A resilient print infrastructure has always been important for businesses, particularly large organizations, as the provision of continuous printing facilities is essential. Both uniFLOW and its competitors in the secure print and scan technology industry offer a range of resilience features. More often than not the creation of a resilience infrastructure is based on a combination of 3rd party software plus additional hardware components e.g. server backups, high availability clusters and load balancing servers. These products incur higher implementation costs as well as complex network configurations and they rely on 3rd party software. Neither of these measures guarantees uninterrupted printing processes.
uniFLOW however can create a robust and holistic resilience infrastructure while minimizing the cost of additional investments.
Analysis undertaken during customer implementations and management of projects has led to the design of the uniFLOW resilience setup. The structural setup of the uniFLOW resilience features is based on three pillars: automatic Canon imageRUNNER ADVANCE device failover, redundant spool file storage and intelligent print job distribution. This concept covers the overall print process to avoid the loss of any print jobs. Creating an end-to-end resilience strategy is now possible within the product itself which is no longer reliant on external resources and technologies.
The key element absent in most resilience configurations is the actual output device. If there is just one server, and it fails, all printing devices are immediately unavailable for job release or scanning. uniFLOW 2018 LTS will automatically reconnect Canon imageRUNNER ADVANCE devices to an alternative uniFLOW server.
If required, administrators can specify the maximum number of devices allowed to connect to each server. Should this number be exceeded a notification process will be triggered. Once reconnected, the device configuration is automatically pulled from the alternative uniFLOW server to guarantee continuous device availability. Once the original server is available again the device will be reconnected to it.
The second element of a resilience strategy is the introduction of redundant spool file storage so spool file storage is available even when the uniFLOW server is offline. Once configured, spool files are stored on a SMB-Share so they are available to alternative uniFLOW servers in the CRQM collective. Setting up a SMB-Share is simple, cost efficient and facilitates greater resilience.
Previously spool files were lost when servers became unavailable so users could not release print jobs. By using the SMB-Share the spool files are independent of any uniFLOW server so users can still release print jobs as the alternative uniFLOW server or RPS can pull each one from the SMB-Share. This means there is no loss of spool files and end users will not even notice the original server is unavailable.
It is also possible to configure up to three SMB-Shares to cover all eventualities e.g. failure of one of the SMB-Shares. Jobs are stored in parallel on each SMB-Share and can be allocated to individual Collective Release Queue Management (CRQM) collectives. On set up a simple test checks the connection and, within seconds, the configuration is completed. Obsolete files are removed from the storage once a check has been made to confirm whether there is an existing workflow for that file. If not, the file will not be removed until the next hourly maintenance run.
In the uniFLOW resilience setup there are two ways to guarantee the print submission for the end user, even if one uniFLOW server is down.
Firstly, when implemented in a CRQM environment, the uniFLOW SmartClient can automatically reconnect to an available server when the initial server is not available for submission. These new uniFLOW SmartClient settings allow administrators to implement a simple and highly cost efficient resilience solution. The second option is to use the uniFLOW Universal Driver in combination with the newly added ability to make use of Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) so the print job can still be sent to an available server in the CRQM collective to guarantee business continuity.
The uniFLOW resilience strategy can be the perfect fit for IT departments to enable uninterrupted print and scan availability. The advantage of this solution in comparison to others is the core functionality is delivered within the system. No 3rd party software needs to be sourced or maintained. Only minimal investment in redundant spool file storages is required; Expenditure on complex hardware and its maintenance is not necessary which means organizations benefit directly with this simple to implement and manage cost-efficient resilience solution.
Implementing an output management system as part of a business’ printing infrastructure might initially cause some concern as there could be a fear that such a solution is too costly to purchase, implement and maintain. It could also have a negative effect on business processes which are actually working satisfactorily already so changing the system appears to be unnecessary.
uniFLOW will take away all these concerns. As a modular platform with leading technologies, uniFLOW will reduce costs and waste while simultaneously improving security and user efficiency.
There are two major functions of an output management system which enable secure printing to any device (“pull print”) and selection of the most suitable device (”job routing”). IT departments might suggest that the fact that their business has a large range of printer types, from one or more manufacturers will make integration impossible because they all need separate drivers. If they are not setup properly incompatibility between printing devices and their drivers often leads to incorrectly printed documents or, worse, no printout at all. Such difficulties make implementation only possible if some features are sacrificed so it is difficult to overcome these problems.
The uniFLOW Universal Driver can manage a mixed fleet printer network and ensure printouts will be delivered where, when and in what format they have been requested, regardless of make or model of the device.
Only uniFLOW offers a straightforward and proven technology to move jobs from one device to another in either a secure pull printing or job routing system. On Canon devices, the user also has the capability of changing job finishing options at the device before the job is released, saving valuable time and avoiding resubmission of print jobs.
uniFLOW is comprised of two different “universal drivers”, one for PostScript and one for PCL/XL, allowing administrators to select the correct one for their environment, prior to the implementation.
The uniFLOW Universal Driver for PostScript enables printing in mixed environments and enables routing from PostScript to PCL5 printers. For secure printing, a thumbnail preview of the first page of the print job is available. This extra feature requires at least one Job Conversion Instance (JCI) to be available. The uniFLOW Universal Driver for PostScript utilizes genuine Adobe PostScript.
For purely PCL environments, the uniFLOW Universal Driver PCL6 (PCL/XL) driver can be used. This driver requires the data format for both the input and output to be PCL. The advantage of this driver is that no conversion is required, resulting in faster and less expensive job processing.
The patented uniFLOW Universal Driver is unique. It stands out from other output management providers thanks to true automated routing of print jobs i.e. printer specific control codes are only added to the spool file once the make and model of device the job is being released to is known. The correct information is added to the print job once the user has authenticated at that device. Utilizing this method delivers correct output as required by the user.
uniFLOW can import manufacturers’ specific printer drivers and map the codes to the options available. The options are shown to the user in the uniFLOW Universal Driver when submitting the print job. The specific driver information is stored in a uniFLOW Device Information File (DIF file). DIF files are already available for 95% of printers on the market. In instances where a DIF file for a specific printer does not exist, it can be easily created by running the DIF Creator wizard.
For IT departments the uniFLOW Universal Driver removes obstacles and saves time and effort to implement the roll out, management and maintenance of a well-run output management solution irrespective of the devices used within the business. Users also benefit as there is just one driver to learn and utilize for all their print jobs. Previously unavailable functions such as management of finishing options, the number of prints and displaying a preview of the document directly at the device bring about increased employee productivity.