Inverted Guest Printing in VLAN Environments

How to enable VLAN users to print to a printer that can only access the internet but not be accessed by anything?

Mac - Printer

We are sponsor at a lot of tradeshows and I am frequently one of the lucky guys who get to man our booth and answer questions. After doing this for a decade it doesn’t happen often that an attendee has a printing challenge that I didn’t come across, yet. However, it did happen a few months ago.

The Challenge: Guest Printing for Nuclear Power Plants Inspectors

A company specialized in auditing nuclear power plants approached me and described their challenge. They have teams of specialists that inspect nuclear power plants. Their work schedule is pretty much:

  1. Travel to a nuclear power plant
  2. Inspect it for a couple of days
  3. Repeat with the next one

They usually are provided with an office inside the facility access to a guest network. So far, nothing unusual, nothing challenging for ThinPrint. Now comes the problem. As with everything nuclear, security is tight. So, each of their laptops gets its own VLAN assigned and the only place that VLAN leads to, is the internet. Nobody can see anybody or anything else in the guest network. Of course that also applies to a small printer each team carries or more precisely would like to carry if they could use it.

The challenge therefore was: how do we print to a printer that can only access the internet but not be accessed by anything?

The Solution: Cloud Printing using ThinPrint Cloud Services

I admit, it took me a long moment, some might even say half a minute, to think that through. The solution, however, was elegant and simple: Cloud Printing. Each team of inspectors dedicates one of their laptops and installs the printer on it (via USB). This laptop also runs a small app which advertises the printer to ThinPrint Cloud Services’ backend. All the other laptops receive an App that also connects to the ThinPrint Cloud Services’ backend. This App creates the advertised team printer as if it were locally installed. Now any inspector can just hit print on their machine and the print job comes out. The setup is mobile and completely independent from the location or network.

Feel free to come by with a challenge of equal or even greater magnitude. Just post a comment. I will be ready.

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