Do you often receive documents and messages that need to be stored on paper? Does your organization stick to archiving certain messages outside the digital environment? Do your customers and partners send plenty of faxes, orders and invoices that are also printed to become part of your business archive? If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the above, you can definitely benefit from a solution that automates the printing of messages and attachments right on the stage of their processing by your company’s Exchange server. The solution is called Print Agent for Exchange.
The ‘Agent’ part is neither a tribute to 007 nor a trade name promoting some kind of alleged superpower; the core of the solution is an Exchange transport agent. In brief, a transport agent is a piece of software that enables installation and use of additional software on your Exchange server to process incoming and outgoing messages. The components of an Exchange server form the so-called transport pipeline consisting of four principal transport services: the Front End Transport service on Client Access servers, the Transport service and the Mailbox Transport service on Mailbox servers, and the Transport service on Edge Transport servers (in Exchange Server 2013). That is to say, every message goes through four main stages of processing, and transport agents make it possible to add a few extra stages to the process, such as anti-virus scanning or, in our case, printing. Both built-in and additional transport agents use SMTP events that are invoked as emails move through the pipeline. SMTP, or Simple Mail Transfer Protocol, is used by mail servers both for sending and for receiving mail.
It is very important that Exchange transport agents encounter messages on the right stages of transportation process. First, you need to make sure that a transport agent is registered to the correct SMTP event. Basically, it is not possible to change order of SMTP events. However, transport agents also have a priority value that is assigned to them within one SMTP event. In other words, a transport agent assigned to the OnMailCommand SMTP event meets messages before an agent assigned to the OnEndOfHeaders event. If there are two transport agents assigned to the OnMailCommand event, say, Agent A with a priority value of 1 and Agent B with a priority value of 2, Agent A gets down to work first because of a lower integer value.
Print Agent for Exchange is a three-component solution that includes a configuration and management console, the transport agent, and a printing service. The management console can be installed on any of your in-house computers or servers, and the transport agent, as we have stated above, is installed on an Exchange server. What is more, you can deploy Print Agent for the entire organization, including all Exchange servers and workstations, from a single computer with the help of a deployment wizard. As for the printing service, it can be installed on a few computers to render the Exchange printing process more reliable: if one of the computers is shut down, the service will use other available resources and complete printing of documents and messages. Such simple and yet efficient precaution makes Print Agent a no-failure tool for Exchange printing.
Next, once you have successfully installed all the components, it is time to think of what exactly you need to print from your Exchange server. The product enables printing of messages and attached files, including images, HTML, PDF, txt-files, as well as MS Word and MS Excel files. If you also use Exchange as a fax service, you can include fax messages in the Print Agent routine too. Moreover, the Agent can automatically apply a watermark to PDF files before printing in order to enhance the protection of your documents on paper. Needless to say that you can define the printer you would like to use, number of copies, and a broad range of other print settings.
Furthermore, multiple rules can be configured to print certain types of files from Exchange. You can set up a number of filters using various criteria, such as the contents of FROM or Subject fields, the type of attachment, and so on. First, a condition is created, such as ‘when FROM field contains ‘CEO’’. Second, you choose an action to be performed, for instance, ‘print attachment to printer #4’. And third, some exceptions can be added to avoid printing excessive documents, for example, ‘when CC field contains ‘Jane Smith’’.
In addition to deployment and rules setup, the management console also allows monitoring of transport agents on Exchange servers, including such useful statistics as the number of messages processed, rules applied, and errors encountered. Thus, you can fine-tune file printing from Exchange using a single workstation and a unified console, which makes Print Agent a practical and easy-to-use working tool for organizations that need to optimize printing of messages and attachments.