In today’s cloud-first world, the way organizations manage their print environments is transforming significantly. The once familiar on-premises infrastructure, with its myriad print servers, drivers, and configurations, is giving way to cloud-based solutions. Microsoft’s Universal Print is at the forefront of this shift, a modern print solution seamlessly integrated with Microsoft 365.
What is Universal Print?
Microsoft’s Universal Print solution aligns seamlessly with businesses already transitioning to hybrid cloud platforms, especially those utilizing Microsoft 365 for software applications, OneDrive for Business, Exchange Online, and more.
Understanding Universal Print’s Framework
Manufacturers are now inherently integrating Universal Print features into their latest printer models, ensuring direct synchronization with Microsoft Azure’s Universal Print management. This eliminates the need for any on-premises infrastructure when using Universal Print-compatible printers. Microsoft offers a Universal Print Connector for older printer models, bridging the communication gap with Universal Print. However, this setup mandates a link to the Universal Print Connector.
Note the following Universal Print eligible license subscriptions subscriptions with Microsoft 365:
- Microsoft 365 Enterprise AF3, E3, E5, A3, A5
- Microsoft 365 Business Premium
- Windows 10 & 11 Enterprise E3, E5, A3, A5
Additionally, you can gain access to Universal Print as a standalone license. With this solution, Microsoft allocates 5 print jobs for each user monthly. A single print job pertains to one printing action, regardless of the number of pages. Thus, the total print jobs granted to a company with 500 licensed users amount to 2,500. Should you need more, there are add-on packs available for Universal Print. These packs augment your print jobs by 500 or 10,000-job batches.
Benefits of Universal Print for organizations
Note the following benefits of implementing access to the Microsoft cloud Universal Print in the enterprise environment.
Enhanced Security and Compliance
Universal Print, being cloud-based and connected with Azure AD, enhances the security landscape of printing. Protecting sensitive data is paramount, and with universal print, organizations can rely on Azure’s robust security measures. Whether it’s a print job containing confidential enterprise data or user-specific details, the service ensures it’s handled securely.
Simplified Management and Configuration
With Universal Print, gone are the days of visiting each workstation to install or update printer drivers. The universal print solution centralizes print management, making adding new printers, managing settings, or even updating configurations more straightforward. By enabling organizations to manage printers directly through the Microsoft 365 admin center, IT teams are freed from many of the traditional challenges they face.
Print job management
One of the most user-friendly features is the Universal Print Portal. This portal simplifies print job management, allowing users to access, search, and manage their print jobs easily. With detailed reporting tools available, administrators can also gain insights into printer usage, helping optimize resources and manage costs.
Economic and Environmental Gains
Organizations can make informed decisions about their print environment with detailed data at their fingertips. This might mean identifying underused printers, realizing the potential savings from reducing print jobs, or understanding user behavior to enhance printing infrastructure.
Universal Print: how it works
Universal Print is deeply integrated with Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform. It uses Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for authentication, allowing users to access printers across devices and locations with the Azure Active Directory SSO capabilities. It makes print management and printer access to traditional on-premises printers much easier.
It does this either by using a Universal Print Connector or using printers that have the native Universal Print capability integrated into the device.
Managing printers and Windows Server print servers can be a headache for IT administrators, and print infrastructure can be time consuming and costly to manage. Using the Universal Print capabilities mentioned in Azure helps to offset the heavy lifting for on-premises infrastructure and management.
The Universal Print connector
Not all printers in the market today are universal print ready and your organization may not have universal print ready printer devices in place. However, Microsoft anticipated this challenge. The universal print connector allows older printers to be integrated into the universal print environment, ensuring organizations don’t need to overhaul their existing printing infrastructure.
As organizations go through refresh cycles and purchase universal print printers, they can transition away from using the Universal Print Connector for printer access and pivot to the native capabilities of their devices.
Installing Universal Print connector
The Universal Print Connector is a simple download and install on a Windows server machine. Accept the EULA and install the service.
You will then need to “Login” to your Microsoft Azure account to register the Universal Print Connector with Microsoft Azure.
Once logged in, register your Universal Connector.
Setup finishes successfully.
Once you have the service installed, you will register the printer you want to use in Azure.
The printer is registered successfully with the Universal Print service.
You can see the cloud printer now shared in the Universal Print printers configuration:
A user client running Windows 10 or 11 can now add the cloud printer once they are logged in with their Microsoft account and the printer has been assigned permissions to them from the Microsoft 365 side.
The Future of Universal Print
The universal print solution, though robust in its current form, continues to evolve. Microsoft continues expanding its fleet of universal print-ready printers and enhancing the service based on user feedback and technology advancements. We can only expect support and capabilities to evolve over time.
Frequently Asked Questions about Universal Print
How does Universal Print integrate with Azure Active Directory?
Universal Print works with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD), providing secure authentication for users during the print process. Once a user is authenticated through Azure AD, they can send print jobs to any Universal Print-ready printer within the organization.
Do I need any on-premises infrastructure to set up Universal Print?
It depends. While Universal Print is designed to work with on-premises infrastructure, it’s adaptable. For businesses using Universal Print-compatible printers, no on-premises setup is required. The Universal Print Connector is required to use legacy printers, connecting these devices to the cloud-based Universal Print service.
What benefits does a modern print solution like Universal Print offer over traditional print servers?
Traditional print servers can be resource-intensive and challenging for IT admins to manage. On the other hand, a modern print solution like Universal Print uses Microsoft cloud technologies. It simplifies print management and providing access to these resources using authentication with Azure Active Directory. It also helps to reduce costs tied to on-premises print servers, and allows access to printers from any connected device in the hybrid workforce.
How can I ensure my print data remains secure with Universal Print?
Universal Print offers multiple layers of security, with data encrypted both in transit and at rest. By leveraging Azure’s robust security infrastructure, organizations can protect sensitive print data while also enabling efficient printing across their enterprise.
How does Universal Print adapt to varying enterprise printing needs?
Given the dynamic nature of today’s enterprises, Universal Print is designed to scale. Whether you’re managing printers across multiple locations or handling a surge in print jobs, Universal Print, with its deep integration with Microsoft 365 and Azure portal, ensures that the printing infrastructure can adapt and deliver consistent performance.
Can I manage Universal Print settings from the Azure portal?
The Azure portal is where you configure and manage Universal Print settings. Administrators can add new printers, assign printers to specific users or groups, and oversee print jobs from the portal.
What if I need additional information or resources on Universal Print?
Microsoft offers a comprehensive Universal Print portal with various resources, guides, and additional information. Also, the community forums and Microsoft’s official documentation are good places to start to learn more about the Universal Print process and management.
Using the Universal Print service in an organization’s IT tools helps to bring modern print management and connectivity to the hybrid workforce. As organizations continue with hybrid collaboration and connectivity, Universal Print is a great solution to bolster printing in the hybrid configuration and reduce the reliance on on-premises connectivity to Windows Server print servers, etc. More modern printers are continuing to include Universal Print capabilities and will allow organizations to use this as a native capability of the hardware moving forward.