If you or your company has iPads and other iThings on its network, one of the frustrations is not being able to print from them. In the past, you needed a printer that was designed for AirPrint (Apple has a long list of them here) or you had to try to set up printer sharing with an existing Mac USB printer across your network.
But what if you want to use your existing printer that isn’t on this list? Or want something that you can manage its print output for cost accounting purposes? Or if you don’t want to share a local printer? You have several choices.
One solution is to use Lantronix xPrintServer that can do the job for any network or USB-connected printer. It’s so easy that it will take you longer to read how to do it than to actually implement it. The print server is about the size of an iPhone, and has three connectors: an RJ-45 for your Ethernet network, a USB jack and a power plug. Plug it in and, in a few moments, you are good to go.
If your app has a print dialog icon, you can now start printing from your iThing. The print server will auto-discover any network printer that is on the same network subnet. If you want to print to another subnet, you will have to go through some manual configuration, using the printer’s built-in Web server. If you have iPhones, you will of course need to turn on their Wi-Fi radios and connect to the same subnet to see the print server. Lantronix has this funny short video with the loveable IT guy featured here. As he says, “Try it now.” It will print wirelessly from any iOS device running iOS version 4.2 or later. The home editioncosts $99 and supports two printers. If you want a more capable print server that supports more printers, there is a $150 version of the box.
If you are using the Aerohive Wifi access points, they have recently been upgraded to support Apple’s Bonjour technology and this video explains how it is done. If you have to purchase an Aerohive Wifi network, this isn’t going to be cheap.
Finally, EFI has had its PrintMe cloud-based service for a decade for PCs. The new mobile version extends this functionality to a variety of mobile devices and to a wide variety of printers that can be located anywhere. Pricing is $2,500 for a minimum of five printer connections including a year’s support and maintenance. Again, this is somewhat pricey.
The Lantronix solution is a good compromise of price and features, and is what I would recommend if you have a couple or a large fleet of iPads to support.