You can use a print server (see Figure 2) to connect your printer(s) directly to your network, so everyone in the home or office can print without having to purchase their own printers. As you may already be familiar with, Windows offers a printer sharing feature where you can share printers attached to your computers. However, using a print server eliminates the need for a host computer to be powered-on in order to print to the shared printer(s). If you’re looking to buy a new printer, keep in mind that some have built-in print servers.Linksys Wireless-G PrintServer with Multifunction Printer Support (WPSM54G)
Print servers come in two flavors: wireless and wired. Wireless print servers have an antenna that receives the print jobs from your computers over the airwaves. Wired print servers plug into your router or other Ethernet port on your network. If you plan to locate the printer(s) right next to your router, then a wired print server may be the way to go. However, if the printer(s) are not going to be near a wired connection or you are not sure what is going to happen in the future, you may want to go with a wireless server.
When you’re searching for a print sever, keep an eye on the interface type: USB or parallel. Make sure you get a server with the same cable type of your printer(s). Additionally, if you have a multifunction (faxer, scanner, and copier)printer, you need to make sure the server supports multifunction printers, along with your particular manufacturer and model.
Some print server producers also throw in some extras, such as a 4-port switch on the server. This provides several more Ethernet ports into which you can plug computers and other devices for network access. Wireless print servers with a switch could even save you money. For instance, if you have computers or other network devices (NAS, cameras, gaming systems, etc.) near the print server that are loaded with only wired network adapters, you could plug them into the print server and not have to purchase wireless adapters.
Another feature you may see in select servers is printing over the Wide Area Network (WAN), which in layman’s terms means you can send print jobs to your printer over the Internet. You could be surfing at a Wi-Fi hotspot in New York City, in a hotel in Europe, or anywhere in the world and print documents to your printer. When you return to home base, you’ll have your documents awaiting review, or your assistants can take care of it before you arrive.
When browsing the Web, you should be able to find the simplest print servers (wired connection with a single printer port) for $50 or less. Wireless print servers typically start around $70, with multi-port servers costing up to $100. Here are several print servers you may want to check out: