While using XP as a print server for other computers on your network is great and inexpensive way to enable network printing, it does suffer from some key limitations and issues, especially on larger networks. Firstly, the XP system acting as a print server must be up and running all the time to service client requests. This ultimately leads to higher energy consumption, which may be reflected in your hydro bill. Secondly, a Windows XP system allows a maximum of 10 simultaneous connections from network clients, which means that it isn’t the best solution for networks such as those in larger corporate environments.
In cases where you have a larger network or don’t want to leave an XP print server up and running all the time, a dedicated hardware print server is often the best solution. Available from a variety of different vendors including Linksys, these small devices typically allow you to connect one or more printers to your network via parallel or USB connections. Once connected to a hardware print server, your printer functions in a manner similar to if it had a dedicated network connection. This is also a great feature if you want to place your printer in a central, convenient location without the need for it to be attached to one of your computers.
If you plan to go the hardware print server route, then take the time to look at extras that a device may include. For example, some models include wireless network support as shown below, while others include a built-in multiport Ethernet switch. Take the time to plan your purchase and then select the hardware that works best for your environment.