Wireless printers more trouble than worth

In IT you frequently get asked to set up printers as wireless. That is, in a home network, the ability to directly print to the printer using Wi-Fi instead of the traditional USB connection. For the most part, this doesn’t work like people expect and hope.

Peoples expectation is that a wireless printer is just like a USB printer but no cables. If they have a laptop they strongly insist on this. The interesting part is that when they have problems, which most people do, they learn how fragile this setup can be.

Wireless printers more trouble than worthWhen a USB connected printer has a paper jam or whatever, it tends to talk to the computer and not have an issue. However when people have issues with their wireless printer, often the solution ends up having to reinstall the wireless printer. This is not a problem if they know how to do it, but most people do not know how to do it, so they depend on a companies IT staff to figure it out.

Now generally, IT are instructed by management to not work on any systems or devices that are not company owned. However practically this isn’t possible. For people who have a home office, IT end up supporting their office networks even though we didn’t set them up.

I had a client yesterday call and say that she tried to cancel her print job and it turns out she ended up deleting her printer! So I had to reset it up. Or I tried to, but it wouldn’t set up wirelessly. It kept giving an error which meant that either the printer was damaged, or the wireless connection on the laptop she was using. I was able set it up with USB and it worked perfectly. When I explained that wireless connections to printers can do this again, she didn’t want to be hassled again so left the USB connected.

All of this is a fine learning experience for the employee, but it comes at a cost to the company. I have seen that for many companies they figure at least a $50 cost for the time of the IT person and the lost wages of the employee not working. So a policy of supporting home offices ends up costing a great deal of time, and money figuring out things like this.

Of course you may say I’ve had a wireless printer and it has worked great. That is great. However since most people don’t know how to set one up, and don’t know how to deal with problems when they have them, I always recommend a USB connection. If they are tech savvy then they can solve their own problem and I don’t care what connection they use. Part of being in IT is finding ways to save money, and that means learning from mistakes and not allowing them to happen again.

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Stories from my Past: Laptops are a luxury

I worked at one company where many of the executives had laptops. As an IT person in almost every company, you also get a laptop. I think the idea is that with a laptop you can work from home if necessary and fix any problem that happens. So it surprised me when I started and I received a desktop.

I asked my manager why I received a desktop instead of a laptop. Didn’t they want me to fix things from home? His answer surprised me. He said “Well executives have laptops, and laptops are a luxury not a necessity.”

Stories from my Past: Laptops are a luxuryThat answer didn’t make sense to me than and it still doesn’t. If the network is down, or someone needs help, not having your IT staff have a computer at home doesn’t help anyone. Even the cheapest laptop will do the job.

Why am I bringing this up now? I find it interesting that the perception of laptops has changed over the years. Laptops used to be just for the VIPS in a company and then slowly they started filtering down to the common man. Now most companies prefer giving someone a laptop so that they will work when they aren’t in the office. I have seen this first hand. With a laptop people don’t have an excuse not to work from home, so it becomes easily justifiable. Plus with the ridiculous low-cost of laptops, the argument can be made that they are better than desktops anyway.

Yes, yes, desktops are cheaper than laptops. The price isn’t really worth it however. When you have a laptop you have freedom to make sales, travel and to have a life. I predict that desktops will go away. As components get cheaper and easier, there just won’t be any compelling reason to have a stationary computer. For example, laptops now are coming standard without any fans and with really long battery life. For most people laptops are not a compromise of a desktop anymore. They can do everything a desktop can and more. So why would you want to be tied to a desk to use one?

I think this is also going to happen because of millennials. They care about experiences and quality of life, and demand things like standing desks and so on. I think that laptops will be driven by them, and only older people will not care and their conception of a computer means being tied to a desk. I think the change to laptops is as much psychological as technological.

Most people who have freedom with a laptop never want to be tied to a desktop again. Now this isn’t an economic choice, but a personal one.

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