Printing has long been one of the challenges in enterprise IT. Especially with the hybrid workforce, managing printing across the entire infrastructure landscape can be complex and cumbersome. Microsoft’s Universal Print solution allows businesses to transition to using Azure AD infrastructure for managing print services in the organization and streamlines the process.

What is Universal Print?

The Microsoft Universal Print solution is a service housed in the cloud, enabling organizations to bring existing print infrastructure into the cloud without a lot of heavy lifting. This solution is part of the Microsoft 365 cloud offerings and is licensed with Microsoft 365 or can be licensed as a standalone subscription.

Microsoft’s Universal Print solution is a natural progression for companies already shifting to hybrid cloud solutions and who may already be leveraging Microsoft 365 for SaaS applications, OneDrive for Business, Exchange Online, etc.

An overview of Universal Print architectureAn overview of Universal Print architecture

Manufacturers are directly building the Universal Print capability into new printer hardware, allowing native communication with Microsoft Azure Universal Print management. It does not require any on-premises infrastructure when deployed with these Universal Print-compatible printers. However, Microsoft has provided a Universal Print Connector that allows legacy hardware to “speak” with Universal Print. It does require a connection back to the Universal Print Connector.

Below is an example of a Universal Print capable printer integrating with the Universal Print solution.

Setting up Universal Print on a UP-capable printerSetting up Universal Print on a UP-capable printer

Universal Print requirements

There are a few requirements to note with Universal Print, including the following:

  • You must be licensed for universal print (Microsoft 365 subscription) or a Universal Print add-on subscription
  • You need to be licensed for Azure Active Directory P1
  • You need to have devices that are joined to Azure Active Directory

Who is Universal Print intended for?

The Universal Print solution is intended for IT departments to configure their printing infrastructure to manage and access it through the Microsoft cloud. It allows users to print seamlessly from any device and helps to lower the cost of printing across the board.

Benefits of Universal Print

As you can imagine, there are many benefits to the Universal Print solution from Microsoft. With Universal Print, businesses can benefit from the following:

  • Cloud-managed infrastructure
  • Reduced burden of managing printers using on-premises infrastructure, including Print servers
  • Eliminates the need to manage clunky printer drivers
  • Centralized management using the Azure portal
  • Insights and visibility to your print environment from Azure
  • It reduces network complexity involved with on-premises infrastructure
  • It alleviates the reliance on on-premises Active Directory

Licensing Universal Print

We alluded to licensing earlier. However, Universal Print is licensed along with Microsoft 365. It is included as part of the following Microsoft 365 subscriptions:

  • Microsoft 365 Enterprise AF3, E3, E5, A3, A5
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium
  • Windows 10 & 11 Enterprise E3, E5, A3, A5

As mentioned, you can also license Universal Print as a standalone license. With the Universal Print solution, Microsoft provides a total of 5 print jobs per user per month. A print job is defined as a print operation, regardless of how many pages it includes. So, with 500 licensed users, you have a total of 2500 useable print jobs available. You can also purchase packs of add-ons for Universal Print, adding chunks of print jobs in 500 and 10,000-job increments.

What happens with printers without native Universal Print support?

New printers on the market have Universal Print support built into the hardware. However, many organizations still have legacy printer hardware without Universal Print support. Microsoft has supplied a means to work around this with the Universal Print connector. The Universal Print connector is a software application that mediates between the legacy printer hardware and the Universal Print cloud solution.

Adding printers to Universal Print connectorAdding printers to Universal Print connector

The Universal Print connector needs to be connected to the same network as printers, available 24×7, and is connected to the Internet. Microsoft recommends transitioning to native UP-capable printers as printers are refreshed.

Managing Universal Print in the Azure Portal

The Microsoft Azure portal allows admins to easily manage and monitor their Universal Print infrastructure in a single location. For example, you can see printers, printer shares, connectors, etc. In addition, you can download the Universal Print Connector from the main Universal Print portal, view reports, and manage your printers.

Managing Universal Print from the Azure PortalManaging Universal Print from the Azure Portal

Below, you can see a Universal Print test printer connected using a Universal Print connector.

Universal Print printers added to the solutionUniversal Print printers added to the solution

New features with Universal Print (Late 2022)

As of Microsoft Ignite 2022, Microsoft has added a couple of new features to the solution, including the following:

  • Delegated admin – With this feature, admins can enable delegated administration to allow delegation of printer management to grant rights to manage a subset of printers in the environment
  • Upgraded Usage and Reports – Microsoft has upgraded the Usage and Reports dashboard to view your tenant’s usage and resource counts and track printing trends using a variety of new visualizations.

Delegated admin

With the delegated admin functionality, you can now restrict permissions in a role to any portion of your organization you want to define for printer administration. To take advantage of this new feature, you need to have an Azure AD Premium P1 license assigned to each administrative unit and a universal print-eligible license.

There are a few caveats. Note the following:

  1. Scoped admins can only manage printers defined in Azure AU policy configuration unless otherwise specified
  2. Scoped admins can manage any printer or connector defined in the policy
  3. Scoped admins see all printers, printer shares, and connectors but are limited to read-only access to those outside of the Azure AU policy configuration

Upgraded Usage and Reports

Microsoft has upgraded the Usage reporting in Universal Print. It calculates usage and capacity during each calendar month. Each license and add-on packs that are active during the month will contribute to the available capacity.

Overview tab for Usage and ReportsOverview tab for Usage and Reports

The Usage charts show a collection of usage visualizations configured to display data over various periods, including yesterday, the last seven days, or the last 30 days. Take note of the details from Microsoft on the usage charts.

  • Jobs Printed – The total number of jobs completed successfully during the selected time period. Pending, canceled, and aborted jobs are not included
  • Pages Printed – The total number of impressions and sheets printed during the selected time period. Impressions count the number of document pages printed and Sheets count the number of physical pieces of paper
  • Color vs. Black and White Impressions (estimated) – The breakdown between Color vs. Black and White impressions printed during the selected time period
  • Single vs. Double-Sided Sheets (estimated) – The breakdown between simplex (single-sided) and duplex (double-sided) sheets printed during the selected time period

Universal Print FAQs

Can you run the Universal Print connector on Windows Server? Yes, admins can install Universal Print Connector on Windows Server 2016 and higher.

Where do you install the Universal Print connector, on-premises or in the cloud? The Universal Print Connector is installed on the same network as the printers that are not UP-cable.

Does Microsoft limit the number of pages per print job? A Universal Print job is not limited to the number of pages. Instead, a print job is a print “operation” in general, whether it is a 1-page job or multiple pages.

Wrapping Up

Managing printers using legacy print infrastructure, including print servers and drivers, is challenging with the new hybrid workforce. Since organizations are heavily migrating core business productivity to the cloud, including email and file storage, migrating print management to the cloud makes a lot of sense. The Universal Print solution fills a legacy print management gap with modern hybrid connectivity.

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