We want to add wireless printing services to our network. What equipment will we need to do this? How can we stop non-employees from using those printers?
There are several ways to add wireless printer servers to your network:
- You could install a wireless printer. Many network printers are now sold with built-in 802.11b/g adapters. These printers can simply be connected to your WLAN like any other wireless client, and can then be accessed by all other wireless and wired stations on the same network.
- You could add a wireless print server to an existing printer. A wireless print server connects to the printer via a USB or parallel cable, and then connects to your WLAN like any other wireless client. Wireless print servers can be dedicated devices, or they can be incorporated within another network device, like a broadband router.
- You could connect the printer to a wireless workstation, and use the workstation to share the printer with the rest of the network -- for example, by using the Windows Printer / Sharing panel on a Windows XP PC.
If you're starting from scratch, #1 is the most reliable and available option, next to #2. Option #3 is usually the least expensive solution, but requires that the workstation remain powered on and accessible to everyone at all times.
For controlling printer access, you can apply measures at two levels. At the data link layer, use WPA-Personal PSKs or WPA-Enterprise to control access to your WLAN itself. You may also want to apply a filter on your AP to restrict the protocols that can be sent to the print server -- in particular, preventing any management of the server by wireless clients. At the application layer, the server may support login/password access controls -- for example, requiring a valid domain username/password for Windows network share printer.
This was first published in November 2007