Final Report for Project 378 - Introduction of Cloud Printing to Informatics


In summer 2016, most of the printers available to users of the undergraduate computing lab, based at the time in the Drill Hall at Forrest Hill, were due for replacement. The decision was taken to investigate the possibility of replacing these printers with a device integrated with the recently introduced University-wide cloud printing service with the expectation that if the introduction of this printer showed the expected benefits, the service would be expanded further within the School. The expected benefits to the School included:

  • A major reduction in the use of paper and toner within the School
  • Simplified authentication and authorisation for users expected to pay for printing
  • The ability to collect printout from any printer within the School and within a large part of the wider University estate.
  • An improvement in the security of printouts since they would not be left lying about for any passerby to read.

Starting Small

The existing printers in the Drill Hall were replaced by a cloud based device in September 2016. Fortunately, the back-end central charging mechanism was the same as had been in use for taught students in previous years so no alterations to the way students were given certain amounts of print credit throughout the year were required. This initial deployment went smoothly and all of the expected benefits were realised.

Further expansion

The relocation of the student labs back to the newly refurbished Appleton Tower took place over the summer of 2017. This meant that student labs would be spread over several floors of the Tower and that some sort of printing provision would have to be made over these floors. Since the pilot deployment in Forrest Hill had gone well, it made sense to extend the use of cloud based printing to Appleton tower. To this end, cloud based devices were deployed on each floor of the Tower occupied by Informatics. Once again, this deployment went smoothly and benefits were seen, especially in the improved tidiness of the printing areas.

The Final Frontier

In view of this success, the decision was taken to move all printing in Informatics to the cloud. This was communicated to the inhabitants of the Forum and was met with surprisingly stiff resistance in some quarters. To address concerns raised, when the cloud printing queues were introduced into the Forum, the old direct access queues remained available. One issue concerned the presence of printers in some admin offices. The main rational for these printers was that the sensitive printouts produced by these offices should not be exposed to public gaze. The introduction of cloud printing removed this rational, since these sensitive printouts would not be produced until the person doing the printing was standing at the printer, and so it seemed an obvious step to remove these, mainly outdated and expensive to run, printers from these offices. Convincing the inhabitants of these offices of this fact was a major undertaking however.

Another issue was that we were now, in theory at least, charging members of staff for printing. Fortunately, Is already had a mechanism in place for granting free print quota to selected users on a regular basis and so it was reasonably simple to ensure that members of staff would not be required to pay for any printing they did, the main effort being in ensuring that the appropriate Active Directory groups were populated appropriately.

A Final Stumble

In Mid 2019, the original Xerox MFDs in the Forum, which were already cloud enabled, fell due for replacement. Since the cloud printing service was working well and the usage of the legacy print queues was falling off dramatically, the decision was taken to turn off the legacy queues with the introduction of the new printers. By sheer bad luck, this coincided with a period of major instability and unavailability for the Cloud printing service causing some inconvenience for our users. The legacy queues were hastily (and temporarily) resurrected and procedures developed and documented to allow us to bypass the requirement for users to authenticate before making use of the printers. IS have since significantly reinforced the cloud printing infrastructure and have procured a replacement for the existing cloud printing system. It is expected that the School will be involved in the initial testing of this new system in the early part of 2020. Once the existing cloud printing system had stabilised, the legacy queues were once more disabled completing the full deployment of cloud printing in the School of Informatics.

Effort Spent

The effort recorded on this project was as follows:

Period Effort (hours)
2016 T2 23.25
2016 T3 13.75
2017 T1 6
2017 T2 9.75
2018 T1 26
2018 T2 17.5
2019 T3 1.5
Total 97.5

Or just under 3 weeks. In truth, some of this effort was spent in specifying and ordering up the various new printers which were introduced over this period.

Lessons learned

  • People will complain about anything.
  • Always have a fallback plan

-- CraigStrachan - 18 Dec 2019

Topic revision: r2 - 19 Dec 2019 - 10:37:00 - CraigStrachan
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