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Unix and Linux printing services: Understanding SMB printer needs

Don't configure Unix or Linux printers until you know exactly what your SMB customer needs. This two-part tip will help you decide which Unix and Linux printing services to offer.

Ken Milberg

I know what you're thinking: Unix and Linux printing services a reseller opportunity? Come again?

Say you've already sold a small or medium-sized business (SMB) hardware for its new financial system, which included some PC desktop clients, Unix and Linux servers and several printers. Now they need to make it all work together. Even if they have in-house skills to configure Unix and Linux printers, they may not have the resources (time) to make it happen, or the company may prefer that its IT staff focus on high-level systems architecture planning and design. This is where you come in. As a reseller or systems integrator, you can provide value-added Unix and Linux services to the client, which includes configuring servers and configuring printers.

What challenges will you face when configuring Unix or Linux printing services for your clients? What are your choices? I'll attempt to answer those questions in this tip.

   Part 1: Understanding Unix and Linux printing needs
   Part 2: Configuring Linux and Unix printers

  Understanding Unix and Linux printing needs  Return to Table of Contents

First you'll need to understand exactly what they are looking to accomplish. Don't pick up that manual yet on how to configure Unix services on Linux (or vice-versa) until you have a clear understanding of what the customer wants to do. The worst thing you can do is configure something that makes no sense for their environment just because you are familiar with a certain way of doing things.

Let's continue with our scenario. Your customer is relatively small and has a network of about 50 desktop clients, five of which you just sold them. There are four networked printers already supporting these clients (using JetDirect cards) and you've just sold them two new printers. The customer is already satisfied with how the current printers are configured and administered, as it easily allows their network administrator to administer and configure print services for these PC desktop users. You've just installed four Linux clustered servers to support their new financial system. With that system, it also required one Sun T2000 server, which functions as the middleware. How are all your new users going to print from their new financial systems?

Now that we clearly understand the environment, we can outline some of the printer configuration options:

1. Directly attaching some (perhaps the ones you just sold them) of the printers to the Unix and/or Linux servers.

2. Configure printing from the servers to the existing network, which includes the network printers.

3. Attach some of the new printers directly to your PC clients and print locally.

4. Configure SAMBA on your Linux and Unix hosts to allow your Windows clients access to native print services on each box.

While the first option may be the one that comes to mind, I don't know many people that would advocate for it today. For those of us old enough to remember, we did that way back when dumb terminals and Unix servers ruled the day.

Option three sounds inviting, particularly from a sales perspective, and would be the one to provide the most privacy protection, it will also provide you with myriad application headaches (local printing is not as easy as it sounds).

Option four sounds like fun, but you wonder why you'd need it if you have printers already configured with JetDirect cards.

Option two is definitely the way to go there. Your input would be both in recommending the solution and implementing it. Exactly how would you do this?

Click for part two of this tip: Configuring Unix and Linux printers for SMBs.

About the author: Ken Milberg is a technology writer and site expert for, providing Linux technical information and support to and Ken writes and technical edits IBM Systems Magazine (Open Edition) and provides content for IBM developerWorks. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Science, as well as a Master of Science in Technology Management from the University of Maryland University College. He is the founder and group leader of the Long Island POWER-AIX users group. Through the years, he has worked for both large and small organizations and has held diverse positions from CIO to Senior AIX Engineer. Today, he works for Future Tech, a Long Island-based IBM business partner. Ken is a PMI-certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and an IBM Certified Advanced Technical Expert (CATE, IBM System p5 2006).

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