Despite the growing acceptance of digital documents and email, the small business printer remains an essential piece of office equipment. Part of the reason is that many vendors may not be sufficiently IT-savvy to work with online portals or even email. And more often than not, these businesses require the use of paper documentation as a mandatory part of their workflow.
Unlike large enterprises that can adopt an aggressive “adapt or forget about doing business with us” approach with their vendors, small businesses have no option but to continue working with them. This means that even forward-looking SMBs that have streamlined their operations to eliminate paper still need some type of small business printer.
With this in mind, we offer these tips for choosing the right kind of printer -- multifunction, inkjet or laser; color or black and white -- for your business.
When to Buy a Multifunction Printer
The first question to ask prior to buying a printer is whether a multifunction printer is more suited for the tasks you have at hand. For instance, small branch offices or retail outlets constrained by a lack of space may be better served with a multifunction device, which have a smaller footprint, and thus take up less floor or desk space.
Moreover, it also makes sense for offices without onsite IT staff to use a multifunction printer rather than having half a dozen different appliances; this also makes it easier to contract maintenance to an external vendor and reduce management complexity. You can read about the specific considerations for buying a multifunction printer in the article, Small Business Guide to Multifunction Printers.
Of course, buying a dedicated printer makes sense for organizations with a heavy print volume, or for companies that don’t do much scanning, photocopying or faxing. If that’s the case in your business, read on.
Making the Choice: Laser Versus Inkjet Printer
In general, laser printers are generally acknowledged to be much cheaper than liquid-based inkjet printers when it comes to operational costs, though detractors argue that the use of third-party refillable ink systems renders Inkjet printers competitive. However, doing so typically voids the printer’s warranty, which is hardly recommended for the majority of businesses out there.
For now, be aware that the business model of inkjet-printer manufacturers targeting the low-to-mid-end printer markets entails recouping their profits from the sales of consumables.
Of course, inkjet printers are not without their advantages. For one, you can buy them at very enticing promotional prices – often as low as a hundred dollars. That lets very small businesses get started with a minimal capital investment, upgrading only when business picks up. Also, inkjet print quality has improved substantially over the years to the point where it's generally very good.
On the downside, the print heads on inkjet cartridges may clog over prolonged periods of inactivity, though you can usually solve that by replacing the print cartridge or print head.
On the other hand, laser printer toner fuses with the surface of the paper resulting in output that's practically waterproof. Note that while most small business laser printers incorporate the drumhead inside a disposable cartridge, higher-end models may require occasional drum replacements, which adds to the overall cost.