Host-connected image scanners can be shared through saned (part of sane-utils in Ubuntu). It can be run continuously as a daemon or on-demand through Inetd. Basic configuration for either mode is simple and generic but adding the network address to the saned.conf file in CIDR notation is not. When you are setting up systems for multiple clients on different networks and IP ranges, this is a bit of a nuisance. To automate this I wrote saned-subnet-conf which will automatically add an entry for whatever network the host connects to through Network Manager or the ifupdown utilities directly.
Whenever a network connection is made or broken, scripts can be triggered. These scripts need to be located (or linked to) in "/etc/network" in specific subdirectories, the choice of which determines when they execute. Variables are passed to them that can be used for changing behavior based on the network interface, address assignment mode used (DHCP, static, ppp, etc.), and other values. See the interfaces man page for some hints. Network Manager executes these scripts with "/etc/NetworkManager/dispatcher.d/01ifupdown" which uses the run-parts utility. Network Manager does not trigger the "pre" directories due to a design decision.
To install the script, first download and extract the script, then put it in "/etc/network/if-up.d". You'll need to use sudo or have a root terminal for the copying (and most of the rest of the commands). Make it owned by root:root with rwxr-xr-x (0755) permissions. Whenever a network interface is brought up by ifup or Network Manager the script will execute. It uses scanimage to look for scanners and if any are found it will then use the ip command to get a CIDR version of the network address and produce an entry for saned.conf if one doesn't already exist. The last part is important as the script will add an entry for every network the host connects to. If you want to block a particular network, let the script add it to saned.conf and then comment the entry out with a # as the script won't add it again if it finds it anywhere in the file. Make sure you restart saned anytime you edit saned.conf (see below). If you want to keep the script from adding entries in relation to a particular network interface you'll have to edit the script and have it exit based on the IFACE variable. Look at the "$METHOD = loopback" entry for a rough idea. If you enable the VERBOSITY=1 entry the script will generate a log file in /tmp that includes all the variables. Currently the script only supports IPv4 addresses as my network doesn't use IPv6 so I can't test it.
Setting up saned is rather easy. During installation you have the option of running it as a daemon. To enable this later use "dpkg-reconfigure sane-utils" and indicate "Yes" to the standalone server option, or just edit the "/etc/default/saned" file and set "RUN=yes". The server daemon will start automatically at boot but you can start (or stop, restart) it manually with "invoke-rc.d saned start" or "/etc/init.d/saned start". To see any messages from saned use "tail /var/log/daemon.log".
To have saned start automatically when a client connects, indicate "No" to the standalone server option or set "RUN=no" in the default config file. Then add (as per the man page) the required entry to "/etc/inetd.conf" if it doesn't already exist. You can use a text editor but a safer way is with the update-inetd utility with "update-inetd --add "sane-port stream tcp nowait saned.saned /usr/sbin/saned saned". If you watch the log (tail -f -n 20 /var/log/daemon.log) you will see saned start and stop automatically whenever a client connects. Don't run a daemon and have an Inetd configuration active at the same time as they will conflict over network port access (6566 by default). To disable the Inetd entry use the command "update-inetd --disable sane-port".
To configure clients to use the server just add the server IP address or host/domain name to "/etc/sane.d/net.conf" and start whatever scanning program you want to use. You can get a list of available scanners with scanimage -L but note that neither saned or scanimage supports scanners connected via a parallel port.
On Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx) and some earlier versions access to scanner devices isn't handled correctly for anyone other than standard users (UID=1000+) on the host. As a workaround you can use my Scanner Access Enabler to correct the permissions until reboot. In the future, scanner network access may be handled by Avahi but it doesn't work with Karmic or Lucid due to another bug.
Update: Forgot to mention that scanimage is used to look for scanners first before adding a saned.conf entry.