graphic showing a cloud with a printer

Understanding Microsoft Universal Print 2023: Top 12 Questions Answered

Key TopicSummary
What is Universal Print?Cloud-based print infrastructure to manage printing environment through Microsoft 365. Eliminates on-prem print servers.
How does it work?Printers registered to the cloud service via connectors. Print jobs spooled and rendered in cloud.
Printer CompatibilityMost modern network printers that support IPP standards. Some native Universal Print printer support.
Printer ManagementCentralized management through Microsoft 365 Admin Center. Configure settings, permissions, policies.
Deployment StepsInstall connectors, register printers, configure users and permissions.
LicensingIncluded with Microsoft 365 E3/E5 and Windows 10/11 Enterprise/Education. Azure AD P1 also needed.
BenefitsEliminates on-prem servers, simplified management, printing from anywhere, robust analytics.

What is Microsoft Universal Print?

graphic showing a home worker with a cloud and printer an equals icon with a person and an office printer illustrating Microsoft universal print

Microsoft Universal Print is a cloud-based print infrastructure that allows organisations to manage their printing environment through Microsoft 365. It eliminates the need for on-premises print servers by moving print queues to the cloud.

Universal Print works by installing a connector on your local network which then allows printers to be registered with the service. Once registered, users can print to these cloud-registered printers from anywhere using Azure AD authentication. The service handles the rendering and spooling of print jobs to the target printers.

Benefits of Universal Print include:

  • Easy printer deployment without on-prem print servers
  • Centralised management through Microsoft 365 admin center
  • Ability to print from anywhere with Azure AD authentication
  • Scales to handle large printing workloads
  • Lower print infrastructure costs by removing on-prem servers
  • Modern printer driver management through Universal Print drivers

Overall, Microsoft Universal Print removes the classic pain points around on-premises print servers and brings printing fully into the Microsoft cloud.

How does Microsoft Universal Print work?

Microsoft Universal Print works by registering your organisation’s printers with the Universal Print service in the cloud. Here is an overview of how it functions:

  • Install a Universal Print connector on your local network. This connects your printers to the cloud service.
  • Use the connector to register your printers with Universal Print. This uploads print queues to the cloud.
  • Manage printers in the Microsoft 365 admin center. You can configure access and settings.
  • Users log in with their Azure AD credentials and can discover available printers.
  • Print jobs are spooled and rendered in the cloud and then sent to target printer.
  • Universal Print handles the queueing and delivery of print jobs.

Behind the scenes, Universal Print connectors talk to the printers using IPP and native print protocols. Printers must meet certain requirements around IPP standards to be compatible.

The key advantage is that all print queues and configuration exist in the cloud only. There is no need to manage on-premises print servers anymore. Users can print from anywhere just by logging in with their Azure AD account.

What printers are compatible with Microsoft Universal Print?

The following types of printers are compatible with Microsoft Universal Print:

  • Printers that support IPP printing standards. This includes most modern network printers.
  • Printers that have native Universal Print drivers from the manufacturer. Some printers have built-in support.
  • Printers connected locally to a Universal Print connector. The connector enables cloud registration.
  • Certain multifunction printers and copiers like those from HP, Canon, and Ricoh.

Before registering a printer, Microsoft provides a compatibility checklist that covers requirements like:

  • The printer must be network-connected, not USB-connected.
  • IPP version support – IPP Everywhere preferred.
  • Support for TLS version 1.2+ encryption.
  • PostScript support for full functionality.

Universal Print also provides information on any known printer issues or limitations when registering printers. Overall, most modern printers should be compatible as long as they meet the requirements.

How do you manage printers and drivers with Universal Print?

Printer management and driver management are handled centrally within the Microsoft 365 admin center once your printers are registered with the Universal Print service.

Key printer management capabilities include:

  • Viewing all registered printers in your small business
  • Configuring printer settings like location, security, defaults
  • Organising printers into logical groups and sharing access
  • Monitoring printer health and status
  • Managing print quotas and usage across users and groups
  • Reporting on printing activity and logs

For printer drivers, Universal Print provides:

  • The Universal Print driver – an intelligent driver that works across many printers
  • Managed deployment of printer-specific drivers from a central library
  • Driver updates and configuration handled through the cloud service
  • Easy migration from existing print drivers during rollout
  • Ability to leverage manufacturer’s native cloud-based drivers

Overall, administrators gain a simple centralised console to manage the end-to-end printing environment, without having to physically touch local print servers.

How do you deploy and roll out Universal Print?

