Print Drivers: Overcoming Challenges in the Modern Enterprise

Managing print drivers has long been a challenge for large organizations with diverse, multivendor printer fleets. IT teams must constantly update and maintain print drivers and queues, all while ensuring security and compliance. This article discusses the challenges of print driver management, the different approaches organizations can take to simplify this process, and how Pharos Direct Print can provide a comprehensive solution.

The Challenge of Print Drivers

In traditional print environments, employees’ computers connect to printers through print servers and shared print queues. Each queue hosts a specific printer driver, which must be updated every time a vendor releases a new version. This process can be time-consuming for IT staff, especially in large organizations with multivendor fleets.

Read More: Why Print Drivers Are Becoming a Nightmare for Corporate IT

Traditional driver management practices also force you to tangle with:

  • Driver updates every time a printer gets replaced
  • Complicated migration processes—for example, if you transition to a different manufacturer, you have to figure out exactly when your old driver has to be replaced
  • Installing print driver updates on individual machines whenever they come out, as well as ensuring safe driver installation
  • Vendor-supplied print driver bugs and problems

And print driver management solutions don’t address the tedious process of creating print queues, and mapping them to printers and print drivers, which remains time consuming and error-prone.

Print drivers also pose a security risk due to the way Windows handles driver deployment in point-and-print networks. Many manufacturers’ drivers utilize insecure protocols like SNMP, which are vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks, potentially compromising server integrity and allowing for lateral movement and privilege escalation across the network.

Different Approaches to Simplifying Driver Management

There are several approaches companies have taken to alleviate the burden of print driver management:

Universal print drivers

These drivers enable users to print to a wide range of devices using a single driver. While they simplify driver management and provide a consistent user experience, they often do not support the full feature set of device-specific drivers and may produce artifacts if not fully compatible with a printer.

Driverless printing

This method does not require any printer-specific software or data to be installed on a client. Users can submit print jobs through various means, such as direct application printing, AirPrint, or email attachments. Driverless printing eliminates the need for driver management but may not support older printers or vendor-unique capabilities.

Print driver management software

These solutions centralize driver management in a single repository, easing the process of creating print queues, deploying printers, and enforcing default settings. However, IT staff still rely on vendor drivers and face the security and user experience challenges of the traditional print workflow.

Pharos Direct Print: A Comprehensive Solution

Pharos Direct Print simplifies driver management by reducing the number of print drivers that need to be managed. The advanced IPP-Everywhere driver for Windows uses the IPP Everywhere standard, allowing workstations to print to networked printers without vendor-specific software. This driver supports a wide range of devices and offers a more consistent print and finishing experience.

Administrators can also load manufacturers’ print drivers into Pharos Cloud to support advanced workflows. With Pharos Direct Print, organizations can deploy the advanced IPP-Everywhere driver for most users while using manufacturers’ drivers only where needed, thus reducing the number of drivers to be managed and supporting zero trust principles.

With a universal print driver, which makes it possible for many different kinds and ages of printers to work with a single driver, you can support thousands of models. You also get the ability to:

  • Avoid using the vendor’s printer driver
  • Avoid a complicated queue system
  • Eliminate the need for a printer server
  • Generate common file formats for all job specifications

By eliminating time-intensive tasks, you can free up your IT team to invest their energies and creativity in business-critical projects.

Enhanced Security with Cloud Printing

One major way print drivers are vulnerable to cyberattacks is that they require implementation as a shared resource, due to the way that Windows handles driver deployment in point-and-print networks. Print driver files are stored on a server, clients request them, and they are delivered; if a print server is compromised, the attacker can piggyback on the print drivers to access client systems.

Additionally, vendor drivers typically utilize SNMP for print queue configuration. SNMP and other commonly used protocols are insecure and vulnerable to man-in-the-middle attacks through file replacement, proxy monitoring, or other means—providing attackers the ability to compromise the integrity of the server and the base for lateral movement and privilege escalation across the network.

Even with driver management software, IT staff remain highly dependent on vendor print drivers that utilize SNMP, as does the risk of a bad actor propagating a malicious payload to all clients. Eliminating vendor drivers removes this attack surface.

Pharos’ approach to managing drivers is more secure than other print management solutions, as it does not rely on the inherently insecure Windows printing environment. Direct Print uses Windows only to get print jobs into the Pharos Cloud platform, which then handles job delivery to the printer securely.

Pharos Cloud supports printing in a mature zero trust environment, meaning that only authorized devices and users can submit print jobs. This is achieved through a combination of policy and technology, with Pharos Cloud acting as a trust broker and ensuring secure, encrypted communication between devices.

At the End of the Day

The challenge of print driver management is a significant burden on IT staff in large organizations. However, solutions like Pharos Direct Print offer a secure and efficient way to manage print drivers while maintaining a consistent user experience. By adopting such innovative solutions, organizations can overcome the challenges of print driver management and enhance their overall security posture.

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