Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Backing up Print Server Configs

Print servers are among my least favorite systems to have to recreate from scratch. Finding the right drivers for a plethora of different printer models is only the first step in the process. You then need to make sure that you have the right network and share settings for all the printers; then comes the fun of setting paper sizes, tray assignments, default finishing options, etc. Even in a small environment, it's enough to drive someone insane. Don't make the assumption that a couple of organizations I worked with did and find out the hard way that a System State Backup of their print server does not include the printer configs.

Fortunately, there is an easy way to address print server backups and there are only a couple "gotchas".
  1. You need to put the backup process in place BEFORE your print server fails
  2. This approach will only address restoring printers to a like OS. I.e. Windows 2003 32-bit -> Windows 2003 32 bit, not Windows 2003 -> Windows 2008 (If you are doing a scheduled upgrade, use the Print Management Snap-in)
  3. This approach will not address printers that store files outside of the Print Spooler folder structure, so many personal inkjet printers will not be covered
This approach is made possible by a simply utility called PRINTMIG included in the Resource Kit for Windows 2003. PRINTMIG is a utility that captures the drivers and settings for all local printers on a system and compresses them into a single CAB file. It also can read the CAB file and restore the print settings and drivers.
Note: The latest version of PRINTMIG for Windows 2003 does work in a Windows 2008 environment. I have not tested it with Windows 2008 R2 though. It may work. It may not.
Fortunately, PRINTMIG includes the ability to be controlled from the command line, so automating the backup process is simple. If you want to capture the print config to a CAB file of the same name as the server stored in the c:\backups folder, you simply need to setup a scheduled task to run:
Then it is a simple matter of capturing the created CAB file to your backup media.
If you wish to restore, the configuration, you can simply run PRINTMIG and choose the restore option from the menu, or run:
PRINTMIG –r "Path to CAB File"
Now if you experience a print server failure, it is a simple matter of building a new server with the same name as the previous print server and running the PRINTMIG utility to restore the previous printer settings and drivers. If you need to build the server as a different name, no problem, PRINTMIG will restore the printer settings, to the new server regardless of name; however you will need to make other arrangements to change all of the end-user printer mappings to point to the new server.
At a previous employer, we had moved our print servers almost exclusively to dedicated VMs on VMWare's ESX server. This is because we could use a machine template and PRINTMIG to recreate a brand new print server in <15 minutes in the event of a system failure.

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