Sharing a printer is commonplace in most offices and there a number of ways to share printers. Choosing the best solutions for your money is a question that depends on the nature of your business and your printing needs as well as your network needs and capabilities. One option is personal printer sharing that can be easily enabled on any Mac OS X computer. Personal printer sharing is often the easiest solution to configure and the least costly as Mac OS X can share any printer attached to it. It is also the most limited because the connected computer must remain powered on for the shared printer to be available and because performance of the computer will degrade as it process print jobs from other computers.
The next option is printers with built-in or external USB hardware (typically called a print server) for sharing the printer. Hardware print servers are a better choice because no computer is burdened in enabling network printing. However, they often have limited memory and might rely only on the printer’s installed memory to store incoming print jobs, which can cause problems and excess network traffic if the printer tries to keep up with a large number of jobs. They also don’t always support a wide range of network printing protocols and features, which can make locating or distinguishing between printers difficult as well as limit the options users have when printing.
Mac OS X Server’s print services can print to almost any network or USB printer and can create print queues that accept and hold print jobs until a printer is ready for them. It can also make the print queues very easy for users to locate and use and can enable some advanced printing features. More importantly, it enables management of print queues (such as pausing, removing, or setting priorities for specific jobs) and setting quotas to prevent users from printing excessively (which can save paper and ink/toner, particularly on high-end printers). These abilities, coupled with logging features, mean that Mac OS X Server can increase printer usability, aid network performance, help you troubleshoot problems, and track printer use—all very useful features.