5 Steps to Choosing a Business Printer

Updated: March 05, 2010

1. Define Printer Users

  • Which person or group will use the printer?
  • How many people will use the printer as their primary printer?
  • How many people will use the printer for special projects?

To define the print requirements, start with the person or group using the printer. Group printers serve more people for less money, so avoid individual printers whenever possible.

If the printer chosen is a specialty printer, such as a color laser, other groups my share the printer for certain projects. Include those users in your count as well. Murphy's Law dictates that during a project crunch, everyone who has access to a special printer will demand heavy use from that printer. Make sure the printer you choose can handle the occasional peak loads those crunches create.

2. Define Printer Output Type and Volume

  • Monochrome or color?
  • Any specialty papers or forms?
  • Handful of pages per week? 100 pages? 1,000 pages? 5,000 pages?

Make monochrome the default printer choice. Color printers cost more per page of output, so make the group requesting the printer justify the extra expense. One special color printer can be shared among several work groups to encourage cost savings, yet still provide color when necessary.

Be clear and complete when figuring the output volume. Few users can estimate their printer use accurately, so count the reams of paper used in the past for an estimate, then increase that number by one-third.

Internal documents lean heavily toward monochrome. Customer-facing documents benefit from color, and marketing groups need quality color output. And although the notion, "Executives love graphs," is a cliché, it remains true.

Color output has value, but choose the groups that receive color printers carefully. Verify that their printing needs are three to five times more valuable per page than monochrome to justify the three to five times higher cost of color pages.

3. Printer Only or MFP?

  • Will the workgroup benefit from a printer/copier combination?
  • Will the workgroup benefit from a printer/scanner combination?
  • Will a backup fax, even if outbound only, improve workflow?

Modern MFPs provide the same quality print output and include high-resolution scanners and medium-use copiers as part of the bargain. The bundled price for an MFP is far lower than the cost of the three or four devices separately, and requires far less space in crowded offices.

Many MFPs require a substantial software load on every client beyond the print driver, even for users who only print. If you plan for a select group to use the scanner and a larger group to use the printer, verify the vendor has a print-only software load option.

4. Satisfy Your Constraints

  • Existing volume discounts with a particular vendor?
  • Biases against particular printer types or vendors?
  • Management applications support only certain printer models?
  • Supplies purchasing encourage choosing new printers from approved vendors?

Every business decision includes constraints, and choosing a printer has plenty of unwritten rules that must be followed. With the aid of this Buyer's Guide, now is a good time to put those unwritten rules into the printer selection process.

5. Select From the Comparison Guide

  • Which features are most important, in order?
  • Which printer or printers include all the features necessary?
  • Which printers have the lowest consumables cost?

The printer market today is so competitive, and vendors match up their features to those from other vendors so well, that only rarely do you find a single printer that will fulfill your needs. Use the Comparison Guide to locate your top candidates, then go the next step and check actual prices you will pay for the printer and consumables through existing contracts or careful purchasing. Once you have developed your vendor short list and print models best suited to your print requirements, approach those vendors or resellers for test units.

All things being equal, the printer with the least expensive consumables will have the lowest cost of ownership.

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