Microsoft Universal Print Is Lifting Print to the Cloud

Saying Goodbye to On-Premises Print Servers and Print Drivers for Good



Lee Davis


Cloud and print have an interesting relationship. In many workflows, cloud-based technology is replacing the need for print (think of any time you have filled out a form online—that’s just one example of the cloud absorbing the duties that we once relegated to print). At the same time, cloud technology makes print more secure and convenient to use, not to mention far less expensive and complicated to manage. One such example of how the cloud improves print is Microsoft’s new cloud-based print management solution: Microsoft Universal Print.


Cloud-based print management helps businesses save money and optimize efficiency.


Microsoft Universal Print enables businesses to lift their print infrastructure to the cloud (Microsoft Azure). In addition to reducing IT costs by eliminating print servers, Universal Print will make life easier for IT professionals who manage print environments. The solution eliminates menial tasks, like managing several print queues and deploying and updating drivers. (In many print environments, IT professionals can expect to manage several drivers from multiple OEMs.) Even though Universal Print overhauls the way print works, end-users won’t be the wiser. In fact, Universal Print will make it easier for them to discover, connect to, and securely use printers managed in Universal Print.


Microsoft announced a private preview of Universal Print at the beginning of March 2020 and expanded it to the public in mid-July. The full release will be available at the end of 2020 for Microsoft 365 Enterprise, Education, or Business license holders. 


Major OEMs and ISVs in the document imaging space are working with Microsoft to develop new products and rejigger existing ones to fit in with Microsoft Universal Print. We can expect Universal Print-ready hardware sometime in 2021. ISVs have been able to develop their products at a faster clip, so we should see software coming to the marketplace sooner. 


As with any new way of doing things, Microsoft Universal Print will come with some growing pains. As I mentioned, there are no Universal Print-ready devices on the market at the moment, which means early adopters will have to leverage the Microsoft Universal Print Connector to get started. This will live on a PC, serving as the middleman between printers with non-native UP support and Universal Print. Some ISVs have also developed products to address the problems related to making existing hardware compatible with this new paradigm. But if you look at the long-term benefits—not having to purchase, deploy, and maintain costly servers or worrying about several print queues and driver updates—then the short-term discomfort is well worth the investment.