When the time comes to buy a new printer for your office, the choices can be overwhelming. Here’s a handy, at-a-glance guide to getting your decision right – and saving yourself some money along the way.
When you’re trying to pick a new printer for your small business, there are a number of options available to you to choose from – and getting that decision right can be a bit of a minefield. Do you need an inkjet printer, or a laser or LED printer? Colour or monochrome? Single function or multi-function? How many pages will it need to print each month? How fast does it need to be? How quiet? How much do you want to spend on consumables? There are lots and lots of questions that need answering…
A quick poll around a few small business owners recently revealed that, by and large, most of them responded that price was a major determining factor in purchasing new hardware for their office.
However, it’s important to remember that choosing the right printer to suit your needs is arguably far more important than simply picking the cheapest unit on the shelves and hoping for the best when you get it home.
So – how do you figure out which printer will suit your needs? There is a bewildering array of makes, models and even functional styles available, at just about every imaginable price point as well. It can be baffling, to say the least.
Do you need a LaserJet, InkJet or LED printer?
Choosing between a Laserjet, inkjet or LED printer can be a hard decision to make – but there are a few things you need to understand about each of them that should help you to choose.
Inkjet printers, for the most part, occupy the budget end of the market – and it’s very easy for a canny consumer to question whether they represent any quality at all. However, the main reason that inkjet printers are so cheap is that they are often sold at a loss by manufacturers, who recoup the lost money through the sale of proprietary consumables – in this instance, ink cartridges.
It should be no surprise, then, that inkjet printers are renowned for being expensive to run and maintain – and for high-volume printing offices, they’re probably not going to represent good value for money in the longer term. The money you save buying the printer will most likely be eaten up over the life of the printer when it comes time to replace the ink cartridges.
Inkjet printers are also comparatively slow, compared to laser printers, and tend to be a bit noisy as well. But on the positive side of the ledger, they are currently extremely affordable in terms of initial layout of funds, and provided that your business isn’t going to be paper-intensive, you can expect to get reasonable life out of each of the ink cartridges you buy.
Another option you have is a Laserjet, more commonly referred to as a Laser Printer. They are often far more expensive to buy off the shelf, but the cost of the consumables, such as toner cartridges, is towards the more reasonable end of the scale. They’re also quieter to operate, and have a more rapid page-per-minute print rate than inkjets.
Laser printers are more suited to high-volume printing environments – if you’re hitting ‘print’ on a document more than eight or nine times a day, then you would be wise to consider a laser printer.
LED Printers are newer technology, but work on the same basic principles as Laser printers. However, LED printers have fewer moving parts – and don’t rely on a complex series of lenses and mirrors to remain in alignment for the life of the printer, in the way Laser printers do.
The manufacturers say that the LED printers are quieter and faster than their laser-driven counterparts, and that reliability is less of an issue.
How does it connect to my network?
How your printer is accessed via your office network – if, indeed, you have a ‘network’ – can be a tricky question to figure out. The old way of doing things, which was to connect the printer directly to the computer driving it using a parallel port and cable, is long gone – replaced by Local Area Network (LAN), Wireless (WLAN) and even Bluetooth connectivity.
The network setup your company uses will be the determining factor for this part of the process of choosing the best printer for your needs. If you’re unsure of how your network has been set up, then speak to your IT person and find out before you go shopping.
Do I really need a printer / copier / fax / scanner / email / coffee machine?
The current trend in printers is still the ‘all-in-one’ office solution approach – a multifunction unit that does everything a small business would need: print documents, operate as a fax, scan documents, make photocopies and send emails. And while it’s always tempting to get the latest and greatest, all-bells-and-whistles equipment for your office, before you lay out the capital, ask yourself: do I really need it?
Quite often, the answer is actually no – and by purchasing a multifunction unit, small business owners are spending money on an item that essentially duplicates the function of several other pieces of office equipment that they already own, and in some cases very rarely use.
That is why it’s often good practice to think very clearly about what you need your printer to do. And the easiest way to figure out what you need in a printer is to assess your requirements now, before you need to buy a new one.
Keeping a log of when, and how, you use your printer for a couple of weeks will give you a really solid understanding of your requirements. If you do keep a log, it’s also useful to make a note of the times when you wanted your current printer to behave or perform differently.
For instance, if you find yourself wishing that the printer was faster, or less noisy, make a note of that. Likewise, if you find yourself clutching a document and wishing that you could make a photocopy of it, or scan it in to create a PDF that you can email, then make a note of that, too. What you’ll be left with is a much clearer idea of what you actually need, and a better understanding of how important any functionality that might be on your ‘wish list’ actually is to your business.
What quality of printer do I need?
This is one of the toughest questions to answer, and to do so will require a certain amount of technical jargon – but bear with us, and we’ll try to explain it as efficiently as possible.
When we talk about “print quality”, we’re discussing the maximum resolution that the printer is capable of producing – and, broadly speaking, the higher the number for DPI (Dots Per Inch), the higher the quality of the finished product… and the higher the price for the printer.
It can be very easy to get a bit carried away when looking at new office hardware, and a common ‘mistake’ is to buy top-of-the-line equipment because you ‘might need it, one day’. Unless you’re absolutely positive that you’re going to need something completely whizz-bang in the office, then consider what your actual, day-to-day needs are and purchase accordingly.
Ask the expert
Jeremy Plint, Assistant General Manager, Canon Business Services Australia
1. What steps can SMEs take to make their offices more efficient?
Canon Business Services commissioned a report looking at just this issue earlier this year. Our research shows that 63 per cent of Australian businesses feel that increased administration was making them less productive. Australian SMEs should identify where technology can help streamline and automate business environments to foster greater efficiency in their business.
2. What would be your advice be to a small business owner who needs a new printing solution?
Look at all of the options available and spend time understanding how your printing solution integrates with your entire IT environment. Work with vendors to design a print solution which addresses all your printing pain points and work with all levels of the business to communicate and integrate the solution effectively. SMEs should also be looking at how mobile devices are impacting the work place and whether they should be integrating their print environment with the range of mobile devices found in today’s work place.
3. What should they look for in a printing solution?
SMEs need their printing solution to address the pain points of their business work flows. Printing is no longer just about the devices, but an integrated software and hardware solution. Each organisation is different and the printing environment should reflect this. Some of the considerations should be: how many and which devices are needed, the ability to control printing from both a sustainability and fiscal responsibility perspective, document security, as well as the full cost scenario including installation, service and support.
4. How can the right printing solutions help SMEs to become more environmentally friendly?
Being environmentally conscientious should be a concern for any business, no matter how big or small. Luckily the print industry is well positioned to enable SMEs to control resource expenditure when it comes to choosing a print solution. Canon’s printing solutions have document management tools that can immediately help track and curb excess printing as well as print software management that allows the business to use paper, toner and energy as efficiently as possible.
5. How should they determine what they need from their printing solution?
SMEs should work with a printing vendor who can get inside their business operations and identify how information is created, shared and processed through the business. This way the print specialist can have the insight necessary to create the ideal print solution for your business.
6. What advice would you have for someone looking for a printing solution for a home office environment?
Today’s workforce is mobile and we should no longer make a distinction between the tools you need to be productive in the office versus at home or even on the road. The ability to access, edit, action and print documents whilst on the move should now be a high priority for anyone working away from a typical office environment.
7. Is there anything else you would like to add?
SMEs are often time poor with ever increasing pressures to cut costs and improve productivity. The workplace is undoubtedly evolving but there are now document management and printing options that can alleviate some of the pressure by automating administrative business processes.