Printing from the cloud. How does it work?

Cloud My Office Printer VPN Box
We get a lot of questions during the sales and deployments processes about printing from a hosted virtual desktop. There are two ways that we can enable printing from Cloud My Office, here is a summary of each:

Pull-through Printing

We use Citrix XenApp to deliver hosted virtual desktops to our customers.  XenApp does a really good job interacting with the local computer that an end user is connecting from.  It will look for things like local drives (networked and internal) and even locally attached printers.  When XenApp finds local mapped printers, it will “pull-through” those printers to your virtual desktop session. You will then be able to print to those devices from your hosted virtual desktop.

Pull-through printing is a great feature of XenApp, however there are a few downsides.  For example, pull-through printing typically has to use what are known as “Citrix Universal Print Drivers”, these drivers are basically XenApp’s best guess for what is required by the printer to correctly print a document.  Universal drivers work for about 95% of all locally attached printers, but for the 5% that don’t play well with universal drivers you can get some pretty strange results (off-center pages, blank sheets inserted into your print job etc.).  We here at Cloud My Office were not satisfied with a poor quality print job so we came up with a solution — continue reading to learn more!

Cloud My Office Printer VPN Box

The best way to guarantee a perfect print job is to do the following:

  1. Connect your office and Cloud My Office’s data center together through a secure VPN
  2. Install the manufacturer recommended print drivers on the Cloud My Office print servers
  3. Render all print jobs on the print servers rather than on your virtual desktop to improve performance

By connecting your office and our data center together with a VPN and installing the manufacturer recommended drivers on our print servers, we can guarantee a perfect printing experience. The trouble has always been setting up a VPN.  VPNs has historically been expensive to install, and difficult to configure / use / maintain. We decided to “buck that trend” by creating our own VPN device that was designed specifically to allow for easy printing from Cloud My Office.  Enter the Cloud My Office Printer VPN Box (I know, it’s not a great name but it works).

Easy VPN Setup

The Cloud My Office Printer VPN Box integrates seamlessly into your existing network.  We like to call this device a “non-destructive VPN device” translation – you don’t have to make any network changes to use the Cloud My Office Printer VPN box.  This device can even work behind an existing VPN in your office if you want, all the device needs is access to the internet.

To install the device, simply plug in the network cable then the power. That’s it!  The device will boot up, scan your network for any printers and “phone home” so that the printers found on your network can be added to your account by our engineers.

Managing Printer Permissions

When you install a Cloud My Office Printer VPN Box in your office you can easily manage who can print to what printer right from the Cloud My Office admin panel.  You can set which users can print to each printer and even if the printer is the default printer for each user.  Check out the screenshot below to see how it works.

Configuration

Network Scanning Setup

Cloud My Office Printer VPN Boxes can also be used to facilitate network scanning.  While this is one of many ways that we can enable network scanning these devices give us a lot of flexibility when deploying a new hosted virtual desktop infrastructure.  More on network scanning in another post…

Easy Maintenance

Cloud My Office Printer VPN Boxes are simple to maintain.  There is really only one troubleshooting step if there is ever an issue — power cycle the device.  It’s really that easy…

Bottom Line

We think that the Cloud My Office Printer VPN Box is a really cool device that makes it really easy and affordable to configure robust network printing from your hosted virtual desktop.  The vast majority of our new customers elect to deploy these devices onsite because it eliminates so many headaches of typical cloud printing.

 

Dave