What Kind of Printer?

April 22, 2012 by  

One of the many things a technology buyer for a business, small or large, has to face is determining what kind and how many printers do you need to efficiently support your staff.

You might be lured by the cheap (under fifty dollars) desktop color inkjet printers, but before you commit to buying a slew of these little printers, consider that they may be cheap to buy, but cost a relative fortune to feed with ink cartridges. Cartridge prices range from $20 to $50 each. Further, if you don’t use the printer regularly, the tiny holes that spray the ink on your page will dry out and plug up, rendering your nearly full $35 inkjet cartridge useless.

You need to consider how many color documents your staff really needs to print. Think long and hard about this. You don’t need to print overhead slides anymore, as you can connect your office desktop or laptop computer to an LCD projector, using the same presentation graphics programs you are already comfortable using–programs like Apple’s Keynote or the ubiquitous Microsoft PowerPoint. If you need to give people copies of the presentation, save some paper and send them a PDF file instead. You probably don’t need to send color material to your customers or clients unless you are in the creative, real estate, or financial services businesses.

A networked business-class black and white laser printer will probably meet 90% of your real needs. I’m not talking about what you want and what might be nice. I’m talking about the tools you need to sustain a profitable business. If you can think in those cold, hard terms, I think you’ll agree.

Pages printed on a laser printer cost fractions of a penny each on the cheapest paper imaginable, where color inkjet printers cost as much as ten cents a page to run! Lasers are fast, and you can go a long way, usually 3-5,000 pages, before you have to replace the toner cartridge. Try to get that many pages out of an inkjet cartridge. Text quality is excellent, though graphics aren’t quite as attractive, and continuous tone images, like photos, are not the best on a laser.

Prices start at well under $100 for a simple networked (wired or wireless) printer. Add another hundred or so and you can get two-sided (duplex) printing. Add a little more, and you can have multiple paper trays, so you can print to more than one kind of paper on the same printer. Add a little more and you can have an all-in-one with all the features I just mentioned, plus a fax, a copier, and a scanner. A printer with all these features starts in the neighborhood of $500. With models capable of printing 15 to 20 pages per minute and more, you can get by with one of these for every 10 to 15 employees.

Still need color? You can get a networked color laser printer that gives you many of the same advantages as a black and white printer, with a somewhat higher per page cost and slower print times. Print quality is good, but not as good as the best inkjets.

Exceptions? Always. The residents of executive row probably aren’t willing to wait in line for their printouts, so either set up a dedicated laser printer for them in their work area, or give each of them an inexpensive desktop laser printer. Don’t forget your creative staff. Your graphic designers, web designers and marketing folks will probably need a color printer of some kind. Group them together and get one of the more inexpensive color lasers for their exclusive use.

Consider that some members of the staff may need to print confidential information on a regular basis, such as your HR folks, staff attorneys, and some managers (performance reviews, budgets, etc.). There are solutions that deal with this very issue on some of the better business laser printers. Look online or ask your sales representative.

Consider one or more laser printers for your office. You will see the savings immediately.

This article was originally written in 2009 as one of my weekly columns for the Palm Beach Business website, but is every bit as topical today. I might also add that for home users who don’t really need color, they, too should consider a laser printer.