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Microsoft Universal Print Service Now Generally Available

In public preview since last July, Microsoft Universal Print, a multitenant Azure-based print service, became generally available this week.

Universal Print brings perks to both end users and IT departments. End users can print from anywhere, and can easily discover the nearest print device without much trouble. For IT departments, Universal Print frees them from having to manage Windows Server print servers on-premises. The Universal Print service uses the Internet Print Protocol (IPP) standard from the Printer Working Group and so no device-specific print drivers need to be installed, updated or maintained.

Multiple printer hardware partners already support Universal Print in their new products to one degree or another. Microsoft lists those partners, from Brother to YSoft, in this "Partner Integrations" document.

Microsoft has in the past recommended buying new printers designed with Universal Print support as the best approach. It also offers Windows Universal Print Connector software as an alternative solution for use with older printers. This Connector isn't needed, though, when organizations have the new Universal Print-ready printers.

Requirements
The main requirement to use Universal Print is the use of the Azure Active Directory cloud-based identity and access management service with client devices. The scheme works with Azure AD-joined PCs using Windows 10 version 1903 or newer Windows 10 operating systems.

Universal Print only works with Windows 10-based devices right now, but Microsoft is planning to add browser support for any device via a future OneDrive for Business product update, which will get announced "later this summer," the announcement explained. Also, in April, Microsoft expects to add Universal Print support to its Dynamics 365 Business Central solution.

Organizations can use Universal Print if they have one of the following subscriptions:

  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium
  • Windows 10 Enterprise E3, E5
  • Microsoft 365 Enterprise F3, E3, E5
  • Windows 10 Education A3, A5
  • Microsoft 365 Education A3, A5

There's also "standalone" licensing for Universal print, but the terms weren't described.

Print Limits and Add-On Packs
Microsoft answered a lot of questions about Universal Print when it had its debut last year, and has published this helpful FAQ document on the topic. Only this week, though, has Microsoft published information on some use-rights limits associated with the Universal Print service.

The use-rights limits, described in this "Licensing" document, turn out to be rather stunning.

While Universal Print comes with E3 and E5 types of subscriptions at no extra cost, there are costs associated with number of print job counts tallied each month. If an organization exceeds a pooled amount of print jobs per month, then organizations would need to buy add-on packs to support the extra print load. Each add-on pack consists of 500 print jobs, but the price wasn't described. Add-on packs are "available through your regular channel," the "Licensing" document stated.

A print job can be a document with multiple pages, so Microsoft doesn't go by the page count. However, Microsoft allocates just five print jobs per user per month. That count seems rather low, but the measure to go by when estimating Universal Print costs is the overall pooled count for each month.

Here's how the "Licensing" document explained it:

Universal Print comes with a pool of print jobs that are available to all users who have a license. Each Universal Print license includes 5 print jobs per month which are pooled. For example, a subscription with 1,000 licensed users will have 5,000 jobs per month available to all users. Unused print jobs expire at the end of each month.

IT pros are tasked with keeping track of the total print volume via the "Usage and Reports" segment in the Azure Portal. One commenter in Microsoft's announcement took umbrage with that stipulation.

"The idea that I'm supposed to spend time deploying a new print solution that requires me to keep an eye on usage to ensure I add extra packs of 500 jobs to that pool in plenty of time to prevent a complete shutdown in printing across the company is clownshoes thinking, and that 5 jobs per user starter limit is ridiculous," the commenter stated.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.

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