Deploying Universal Print involves three key steps:

  1. Install Universal Print connector(s) on your local network. The connector registers your printers.

  2. Register printers with the service using the admin center or PowerShell. This uploads print queues to the cloud.

  3. Configure user permissions and share registered printers with users or groups.

Some best practices for rolling out include:

  • Start with a pilot group to test Universal Print before wide deployment.
  • Use the Universal Print portal to register and validate printers before rollout.
  • Migrate users from existing print queues in a staged fashion.
  • Leverage PowerShell for automation around large deployments.
  • Train users on how to discover and use printers registered in Universal Print.

Be sure to communicate changes to printing workflows including how drivers are managed. Ongoing, you can continue registering new printers as they get added to your environment.

What licensing is required for Universal Print?

Microsoft Universal Print is included with the following Microsoft 365 and Windows licenses:

  • Microsoft 365 E3/E5
  • Windows 10/11 Enterprise E3/E5
  • Windows 10/11 Education A3/A5
  • Microsoft 365 F3
  • Microsoft 365 Business Premium

In addition, to register printers you need:

  • Azure AD P1 licenses for connector machines
  • Azure AD joined devices if using hybrid Azure AD joined printers

No additional Universal Print licenses are required outside of eligible Microsoft 365 or Windows licenses. There are also no printer or page limits imposed. Microsoft provides a licensing requirements checklist to validate eligibility.

Some key licensing notes:

  • Government SKUs like GCC are supported
  • Monetary credit models like Azure Consumption Fund are not eligible
  • Each connector machine requires an eligible license
  • Guest and B2B accounts have reduced printing access

What are some key benefits of using Universal Print?

graphic with a cloud and printer on the first half with an equals icon underneath and a calculator image suggesting cost savingsSome of the main benefits of using Microsoft Universal Print include:

  • Eliminates on-premises print servers, reducing IT management
  • Simplifies printer deployment by registering printers in the cloud
  • Enables secure pull printing from anywhere using Azure AD authentication
  • Centralises administration through Microsoft 365 Admin Center
  • Reduces infrastructure costs by removing print servers
  • Scales seamlessly even for large printing workloads
  • Simplifies printer migration with the Universal Print driver
  • Allows modern print management capabilities like quotas and policies
  • Leverages cloud intelligence to optimise printer maintenance
  • Provides enterprise-grade print availability and reliability

Key takeaways are reduced infrastructure, simplified management, cloud-based printing from anywhere, and robust reporting and analytics.

What are some challenges with implementing Universal Print?

Some potential challenges to be aware of with Microsoft Universal Print include:

  • Requires all printers be network-connected and Internet-accessible
  • Printer hardware must meet requirements like IPP standards
  • Existing print drivers may need to be migrated to Universal Print driver
  • Change management around new printing workflows and admin interfaces
  • Bandwidth usage may increase with cloud-based print traffic
  • If connectors go offline, printing availability is impacted
  • Guest and anonymous printing may need to be re-architected
  • Existing printer scripts and solutions may need updates
  • Local non-IPP printers may still require an on-prem server

Upfront planning around compatibility, deployment phases, and user training can help mitigate these challenges. Overall the benefits tend to outweigh potential drawbacks.

What options are available for printing from mobile devices?

There are a few ways to enable mobile device printing with Microsoft Universal Print:

  • Universal Print mobile apps – Native apps for iOS and Android to search, print, and manage Universal Print printers.

  • Printer manufacturer apps – Some printers include their own mobile apps that can integrate with Universal Print cloud queues.

  • Email printing – Users can email content to a Universal Print email address mapped to a printer for on-demand printing.

  • Mobile print standards – Universal Print supports mobile protocols like Mopria, AirPrint, and Wi-Fi Direct for compatibility with mobile OS features.

  • Hybrid printing – You can allow mobile devices on the local network to discover Universal Print registered printers directly.

  • Web print – The Universal Print web portal includes options for uploading and printing documents.

With proper configuration, most mobile operating systems and devices can integrate and print seamlessly using Universal Print. The centralised service extends printing access to mobile just like any other device.

How does security and compliance work with Universal Print?

Microsoft incorporates several security and compliance measures with Universal Print:

  • Azure AD authentication – All printing requires sign-in via Azure AD credentials. This enables identity-based security policies.

  • TLS encryption – Print jobs are encrypted with TLS 1.2+ when transmitted over the public internet.

  • Auditing – Administrative changes and print activities are logged for auditing and reporting purposes.

  • Conditional Access – Print policies can be tied into Azure AD Conditional Access rules based on user, device, app, and network signals.

  • Pull printing – Documents are held in the cloud until user authenticates at the printer to release.

  • Access controls – Administrator controls like quotas, scheduling, and user permissions enhance security.

  • Compliance standards – Universal Print meets compliance regulations like ISO, SOC, GDPR, and HIPAA based on Microsoft’s cloud standards.

