Universal Print: Cloud Print Management – Part 1

Never as in this period Digital Transformation has been influencing our way of thinking and doing business; new technologies are redesigning and improving what is the value proposition of products and services.
For a long time, companies have needed a solution that allows them to manage and supply prints to their employees quickly and easily; for this reason, Microsoft has introduced Universal Print.

Universal Print is Microsoft’s cloud-based solution that allows you to deliver print services directly from the cloud, thus eliminating the need to own and maintain an on-premise infrastructure; the introduction of this service in the company will also make it possible to drastically reduce the costs in terms of time consuming for IT admins as it will no longer be necessary to install and maintain the various types of drivers.

This solution also provides other benefits such as:

  • Centralized management through Microsoft Azure portal.
  • Protection of printers and documents through the use of users and groups on Azure AD.
  • Archiving print data in compliance with data management regulations (example: GDPR).
  • Encrypted communication through HTTPS connections.
  • Ability to obtain information and reports on your printing environment.
  • Support from major hardware vendors.
Figure 1 – Universal Print Hardware vendors

Requirements

To be able to adopt Universal Print you need to have the following requirements:

  • Windows 10 version 1903 or later connected to Azure Active Directory (Hybrid join scenario also supported).
  • Associate users with one of the following licenses (Microsoft 365 or Windows SKU):
    • Microsoft 365 Enterprise F3, E3, or E5
    • Windows 10 Enterprise E3 or E5
    • Microsoft 365 Education A3 or A5
    • Windows 10 Education A3 or A5
    • Microsoft 365 Business Premium
  • Printer that supports Universal Print connected directly to the Internet or local/network (in the References section you can find the complete list of vendors that support this type of functionality).
  • Account with Printer Administrator rights on the Azure Active Directory side.
  • Possible presence of an host (physical/virtual) on which the Universal Print Connector component will be installed.
  • Connectivity from devices and Universal Print Connectors to the following Microsoft cloud endpoints:

Universal Print Connector installation

In case your local or network printers are unable to connect directly to the Universal Print service, you can install the Universal Print Connector component to allow redirection of this type of printers. In this section will be reported the necessary steps to proceed with the installation:

  • Log in to the system identified as the host with administrative rights.
  • Download the installation file (available at the following link) or from the Azure portal in the Universal Print section.
Figure 2 – Universal Print Connector download
  • Start the installation process, accept the license terms and press the Install button.
Figure 3 – Universal Print Connector installation
  • At the end of the installation, press the Launch button to start the configuration procedure.
  • Press the OK button to confirm the sending of diagnostic data in the event of any errors.
  • Press the Login button and log in with the Azure AD account.
Figure 4 – Azure AD Login
  • Once the authentication process is completed, proceed with entering the name of the Connector and registering it on Azure through the Register button.
Figure 5/6 – Universal Print Connector registration process
  • At the end of the procedure, the new connector will be visible on the Azure portal in the appropriate Universal Print – Connectors section.
Figure 7 – Universal Print Connector in the Azure Portal
Figure 8 – Universal Print Connector details

Registration and sharing printers

Registering printers is the process of creating a record on the Universal Print service; before Universal Print can manage a printer, Universal Print must be aware of the presence of that device. This involves creating a device object on Azure Active Directory as well as registering some printer information on Universal Print.

If a printer can communicate directly with Universal Print, printer registration is done through the procedure provided by the printer manufacturer; for printers that cannot communicate directly with Universal Print, it is necessary to take advantage of the registration through the use of the previously created connector. Below are the steps necessary to perform this activity:

  • Start Universal Print Connector.
  • In case of a Windows Virtual Desktop environment or systems connected in Hybrid join, it is necessary to set the Enable hybrid AD configuration setting to On.
  • At this point, the printers connected to the Universal Print Connector should be visible and available to be registered on the service; it is however possible to force a new discovery through the Refresh printers button.
  • Select the printers concerned and press the Register button;
Figure 9 – Printer registration process
  • At the end of the registration process, the device(s) will be displayed in the Printers section.
Figure 10 – Universal Print printer(s) in the Azure Portal

To allow users to use the printers on the Universal Print service, it is necessary to proceed with their sharing by assigning them to Azure Active Directory users/groups by following these simple steps:

  • From Universal Print – Printers section, select the printer and click on Share.
  • In case you want to share the device with all users, you only need to activate the Allow access to everyone in my organization slider.
  • Alternatively, you can select Azure AD user/groups using the appropriate search field.
  • Conclude the sharing procedure by pressing Share Printer button.

At this point, to allow our users to print through the Universal Print service, it is necessary to assign the previously shared printers to their respective devices.
In the next article, we will go into more detail on the methodologies currently available to perform the assignment and distribution of printers.

References

Here are some useful references to the official Microsoft documentation:

Conclusions

This article has provided an overview of the Universal Print solution that allows you to centralize print management through a dedicated portal and reduce the cost of maintaining this service. In the next article, we will see how to deliver shared printers thus allowing our users to be able to print using this solution.

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