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Each year I set up computer equipment for an annual black-tie fundraising gala for a local research hospital.

In most cases, the venue does not provide or have the ability to connect up to the Internet, so everything must run locally.

Generally we set up 4 to 6 laptops at the front table where guests check in and host the donor/auction software from a database server on the back table along with 2 printers.

The 2 printers and the server are wired into a Belkin b/g wireless router, but the laptops are wireless.

All IPs are static and all computers have a local account with the same username and password to make sharing easy. The laptops are Dell Lattitude E5510's running Win7, the server is usually another laptop or an OptiPlex 7010 (also running Win7), and the printers are HP LaserJet 4250's if any of that matters.

Each year, the story is the same. Toward the end of the evening when large groups of people are all trying to check out at the same time, the whole setup just slows to a crawl.

The software appears to remain responsive, but printing takes forever.

Sometimes a dozen people will be waiting in line for their receipts while both printers appear to just be sitting idle. Receipts do eventually print but they can take five minutes or more. Many times we have to jot peoples' information down by hand and then mail the receipts to them. As you can imagine, it's a huge mess and quite embarrassing to myself and the event organizer. Nobody likes having their time wasted but rich people seem to hate it even more.

Anyway, I have tried having the clients print to a share, and directly to the IP addresses. Nothing seems to help. The setup works fine in testing but it just can't handle the load of everybody checking out at the same time. I can't tell if this is a wireless problem, a printer problem, a server problem, or what.

Does anybody have any ideas on how we can improve this?

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Lots of things can help -

  1. Get rid of the WIFI and connect directly by cable where possible.
  2. Replace the Belkin router with something more Robust. Belkin firmware is notoriously bad. [ Depending on your device, you may be able to flash DD-WRT ]
  3. Upgrade to 802.11n.
  4. Simplify your invoices - Where you are printing out graphics these need to streamed to the printers - which take resources, then rendered by the printers - which takes resources.
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  • Would setting up another laptop to act as a print server give them any improvement as this will deal with the print queue, rather than everyone sending to the printer simultaneously and it saturating...? Also, for such a small network and little demand, what would upgrading to 802.11n improve if the printers are the main culprit - they're the bottleneck, surely? – Kinnectus Sep 11 '15 at 7:59
  • Setting up a printer to manage the print queue could help dependkng on the printer. I dont know that particular printer, but did see its a workgroup printer so i eould imagine it should have a decent queue manager. 8=2.11n is about 3 times faster then G, so if you are printing large outputs (raw version of images) it could make a significant difference. Why not get a cheap laser for each computer instead of 2 networked printers? It would bypass the problem and provide more redundancy. – davidgo Sep 11 '15 at 18:24
  • We've been hard-wiring everything for the last two years and everything has been running smoothly. Sorry I forgot to come back and tag this one as answered :-/ – Wes Sayeed Nov 9 '17 at 16:44
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I wonder if peoples' wireless connections obtain IP addresses that overlap with the static addresses of the printers.

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