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 Cloud 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.

Print drivers can 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.

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

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. Most manufacturers’ universal print drivers support their own printers well but are not able to support a multi-vendor fleet found in most organizations.

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, using standards such as IPP Everywhere or AirPrint, send print jobs as email attachments to an assigned email address or upload the print job to a printer from a web browser. 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 challenges of the traditional print workflow.

Pharos Cloud: A Comprehensive Solution

Pharos Cloud simplifies driver management by reducing the number of print drivers that need to be managed.

Pharos utilizes a truly “universal” driver built on the IPP-Everywhere™ standard.

Traditionally, most “universal” print drivers offer only basic functionality with users often experiencing variations in performance and compatibility issues depending on the manufacturer. Based on the open standard developed by the Printer Working Group, Pharos’ print driver is more capable than traditional “universal” print drivers by providing a consistent experience and behavior across a multivendor fleet, and most devices available in the market today. It also allows users to access and utilize a wider range of printer capabilities that have been defined within the IPP standard (i.e., paper size selection, stapling, N-up, etc.).

Pharos Cloud Direct Print also allows administrators to load manufacturers’ print drivers into Pharos Cloud to support advanced workflows. With Pharos Cloud, organizations can deploy our advanced IPP-Everywhere™ driver to most users and manufacturers’ drivers only where needed, reducing the number of drivers to be managed.

Enhanced Security with Cloud Printing

One 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 and clients request them.

Many vendor drivers use 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.

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.

Pharos Cloud only uses Windows as an on ramp to get the print job into our system, and all print traffic and network communications occur over secure, encrypted channels. The zero-trust workflow supported by Pharos Cloud means that only employees who are properly configured in the system can submit print jobs to a desired location printer. The Windows print spooler is not able to broker the communication with a printer like Pharos Cloud is able to.

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 Cloud 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.

Learn More About Pharos’ IPP Everywhere Print Driver

What platforms does Pharos Cloud support?

Pharos Direct Print provides a consistent user experience across all Windows, Mac, and Chrome OS devices and supports all IPP printers, regardless of manufacturer. This means less user frustration and drastic reductions in Help Desk time. 

Is adding direct print devices a time-consuming process?

Not at all. Once in Pharos Cloud, enabling a printer for Direct Print is as simple as checking a box. On the user side, print queues can be automatically added or removed based on the network location of the users’ workstation.

How does Pharos Direct Print enhance security?

Pharos Direct Print enables employees to print securely by eliminating print server vulnerabilities , securing data with end-to-end encryption, and supporting zero trust security principles.

Where is the data stored?

Direct Print jobs don’t go to the cloud. Instead, they’re sent directly to the printer via IPPS/IPP. Only job metadata is collected, encrypted, and sent to Pharos Cloud for analytics. You have total control over what gets collected so you can adhere to local data privacy and data sovereignty requirements.

Why should I migrate my enterprise printing to the cloud?

Managing traditional print infrastructure is time- consuming and costly. With Pharos Direct Print, you can eliminate print servers, simplify print driver deployment and management, and reduce printing costs—all while enabling employees to print in a secure an familiar way to your existing printer fleet.