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How to choose the best printer for your business

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There are many aspects to consider when buying a printer for your home or business. Monochrome laser printers have been the bestselling printer in the market but this doesn’t necessarily make them the best choice. It’s important to look at your options – such as inkjet versus laserjet or single function versus multifunction – and then weigh these up based on your needs.

Single or multi-function?

 ingle function printers are perfect for the person who only wants to print documents. If however, you would like to digitize paper based files or share documents with other people as well as print, a Multi-Function Printer (or MFP) would be your best option. MFPs allow you to make photocopies, create electronic images and store or send them via e-mail. Try to consider both your current and future needs when deciding on a single or multifunction printer because having to buy separate devices to scan, fax or photocopy later on could become costly.

Colour or monochrome?  

This largely comes down to the type of documents you print and your budget.

Colour printers are increasingly popular. Businesses use them to add differentiation to complex documents like pitches, presentations or reports and home users to add life to regular documents, making invites or printing pictures. Unfortunately, colour printers are more costly to manage and service and the ink costs are higher. However, for business owners looking to manage the use of colour ink, colour printers have downloadable software that allows you to manage /control access to the colour printing feature.

If you are only looking to print minimal plain text documents such as spreadsheets, letters and documentation with simple logos, then a monochrome printer would be best suited for you. Many businesses and home users use monochrome laser printer because they are low cost, low maintenance and consumables for these printers tend to be the cheapest in the market.

Inkjets or laserjets? 

Inkjets are normally the cheaper option but a common problem with these printers is the print heads. To ensure that the printer does not smudge you need to clean the print head –  but doing this too often can damage the printer by creating an ink leak inside.  These print heads are expensive and cost almost as much as the printer itself.

Laserjet printers produce excellent text quality however the photo quality is not as good as an inkjet printer.  Initial costs of these printers are higher than the inkjets but their consumable are much more affordable and you will benefit cost-wise in the long term. The cost per print is also lower than an inkjet. Laserjet printers are generally higher initial cost and lower variable / maintenance. They are built to handle high volume printing, for those that share a printer with multiple users connected.  They also print faster than an inkjet allowing it to get through print jobs quicker and handle more traffic from other users  

Accessibility of your printer

In the business environment it’s essential that staff are all able to share the printer – and access to it is easy.  But how do you set this up optimally in your IT infrastructure?  Use the tips below to get the right printer connection for your business network.

USB Printer

  • The printer is connected to a computer via a USB cable, this entails that printer and PC communicate at high speeds for data transfers.
  • Once you have plugged the USB printer into the computer, the computer’s operating system may be able to automatically detect and download the necessary drives to get you started.
  • You can also share the printer over a network to allow other users access to print from the device, however if the main PC shuts down all other user will lose their connection.
  • USB printers are usually the cheapest and the easiest to set up.
  • They are best suited for people who do not have much experience with information systems as well as for small businesses where there aren’t many users.

Network Printer

  • The printer connects directly to the network using Ethernet cable instead of a USB connection. The printer is connected to your router and not to a computer.
  • Network printers take longer to set up as you need to enter network details into the device to grant access to the system. You also need to install software on each PC to allow them to print to the new device.
  • Network printers are best suited to larger business, where many users connect to the same device.  

Wireless Printer

  • Wireless printers are  similar to network printers, but connect via Wi-Fi instead of Ethernet cable to the router.
  • You will need to enter your Wi-Fi password to see the printer and connect to the network.
  • Like the network printer you will need to install software on each PC that is going to print to the device.
  • You need to ensure that the network type and capabilities match – trying to connect a 802.11b printer to a faster 802.11g network can slow down data transfer.
  • This device gives you all the benefits of a network printer but also give you the flexibility (being wireless) to place the device anywhere with a solid Wi-Fi connection.

Calculating total cost of ownership

When considering an entry level printer, there are aspects to consider for long term use before you commit to purchasing.

The purchase price of a printer may be less than others but the price to maintain it – i.e. replacing ink or toner – may ultimately make it more expensive. You need to assess how much printing you are likely to do in the long term. If it isn’t very much and you can stretch the lifespan of the ink or toner; then you may benefit from low initial purchase price. The opposite is true if you will be printing a lot.   

Another thing to consider when buying a colour printer is the ink. Usually colour printers have 4 ink cartridge slots for black, cyan, magenta and yellow. However, some devices have a single cartridge containing all four colours. At first this may seem like the cheaper option, but when one of the colours runs out the whole cartridge needs to be replaced. This means more frequent replacement of ink or toner cartridges – and the additional cost of doing so.

Future of printing

It is said that 3D printing signals the beginning of the third industrial revolution, succeeding the production line assembly that dominated manufacturing.

3D printing turns digital models into solid objects by building them up in layers. The object can be of almost any shape or geometry and is produced from digital data 3D model created using a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file or any other electronic data source such as Additive Manufacturing File (AMF) file or a 3D scanner. Digitising real objects into 3D models will soon become as easy as taking a picture - with  future versions of smartphones likely to have integrated 3D scanners. Companies such as Microsoft and Google have already enabled their hardware with 3D scanning, for example Microsoft Kinect.