A Seamless Transition from Google Cloud Print to Microsoft Universal Print?November 18, 2020
By Frank Zscheile, IT-Journalist, Munich/Germany
Printing is also on a constant migration to the cloud. Initially created for individual workstations, Google Cloud Print has had an impressive time in recent years. Almost every printer manufacturer has implemented the interface, and countless companies are now using Google’s cloud-based printing because it is simple and independent of the device used or the user’s location.
When this comes to an end at the close of 2020 (Google is discontinuing the service on December 31 after a ten-year beta phase), Microsoft will be launching Universal Print, its new cloud printing solution, at the same time. But is Universal Print an alternative to Google Cloud Print?
It’s an Azure service that allows Windows 10 devices to send print jobs via a print service in the cloud to printers that have it installed on them. Universal Print replaces corporate print servers and uses a universal XPS printer driver on the devices, eliminating the need to install drivers locally on each device. Microsoft’s previous cloud printing solution, Hybrid Cloud Print, still involved complicated configurations of on-premises and cloud components. Universal Print, on the other hand, shifts printing to the network making for a significant simplification.
Printing Only for Microsoft Customers
The fact that Microsoft is now presenting its new cloud printing solution as the successor to Google Cloud Print just as it is ending is seen by many as a carefully planned move. But they have little in common other than that both solutions deal with printing in the cloud. The Microsoft solution may prove to be a suitable replacement in some instances, but not in the vast majority of cases. This starts with the costs. While Google’s solution was in most cases free to use, Universal Print only addresses paying Microsoft customers. If additional users in as well as the admins are to be allowed to print, they must be explicitly added to Azure Active Directory. As a result, rights management is obligatory.
The product is visibly tailored to its environment. It only supports Windows 10 devices from version 1903, no mobile clients with Android and Chrome, and includes an API only for printers and print management vendors, not for software applications. A simple signup process via email and use for any device connected to the internet? That Google Cloud Print openness is over when it comes to Microsoft Universal Print.
So, it then becomes a little more complicated. If you are looking for a cloud-based printing solution to replace Google Cloud Print in the future, that is tailored to your company’s needs, you should investigate some lesser-known options. On the one hand, the respective printer manufacturers have now introduced cloud printing solutions themselves, although these are limited to their own range of products. HP Reprint and PrinterOn (now also under the HP umbrella) are examples of this.
Promising Third-Party Products
Also, there are some promising alternatives that are worth a closer look. One good example is ezeep. This came under the roof of print solution experts ThinPrint some time ago. Together with Microsoft, ThinPrint then developed a version of the cloud printing service based on Azure, optimized for Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD), which has since established itself as the printing solution for WVD. Companies using Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services for cloud printing must either connect a local print server via a VPN or use the service of a third-party provider such as ThinPrint’s ezeep.
ezeep is marketed as a fully functional Google cloud print alternative. Among other things, it includes a cost control feature not found in the Google solution. The user receives information about where unnecessarily high costs are incurred. For example, due to under- or overused devices, and can subsequently optimize performance for each printer. Printing can be offered as a service with ezeep, for a fee, while the service is managed remotely. Using automatic printer assignment based on existing AD rights, ezeep can control who has access to which devices, and can also be used to restrict or control the printers themselves. Expensive examples requiring cost-intensive maintenance (up to specific functions such as duplexing) are then restricted to the teams that need them.
As far as the range of features is concerned, the solution is a significant step ahead of its competitors’ products. While some are just as cloud-based as ezeep, they are mainly used to assign local printers to end devices. Others, such as Papercut, have been criticized for using a dedicated server to run the software, requiring users to authorize themselves for each individual print job, requiring special hardware and software for copiers, and not supporting all models.
It will be exciting to see which solutions companies that have been using Google Cloud Print so far will rely on in the future. One thing is certain though, it is high time to start looking for suitable alternatives that meet all requirements. It is safe to assume that ezeep will play a leading role in this area.
About the Author
Frank Zscheile Freelance IT Journalist, based in Munich/Germany, born in Berlin 1966. Holds an MBA (TU Berlin) and looks back to more than 25 years experience in creating and publishing articles for several IT and branch magazines. Strong focus on topics like ECM-, Archiving- and Workflow-Technologies, SAP-integrated solutions, PDM/PLM in the manufacturing industry, Cognitive Search & Analytics, Business Intelligence.
*Image: Vladimka production / Shutterstock.com