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Connecting computers to various printers.

Most nonprofits have a number of printers that they use frequently but are not connected directly to the network. These printers, which might be a large format inkjet or possibly a color laser printer, are usually attached to someone's PC using a USB cable.

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To print to one of these directly attached printers isn't particularly difficult, but it does take a bit of working around. Frequently, the answer is to share the printer on the PC it's attached to and set up the print driver for this printer as a shared printer on everyone's PC that needs to print to it. That's a bit of a bother, but the real downside of this approach is that the PC to which the target printer is attached, must be on for the attached printer to be accessible to others. If the PC crashes or is powered down, forget about using the printer.

There's a way around this, and it doesn't involve trading in your older printer for a newer model with a network interface. The answer is to use a USB Print Server.

That sounds complicated, but it's not. A USB print server is a small box that's plugged into your Ethernet network. There's a socket on the print server into which the USB printer is plugged. Install a bit of software, and your USB printer has just become a network printer.

Keep in mind that installing a print server requires a brief software install to get the network to recognize the device, as well as two easy installs (one to address the print server and the other to install the actual print driver) on each machine that you want to be able to utilize the printer. Installing a Linksys PSUS4 print server to connect large format inkjet to the network took less than five minutes.

Sometimes a print server doesn't make economic sense. A Linksys PSUS4 sells for about $60, though it also includes a four port Ethernet switch so you can plug several other Ethernet devices or PCs into it. A D-Link DP-301U, which is just a print server, sells for about $50. So if your printer is more than a few years old, it may make sense to just upgrade to a newer model with a network interface.

Not every print server works with every printer, so you'll want to make sure that you can return the unit should it not be compatible with the printer that you intend to make network accessible. But if you have a frequently used printer that's a pain to print to, a USB print server might well be an inexpensive and easily implemented answer.
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Title Annotation:TECH TIPS
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Date:Oct 15, 2010
Words:443
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