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Manage your company printers in the cloud with Microsoft Universal Print

is it really as simple as they say?

Barrett Dilger

July 10, 2023

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Printer Hate

No need to take a vote. It’s unanimous. Printers are officially the worst device we all have had to deal with in the office. Hands down. No contest. Printing is always the most troublesome and painstaking process.

Thankfully, modern business has moved a lot of printing to paperless filing, but we live in a physical world and sometimes we need to print physical documents. Some industries are more than others, but it’s still true across the board.

That’s just for the printer to do its job. What about maintenance? Printers need driver and firmware updates. Leaving that alone is a security risk for your entire network. How do you manage updating printers in various locations? It can become a nightmare quickly.

Of course, any time a printer is down that’s when a line of people starts forming. They’re just waiting for their turn to be productive again.  

In this modern cloud-based environment isn’t there a better way?

The solution is called Microsoft Universal Print.

This is a cloud-based portal that integrates with your printers seamlessly, allowing them to be managed and set up easily. They claim it will simplify the print management and print process for every location.

Will it? You decide. Let’s explore how Microsoft Universal Print works and how it will impact your business.

Seamless Cloud Integration

The backbone of Microsoft Universal Print is based on Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Azure Active Directory. This takes care of user authentication in the cloud and is applied to their account. This secure integration ensures a consistent print experience.

Users can print from any device in a simple printing process. This is cross-platform compatibility here. Use a Windows PC, no problem. Prefer a Mac? You’re good. On your phone with no access to a PC? No issues there. There’s no need to hassle with device setup or driver installations. It just prints.

That’s because it’s all in the cloud. Historically print management required on-premises print servers with complicated configurations. That’s all gone. It’s all centrally managed in the cloud now, streamlining the entire process for everybody – saving time, money, and frustration.

Flexibility and Scalability

Businesses can utilize their printers whether local or network with easy connectivity. Universal Print supports new, modern printers as well as older, legacy printers. This allows businesses with older printers to maintain their existing hardware, or if there is a mix of new and old there is still only one pane of glass to manage them all through the cloud.

Streamlined Printer Deployment

No longer is it a daunting, time-consuming task to deploy a printer throughout an organization. With a centralized management portal, printers can be configured and deployed with ease.

This isn’t just about adding printers, it’s about configuring standardized print settings and assigning them to users or groups. It ensures consistency across the organization that would be difficult to view and manage on an individual printer level.

Enhanced Security and Compliance

I’ve already touched on users being authenticated through Azure Active Directory. What that brings with it is a level of security and control that has been lacking (or at the very least difficult) in an organization. With threats being large-scale and constant, printers are a target vector. Azure brings access control to this front for the protection printers need.

Print release security is also supported. If you ever print a confidential document, you can enforce restrictions such as if an authorized user is physically present at the printer. This way the data is never viewed by accident or prying eyes.

Insights and Analytics

Universal Print brings with it wider and deeper visibility into your organization’s printer metrics. It might sound stale, but it allows for an easier understanding of the print use of the company and therefore can be used for managing costs and efficiency. With printing optimized, it streamlines and eases the process for everybody involved, boosting productivity.

Is it right for you?

It sounds too good to be true, what’s the catch? Microsoft Universal Print is great, and it is readily available, but it’s an enterprise product. It requires an M365 Enterprise E3 or greater license. If you have a Business Standard license, then it’s about $8 more per user. That’s not a small amount of money once you roll it out across your entire organization. The bright side is, it’s very comparable in price if you have the Business Premium license. All the printer management aside, I’d argue you should have the Business Premium license anyways for greater control and security for your company. So the next step up isn’t too big a jump.

But not all businesses benefit the same way from different licenses. There’s no cookie-cutter solution. So if you don’t know what licenses you have and how you can take advantage of features like Universal Print, then you should get in touch for a quick consultation.