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I'm currently looking at DYMO and BROTHER label printers for this purpose. In the ideal world, they could click a "print" button next to an address on the Web App that will print out the label without requiring copy/paste into some proprietary software...


I'd like to be able to send a print command to a local network label printer from a web application running on a cloud server. Say that I want to send a label to my parents house for some reason and the printer is installed on their home network.

I've already asked how to do this via code on Stackoverflow here and on Serverfault related to the networking side here, but sometimes the lines can be blurred from a network admin (serverfault) and a printer like issue (superuser)...

I would like to know if this is possible from a network/hardware standpoint. Are there any "label" printers that I can add to a network? Can I add the label printer as a print device from another network over the web?

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Just to clarify, what kind of label printer are we looking at exactly? –  KronoS Sep 3 '10 at 0:10
    
The label printer is "unknown" at this point but is going to simply be used to print a single address label at a time. –  RSolberg Sep 3 '10 at 15:50
    
Ok, here's a list of network label printers that connect via cat5 I believe. –  KronoS Sep 3 '10 at 15:54
    
I'm curious how did it all work out? –  KronoS Sep 9 '10 at 15:34
    
I haven't executed on this yet... But am likely to end up placing the cloud server on a virtual private cloud (hook it to our network) and it can simply then print to a local network printer. –  RSolberg Sep 9 '10 at 18:18

3 Answers 3

up vote 7 down vote accepted
+250

There are a few options that I'm going to suggest:

1.. Setup a VPN that allows access to the network that the printer is setup on, and print from there.

  • Pros:

    • Secure access to the printer. In order to access the printer the user has to connect to the network via a VPN using a username and password that is setup by the network administrator. You can even setup a print server that handles all of the tasks, and put the two devices (printer and server) on an entirely separate network.
  • Cons:

    • The user in order to access the printer HAS to be connected to the VPN, meaning that there is a potential of there being confusion and need of help with the user.

To setup a VPN, you'll need a server that handles the connections of the VPN. Setting up that VPN on the server varies according to the server's software. Here are some guides I found for: "Windows Server 1", "Windows Server 2", "linux", and a "DD-WRT" flashed device.

I have personally used the VPN with the University that I work at and its works without a problem. My friend was even able to print from his Droid, however we have to be connected to the VPN in order to print.

2.. You can configure the printer using IIS:

  • Pros:

    • The printer can be accessed from an internet address that is forwarded from the server to the printer. This makes access to the printer a lot easier and once the printer is setup on the users machine there is less overhead of the IT.
  • Cons:

    • Since the printer is accessible through the internet, the printer and servers/workstations directly connected are at a higher risk of inrusion.

I have never used anything dealing with IIS, however I found these articles interesting and might be of some use in developing this if you so desire: "Printing of the Internet", "How to connect to Internet Printers", and "Share a Printer Online"

Update With the DYMO label printer you can setup the printer to print over the internet. This is a good website that describes how this all works. The BROTHER network label printers also support IIS.

3.. Google's Cloud Printing

With Google's online based OS, they have had to deal with printing over a cloud network (the internet). They are currently in development of Cloud printing that allows a print job to be sent over the cloud it to be completed successfully without driver installation. Although this is in the development stage, they do have code that you can look at and play with. I doubt this is what you really want, but thought that I put it down.

4.. HP's Cloud Printing System

HP developed a printer that can print via email! Check out this website on more info.

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+1 - Beat me to it! I think VPN is probably the way to go. You may have issues getting Windows to recognize the printer otherwise. With a VPN it doesn't really matter what kind of printer it is, since the PC will treat it as a network printer. Other options may have compatibility issues. –  JNK Sep 3 '10 at 1:01
    
You forgot the Kinko's+Secret Courier Service combo. –  digitxp Sep 3 '10 at 1:03

You can use the free product PrinterShare (renamed from PrintAnywhere), available on Windows, Macs and Linux.

The software needs to be installed on the machine you want to print from and on the machine you want to print to. The process is better explained in this makeuseof article.

Here is what the website's How it works says:

If shared printer is online, printed document is uploaded directly to target machine. It is fast and secure. So, normally you want to keep your printers online.

image1

If shared printer is offline, you still can print on it. The document will be temporarily stored on PrinterShare print server, and downloaded by receiving client as soon as it will be ready.

image2

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This should be very easy to do, and there are a number of ways to accomplish this.

If it was me, and I control the ASP.Net application, I would do the following:

Install the printer on the server and make sure it works then create a new asp.net application.

Now comes the fun bit that someone on Stackoverflow could help you with a lot more than me...

The first part of the application can be a web service that links to your existing application that accepts various variables from the first application and saves in to a database.

Next create a on this web service, make an interface that basically can list all entries in the previous database.

Lastly, create a client application that connects to this interface above, and run it on any of the machines in Office one, it can run on a scheduled task, or even you could set some sort of notifier so it will print in real time.

Again, I am sure there is a much better programmer than me who can you a much better idea of what needs to be created, but as you are talking about cloud servers and more, I am sure you or someone on the team has the technical ability to accomplish this, and I am sure that this sort of approach is a much better solution than anything else as you can accomplish the printing from any machine that you need (no installing printer drivers, VPN, or other solutions)... Also, it is good for the future, you may want to upgrade label printer* and you will only need to make a few modifications to the client application.

(*) My experience with those little label printers is that they are good but if you are going to print a lot, they can get expensive quick and you may want to upgrade to a serious Zebra or similar printer.... Off topic, but hopefully you like the advice!

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The server is in the "cloud"... Can't really install a printer on it :) –  RSolberg Sep 3 '10 at 20:08
    
@Rsolberg - Ahh, didn't 100% understand the picture... ok, re-read and edited the last few paragraphs significantly.... I still think that this is the best approach, just edited it to actually meet your needs! –  William Hilsum Sep 3 '10 at 20:26

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