory, a user searches the directory and adds the printer, if they are connected to the corporate network that is. If you’re a techie at heart and you know the UNC path you could certainly connect to a Windows server hosted print queue but for most users this would be a unknown.
Microsoft’s first attempt to address this issue came with Windows 2016 with the hybrid cloud print functionality however with many steps for an IT admin to consider, as well as some teething problems with adopting the service as well as the reliance on certain versions of Windows Server and Windows 10 desktop OS, it struggled to gain any traction.
However things have improved with Universal Print, the main point being it’s far simpler than before. Once the printer is published into Azure and access is provided to a user, it’s ready to go.
From a user experience perspective all a user needs to do is go to Settings > Devices > Printers and Scanners and add the printer. The user doesn’t need to worry about any drivers installs, just one universal printer and away they go. Alternatively, if IT admins wish to manage centrally, they can do with Microsoft Endpoint Manager.
One of the nice features is how it links with location detection, so imagine a scenario where you a user who is working across multiple sites, with location detection it will choose the most local printer automatically. An Admin would configure a variety of filters against that printer such as country, city, building, floor, even latitude, and longitude to feed this intelligence. For this feature to work location/GPS will also need to be enabled on the windows device.
Many OEMs are now already on board with Universal print and have integrations ready for their printers to be ‘universal print’ ready making it very simple to publish their printers into Azure without the need of a proxy or connector.
Universal Print is currently in preview with the service yet to be available across the two Azure UK Datacenters however it is available in other regions and if you have the appropriate subscriptions in place, now would be a good time perhaps to try a proof of concept with some of your user base to get a feel and understanding of this excellent service offering.
It goes without saying if you need any help, give risual a shout.