  • Printer firewalls – Printer firewall ports are optimised for outbound Azure communication only enhancing printer security.

Overall Universal Print is designed as a secure, monitored, and compliant enterprise print infrastructure leveraging Azure AD and Microsoft 365’s defense-in-depth approach.

What are some alternatives to Microsoft Universal Print?

Some alternatives to consider instead of Microsoft Universal Print include:

  • Traditional on-premises print servers using solutions like Windows Server, Papercut, and PrinterLogic.
  • Cloud pull printing systems like Printix, PrinterCloud, and PrinterOn.
  • Hybrid cloud solutions like HP JetAdvantage which spans on-prem and cloud.
  • Printer manufacturer cloud solutions like HP+, Xerox Print Services, and Ricoh Smart Integration.
  • Third-party print management systems like PrinterLogic and PrinterCloud.

Benefits of these alternatives include leveraging existing infrastructure and Investments, more platform support, and potentially advanced functionality.

Downsides can include less native integration with Microsoft 365, more complex management, and reliance on on-prem servers. Universal Print provides the deepest Microsoft 365 integration and cloud-first management experience.

What is the future roadmap for Microsoft Universal Print development?

Microsoft has hinted at some areas of future investment and development for Universal Print:

  • Support for more printer manufacturers and models. Expanding direct cloud integration.
  • Expanded operating system support beyond Windows. Adding iOS, Android, ChromeOS.
  • Advanced configuration and management via Universal Print PowerShell cmdlets.
  • Deeper reporting and analytics around printing usage and trends.
  • Additional mobility features like roaming and location-based printing.
  • Enhancements around scan workflows to cloud repositories.
  • Integration with Microsoft Teams for streamlined collaboration printing.
  • Functionality to automate printer deployment and configuration.
  • Role-based access control and delegated admin capabilities.

The service is still relatively new, having launched in 2020. Over time, Microsoft plans to build Universal Print into an intelligent, unified cloud printing hub across devices and platforms. The roadmap focuses on lowered management overhead and simplified user workflows.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Microsoft Universal Print provides a cloud-based enterprise print infrastructure that reduces management overhead while enabling secure printing from anywhere. By eliminating on-premises print servers and moving queues to the cloud, organisations can gain simplified administration along with robust access controls, usage analytics, and availability.

With the service included in Microsoft 365 and Windows 10/11 licensing, now is the time to consider a migration to Universal Print to transform and modernise printing in your environment.

Our team can provide guidance on rollout planning, compatibility testing, pilot programs, and change management to ensure a smooth transition to Universal Print. We can also discuss hybrid scenarios optimising both Universal Print and existing infrastructure. Reach out today to get started on your Universal Print journey.

Frequently Asked Questions about Microsoft Universal Print

What are the minimum requirements to use Microsoft Universal Print?

You need a Microsoft 365 or Windows 10/11 Enterprise license, an Azure AD P1 license, networked printers that meet requirements, cloud network connectivity for printers, and an installed Universal Print connector. There are no minimum user or printer limits.

Does Microsoft Universal Print replace printer manufacturers’ cloud printing solutions?

No, Universal Print doesn’t replace a manufacturer’s cloud printing solution. It can work alongside it. You can choose to primarily use Universal Print but still use a manufacturer’s solution if needed.

How does Microsoft Universal Print handle large print volumes?

Universal Print can handle large printing workloads as it processes jobs in the cloud and then sends them to printers. There are no hard limits on volumes. For very high page volumes, consulting with Microsoft may be necessary.

What types of reports and logs are available in Microsoft Universal Print?

Universal Print offers usage reports and activity logs in the Microsoft 365 Admin Center and through PowerShell. These can be used to understand printing trends and troubleshoot issues.

How does Microsoft Universal Print handle color printing?

Universal Print supports color printing, depending on the printer model, drivers, and user permissions. Administrators can set color policies and quotas. The Universal Print connector handles color elements natively.

Can Microsoft Universal Print integrate with existing print management solutions?

Universal Print is designed to replace existing on-premises print management servers and software but it does allow for hybrid deployments with traditional printers.

How does Microsoft Universal Print handle printer sharing and permissions?

Azure AD groups and users can be used to set up printer sharing and access controls. Rules follow users across devices and locations.

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Paul Crooks

An entrepreneur with over 9 years of experience, Paul has successfully run several businesses and is known as a problem-solver who loves to help.Active and respected in the Managed Service Provider sector, Paul has made significant contributions to both the industry and his local community in Carlisle, Cumbria.A passionate enthusiast of Artificial Intelligence, Paul is always keen on exploring and implementing the latest AI technologies in business solutions.Outside of work, Paul enjoys hiking in the beautiful Cumbria fells and is an avid football fan.
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