Location of a Print Server

Usually the data for printing go to the printer with the help of the print server. This article shows the proper location for the print server.

Problem overview

The usual terminal services network configuration looks like this:

Scenario 1

All the resources are located on the server side; all the calculations are performed by the server side. Only screen pictures and printer data are travelling across the WAN link. In order to provide the fastest possible access to the user data, the file server should be located in the same subnet, where the terminal server is. The location of the print server does not look so critical; it can be also located on the client side.

Scenario 2

So the question is: which print server location provides minimal WAN traffic? At the first sight the following aspects can influent the traffic size:

  • Printer driver
  • Document type
  • Document size
  • Communication between the terminal server and the print server (scenario 1)
  • Communication between the print server and the printer (scenario 2)

Test Configuration

In order to find the correct answer, the following test configuration has been created:


  • Terminal server – MS Windows 2003
  • Print server – MS Windows 2003
  • Printer – HP LaserJet 2300


  • Packet analyzer – WireShark

Test files

  • Plain text file: 2,740 bytes
  • MS Word document with complex formatting and images: 5,873,152 bytes
  • Adobe Acrobat document made of the MS Word document: 311,578 bytes

These files have been printed out off the terminal server directly to the printer and with help of the print server. All the network packets have been captured for each print job.


The results are presented in the following tables. Each table contains the packets captured for both scenarios.

Table 1. Text file

Table 2. Microsoft Word document

Table 3. Adobe PDF file

The totals of these three tables are collected in the final table below.

Table 4. Totals

Table 4 clearly shows that the total size of data sent to printer directly is much less than the data sent to the print server to print the same file. For 300 kb PDF file it is 50 MB of data sent to print server comparing against 1.5 MB sent directly to printer.


As seen from this investigation locating a print server beside a terminal server (Scenario 1) is the preferred configuration and should be strongly recommended. Another possible solution could be in combining print server and terminal server in the same piece of hardware, however, it can create some inconvenience for users. In this case the users would look for the needed printer in the list of all printers installed on the terminal server, that can be irritating especially with the


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