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Choose the right printer for your business

Unless you never need colour and need to produce a very large volume of black and white prints on a regular basis, this simply isn’t an issue. Just about every ink-jet and laser printer these days is colour and those that are not are usually designed for specific needs, such as multiple form impact printing and even these are increasingly rare.

Stand-alone or networked? – If you plan to share the printer on the network you need to ensure that it has this capability.

A need for speed? – If you have a heavy output or plan to share the printer amongst many users, you might need a faster printer that will save on people waiting for print outs to get through the queue. But any shared printer is also likely to be networked so the speed of your network will also be a factor.

Cost considerations – Printers cost relatively little to buy – it’s the ink cartridges and the toner that costs the money in the long run. Looking at the life cycle of the print cartridges and other consumables and trying to calculate how often you might need to change them is important.

The options – different types of printer

Personal Ink-Jets – For one individual, or a department with few requirements for colour printing, a low-cost personal ink-jet will be the best. These combine a low initial cost, along with the flexibility to print on a variety of media, such as promotional materials.

Business Ink-Jets – In a larger business or one where there is more demands for colour output, the workload may be too much for a ‘personal’ printer. Moving up to a unit

designed specifically for business will give you a lower cost per page and many models use ink-saving techniques and modular cartridges so that you don’t need to change the colour when you change the black and white cartridges for instance.

Lasers – Large companies demand more output of all kinds, and higher demands for colour output on standard-size paper may be addressed with a laser printer – these always used to be black and white only but are increasingly colour capable. If you do have a heavy B&W; output though, they are still the best bet and will give you the lowest cost of monochrome printing – whereas ink-jets tend to give you a lower cost for colour output. That said, there are now some very affordable colour lasers on the market.

Large format – If you have serious work to do – such as design work or over-size documents for displays – you might want to consider a large format printer capable of printing on very large pieces of paper. You need to look at this carefully if you do and consider all the factors - quality of output, colour capability, speed, networking capability and whether or not there are functions such as scanning and copying.

Photo printers – This is what most people have in their homes today. It is basically a personal colour ink-jet with a higher capability for printing on special photo paper. They can also be useful in business though – to incorporate photos into marketing or training materials for example.

Multi-function printers or MFPs – The MFP, as most people in the IT business call it, combines print, copier, scanner and fax capability in a single unit. These devices are surprisingly compact and, these days, relatively affordable as well with some devices starting at prices under £200. But of course, you do need to be discerning in your choice and ensure that you only buy what you really need. If you need a good office printer that will be shared by several users and expected to churn out a lot of print, it is probably worth buying a dedicated device.

Impact printers – You can still buy dot-matrix and even daisywheel devices for specialist impact applications such as multiple-copy form printing. These tend to be a bit more expensive and more robust and bulky than the commonplace ink-jets and laser printers. They are also much noisier.

Other factors you need to consider

Support and backup from your supplier – All printers come with a warranty or guarantee that entitles you to one year’s ‘return to base’ servicing and repairs and in some cases this extends to two or three years.

Green credentials – If you want to ensure that you do your bit to protect the environment it is worth asking a number of other questions. Doing this may also save you money. What sort of power consumption and stand-by power-down features does the printer have? Is it easy to print in duplex mode (i.e. double-sided) or is an additional module required to do this? Can consumables like laser drums and ink cartridges be recycled? Is the printer RoHS-compliant (it should be by now) and does your supplier have a scheme for disposal of the printer, once it has reached the end of its useful life, under the WEEE directive?

Where to buy – You can buy printers on–line, in retail outlets, from stationery suppliers and even from your local supermarket these days.