Whether you are responsible for a small home-based business, or a large company with many departments and workgroups, there are continuous choices to be made on the procurement of office equipment. Not least amongst these, is the selection of the appropriate printer technology for your business needs? Here in outline are the various technologies and their appropriate environment.
Useful for one individual or a workgroup with a minimal colour printing needs, a low-cost personal ink-jet will be the best choice. Personal inkjet printers offer a low initial cost, plus the flexibility to print on a variety of media, such as promotional materials.
In a bigger business environment, or one where colour output is a major requirement, the workload is likely to be too great for a personal inkjet printer. Thus a unit designed specifically for business will fit the bill, offering a lower cost per page. Many business inkjets employ ink-saving technology and modular cartridges, which avoid the need to change the colour when you change the black and white cartridges, for example.
Large companies demand more output of all kinds. Perhaps also the demand for colour output on standard-size paper may be addressed with a laser printer
Laser printers have invariably offered monochrome output in the past, but more and more colour-capable lasers are coming onto the market. For organisations with a heavy black-only output though, they still offer the lowest cost of monochrome printing, as opposed to ink-jets which offer a lower cost for colour output. Even so, the picture is changing, and there are some surprisingly low-cost colour lasers available.
Large or Wide Format Printers
Design work or over-size documents for displays require a special kind of printer a large format printer capable of printing on very large paper (or other media) sheets. Factors to consider here are quality of output, colour capability, speed, networking capability and additional functions such as scanning and copying.
A photo printer is essentially a personal colour ink-jet with a higher capability for printing on special photo paper. Naturally useful in the home, such printers have their use in the business environment – for example when there is a need to include quality photos in presentation packs for marketing purposes, or for use in training materials.
Business Colour or Full Colour?
For businesses requiring mission-critical exact colour reproduction (such as in the preparation of colour proofs, for example), then it is important to differentiate between machine which offer “Black and Business Colour” as opposed to the higher quality “Full Colour” specification.
Multifunction Printers or MFPs
The Multifunctional, All-in-One device combines print, copier, scanner and fax capability in a single machine. These systems are surprisingly compact and affordable. Indeed some MFPs start at prices below £200. However, in this category of printers, some hefty and powerful machines are available for Print for Pay and major corporate use, with a vast array of bolt-on systems for folding, stapling and collating documents.
Rarer these days, but it is still possible to buy dot-matrix and even daisywheel devices for specialist impact applications, for example for such as multiple-copy form printing. Such printers tend to be more expensive, robust and bulky than the ink-jets and laser printers in more common use. Impact printers by definition are also much noisier in use.
Other factors – Stand-alone or Networked?
If you plan to share the printer in a workgroup on your office network, then network-ready functionality must be specified.
Speed of Operation
Businesses with a heavy output, or with a plan to share the printer among several users, a faster printer is important – and one that will avoid forcing staff to wait for printouts to get through the queue. Any shared printer is also likely to be networked so the network speed in the office is also a factor
In additional to the initial purchase cost, there is of course the cost of consumables such as ink cartridges and toner which also require budgeting. The twin costs of initial purchase (or lease) plus consumables and maintenance are defined as the Total Cost of Ownership, and requires a careful projection of costs over the life-cycle of the equipment.
Support and Supplier Backup
All printers come with a basic warranty or guarantee that entitles the purchaser u to one year’s return to base’ servicing and repairs. It is wise and useful to arrange additional cover and a service plan to suit the capacity and work-expectations of the printer.
Protecting the environment is a crucial issue these days, and taking advice whilst looking for the most energy-efficient options makes sound business sense. Doing this should also save money in terms of running costs at least. Questions to ask are – What sort of power consumption and stand-by power-down features does the printer have? Is it easy to print in double-sided (duplex) mode? Can consumables such as laser drums and ink cartridges be recycled? Is the printer RoHS-compliant (The RoHS Directive and the UK RoHS regulations came into force on 1 July 2006.)? And what steps does the supplier make to contribute towards the costs of disposal under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive?