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Choosing a printer

Choosing a printer can seem disarmingly simple. You just go for a quiet stroll into the nearest shop (or click to your favourite online store) and wander the aisles for a while until you find something that comfortably fits in your price range and snap it up.

You might be spotted by a smiling salesperson that can’t wait to mutter off all these wonderful technical-sounding things that the printer you are looking at can do, and and you’ll often be persuaded to buy something a little fancier once the rep pries out what your budget is.

But in the small business world, pill where every penny counts, cheap a big purchase for the office like a printer should be made with a little care, and most of all you should be confident in your purchase. One of the most common mistakes small business owners make is not doing a little research into the cost of consumables like ink and toner for your particular brand or model. Just because something has a sale sticker on it doesn’t mean it will save you money if it breaks down in a couple of months or the monthly ink cartridge cost suddenly triples.

Andrew Simpson, product manager at Toshiba, suggests having a think about what you really need from a printer before parting with your cash.

“The first question a small business owner should consider is what the current printing needs are. Does the current printer fulfil these requirements? Do you need a multifunction device that can do scanning, faxing and copying?” he says. “Also what are the future business needs? Is the business expected to grow in the near future?”

This might seem like a lot to consider,   but when you make that trademark groan when the stationary invoice comes in, it pays to remember that a smart printer decision can mean less cash exiting the business.

Simpson suggests looking for five features when you head to the local shop, and not being afraid to ask the salesperson to walk you through each of the models. The first one is reliability, which Simpson believes is even more important for a small business because if your printer or multi-function device (MFD) is down, this could mean your business is temporarily down.

The last thing you want is to be unable to print off a presentation on the way to a client meeting, or some crucial notes or even a purchase order. The next one on Simpson’s list is whether or not it does colour.

“More and more small business owners are discovering the benefits and impact of colour,” he says. “With the price of colour devices coming down, it is becoming easier for small business to purchase these devices.”

The next feature on Simpson’s list is the physical footprint of the device. With space being at a premium for most businesses, a smaller size MFD can be advantageous. In a similar vein, the fourth feature is the environmentally friendly factor. If the device has a smaller carbon footprint, Simpson points out that you will benefit from reduced power consumption, and environmentally-friendly consumables.

The fifth and most important feature is the cost. Simpson explains that all small business owners need to keep their costs at a minimum, and the cost of the device and the cost of ink and toner should be considered.

For Andrew Whiting, who works as a buyer for Officeworks’ printers and shredders division, the most common mistake small business owners make when purchasing a printer is not taking the time to learn how to get the most out of it.

“You would be surprised how many expensive printers sit in offices with the sole duty of printing simple black-and-white documents,” he says.

Whiting also suggests taking a look at the cost of consumables, but with the caveat that you don’t want to just go for the cheapest thing you can find as, once again, you need to consider what you are going to use the printer for.

 “For high-volume printers, cartridge and toner price is an extremely important factor to consider,” advises Whiting. “However, this should not take precedence over quality. After all, what is the point of purchasing a printer with the cheapest cartridges and toners when the quality of the finished product is not up to scratch?”

Printer buying tips:

Andrew Whiting, buyer for Officeworks’ printers and shredders division, shares his tips for finding the right printer:

• Take audit of your business and decide what functions you require in a printer.
• Write out a list of questions before you head into a store, and make sure you have them all answered before you make the actual purchase.
• Remember, it is not all about price, so consider the quality.
• Unlike a computer, a printer is usually shared across an entire business. So make sure you purchase a printer that can handle the businesses workload, not just your workload.

Ask the expert:

Andrew Simpson, product manager at Toshiba, shares his thoughts on purchasing a printer.

What is the most common mistake small business owners make when buying a printer?

Only thinking about current needs, not planning for future business requirements.
Also, only comparing products purely on specifications and not the ‘total solution’ –  the total costs over the life of the device, that must incorporate the capital costs, as well as the actual running costs.
How much should a small business owner spend each year on their printing consumables?

It all depends on the size and requirements of the business. However, many printers have complementary software that helps to monitor and reduce those printing costs.

Image credit: Thinkstock

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