I'm implementing a Citrix solution on our WAN for the first time. Our remote offices have printers attached directly to some of the workstations, but we need the workstations without printers to connect to the proper workstation printers. Our goal is to manage the network as centrally as possible without having to purchase print servers or map each client to a shared printer. I use Kixtart to manage user printers centrally. When I try to create a printer on a Windows NT 4.0, Terminal Server Edition (TSE)-Citrix MetaFrame session and connect it to a printer that resides on another Windows 9x machine, TSE won't let me. What's the problem? Also, for those workstations with a printer, is it faster to print through ICA over a WAN or use NT-based printing?

When you use the Kixtart command Addprinterconnect ("UNC"), where Uniform Naming Convention (UNC) is the workstation and printer share, the command attempts to connect the TSE session to the Windows 9x workstation printer. However, Win9x doesn’t send the correct printer driver to the NT server, and the user won’t have the right to add the driver.

One workaround is not to print directly to your workstation. Some workstation local print drivers pose problems for TSE. If you haven’t properly tested the drivers on the TSE server, they can lock up or crash the machine. Instead of pointing to a printer share on a Win9x workstation, create an NT printer on the TSE server or another NT machine that points to the Win9x workstation printer as a port. Then use the NT printer’s UNC in your Addprinterconnection command. Using an NT printer gives you more control over security and print priorities, and you won’t have the same print driver problems.

Autocreated printers will give your users instant access to their workstation printers as soon as they log on, without further configuration. However, remember that printing across a WAN is slower than printing across a LAN. MetaFrame’s spooled jobs are large, so speed is an issue in a WAN environment. The links are also apt to be much slower. Here are some points to consider:

  • NT print jobs you create from fat network clients typically travel to the print server via the transport protocol, but terminal session print jobs typically travel via the display protocol. - Usually, a print job mapped to a client printer that prints over ICA will spool faster, but it can slow your session, especially with large print jobs. We can approximate typical steady-state bandwidth utilization between the TSE server and a client at 17 to 20Kbps per user. When a Citrix client transmits information such as mouse and keyboard input to the server over a WAN link, WAN congestion can delay users' response-sensitive transactions, such as display updates that travel from the server to the client. Printing, transferring from or to a client drive via FTP, or using a mapped client device can use up to 100 percent of the available bandwidth, making the screen refresh unacceptable.
  • In a WAN environment, as opposed to in a dial-up environment, you might prefer to connect the Citrix session directly to an NT printer share on the client side. Printing with NT printing over your WAN protocol will spool slower. However, you can use packet shaping to configure the job so it won't affect your ICA session. You can implement packet shaping with high-end routers, such as Cisco, Foundry, Juniper, and Lucent, or with special devices or software, such as Packateers Packetshaper or Cisco’s NBAR. These products can perform intelligent bandwidth management that will let you design network use for your needs—for example, to give priority to traffic over IP port 1494.
  • The solution depends on your needs. The number of users, the number and type of printers, WAN bandwidth, and the administrative tasks you’re willing to perform to manage the relationships under NT all play a role in the decision. You should also consider what is more important to your users: faster print speed or faster remote session response.