Tips for Buying a Small Business Printer - Page 2

By Paul Mah
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An Important Consideration for Color Printing

Regardless of whether you purchase a small business inkjet or a laser printer, if you want to add color to the mix, you face yet another round of decision making. Specifically, you need to consider the type of print system the printer uses.

Does the printer use a single cartridge, or does it use a system with individual cartridges for black and the primary colors? The former costs less to manufacturer, but it results in waste should a particular colored-ink run out faster than the others. As you can imagine, printers with separate cartridges for each color tend to be more expensive.

Some small business printers may have a dedicated black cartridge and a second one containing the primary colors in separate partitions. Businesses that print predominantly in black-and -white, but dabble in the occasional color printouts will benefit from this type print system. Ultimately, the correct choice depends on the printing needs of individual businesses.

Print Volume and Paper Capacity

Though never publicized, all printers have a manufacturer-rated life expectancy. Hence, it's crucial that you make an accurate estimate of your company's printing volume, and then compare it against the expected page-production life of a printer. This will help you decide whether a printer is cost-effective to repair when its mechanical parts wear out.

Closely related to the expected lifespan of a printer is the capacity of its paper tray and paper-handling capabilities. Note that more advanced printer models may come with additional paper trays or receptacles for loading odd-sized paper, envelopes or even cardboard-type paper that's too thick for the internal tray.

Print Speed

A printer's print speed is an important consideration, and is usually calculated in (printed) pages per minute (PPM). Unfortunately, it is also surprisingly difficult to obtain an accurate assessment from the rating as most printer manufacturers measure the speed while printing plain text in draft mode or a similarly unrealistic resolution.

When buying more than one printer, don’t rely on the manufacturer's PPM rating. Instead, test a short-listed model using files that your company actually prints on a regular basis to decide if it's fast enough for your needs.

Do You Need Duplex Printing?

Duplex printing -- printing on both sides of a paper -- is an important feature for businesses that want to reduce paper waste. While it won’t help when printing packing lists or other documents that are strictly one-sided, it can nevertheless provide substantial savings when printing other documents such as invoices and press releases, for example.

The downside is that only higher-end printer models tend to incorporate duplex printing, which may price them beyond the budget of some small businesses.  

Networking: When to Go Wired

The popularity and increasing proliferation of Wi-Fi printers makes it worth noting that large print jobs may take longer to complete over a wireless network. This is due to the inherently slower effective throughput of Wi-Fi compared to wired Ethernet networks. If your company requires high volume printing, or deals extensively with high-resolution print jobs, pass on wireless printers and stick with wired Ethernet.

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on July 31, 2012
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