Test Drive: Linksys Instant Wireless PrintServer

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff | Posted May 30, 2002
By Ronald Pacchiano

As a network administrator one of the most common problems I run into involves printing. In a workgroup environment, printers are commonly connected to a desktop PC and then shared out. The problem with this setup is that it uses a lot of system resources and the PC must be kept on at all times. One of the best ways to get around this problem is to connect your printer to a network print server. Print servers give you the flexibility to place your printers wherever they are convenient for your users. Better yet, the advent of 802.11b wireless technology has even removed the need for a printer to be anchored to an Ethernet port.

Linksys Instant Wireless PrintServer is the latest addition to their Instant Wireless collection of products and retails for around $120. It's a perfect print server for the home and small business user.

It allows you to connect both wired (via an RJ-45 10/100 Ethernet port) and 802.11b wireless clients to virtually any parallel-based printer, be it laser or inkjet and is compatible with most operating systems. A single, large antenna helps the unit maintain good signal strength while 2MB of RAM and 4MB of Flash memory allow it to manage multiple print jobs quickly. Upgradeable firmware keeps the unit current with the latest technology standards.

The Wireless PrintServer supports a variety of network protocols including TCP/IP, Appletalk, NetBEUI, SNMP and DHCP. It's also makes use of WEP authentication using 64 and 128-bit Encryption and is managed through a simple, yet effective Web-based interface.

The Wireless PrintServer also contains the necessary firmware to act as an IPP server. The Internet Printing Protocol (IPP) is a new standards-based system that allows remote printing from any PC to any accessible printer. This option requires that an IPP Client be installed on the workstation and is included on the installation CD.

Installing the Wireless PrintServer was relatively simple. The most important thing to do before you get started is to make sure you have your wireless access point or wireless client settings (Channel number, WEP encryption key, etc). The WPS11 will need to be configured with these settings. I connected the unit to my switch and loaded the Administration software on our workstation. This software allows you to assign an IP address to the unit and configure the wireless settings. After the initial configuration the unit can be managed through the aforementioned Web-based interface. This interface is straight forward and easy to use. If you so desire, the unit can be assigned an IP address through DHCP.

The next step in the configuration is to install the print driver software on all the PCs that needed to access the PrintServer, effectively adding a printer port to your system. Install your print the way you normally would and assign it to the PrintServer Port. That's it. The only problem I had was trying to get my wireless clients to communicate with the PrintServer when using the Infrastructure network setting. Changing the setting to Ad Hoc removed the problem.

On the outside chance you have a problem configuring your unit, Linksys offers 24 hour tech support, seven days a week.

The Linksys WPS11 Print Server is perfect for both home and small business users. It's inexpensive, easy to configure, offers impressive performance and best of all its wireless capabilities allow it to be placed virtually anywhere. Given Linksys's reputation for quality and reliability, how could you go wrong?

Model Number: WPS11 ($130 MSRP)

Pros: Easy configuration; low cost.

Cons: No USB support

Reprinted from www.80211-planet.com

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