What’s the right printer for me?
With so many options and features, it can be hard to even know where to start. Our quick guide helps you understand your requirements.
Buying a printer – which is right for me?
Choosing a £50 printer for home is probably a quick but dismal trip to a retail park without too much thought or research. Choosing a printer for your charity or business is a totally different ball game.
Take some time to think about the features you’ll need rather than the ones salespeople tell you that you need. It will pay off in the long run and at least it doesn’t involve a bleak shopping trip.
Armed with your list of features will make choosing a supplier and machine so much easier.
Here’s our quick guide on the list of printer features you need to think about…
- A printer for your organisational needs – scanning, A3, centralised print hub, document storage…
A startling fact is that on average, organisations only use around 20% of the features. For instance, do you need A3 printing? If it’s a tiny amount then an A4-only printer could be the most cost-effective solution.
- What about scanning capability? The growth in home working has led to a huge increase in digital document delivery. If your staff require to sign or annotate paper documents then send them on, the ability to digitise these probably suggests a need for this facility.
- Consider your existing office systems? Does it need to integrate with them, linking with things like Document Storage.
- The location of staff will also affect whether you go for a centralised print hub or more localised workgroup access.
- Accountants love allocation to cost codes or Print Release as it’s known in the industry. If you have lots of cost codes you’re probably with the Accountant on this one. If you’ve only one cost centre then it’s probably one feature too many.
- Information security may also be a factor when choosing the best printer for you; is the content of the printing confidential or subject to the Data Protection Act? In which case you may need to manage access to documents that go through the printer.
- Do you need additional functionality for disabled or sight-impaired users?
- How much are you printing?
Clearly, the amount you print will be a factor. Watch out for printer suppliers who charge a minimum volume. A print audit can tally who is printing what, at what time of day as well as quantity and size of document.
If you already have a modern machine it can tell you in detail what is being printed as well as what you ate for breakfast. Otherwise, keep track of print usage manually for a month to estimate future monthly volumes.
Bear in mind that you may have peak volume periods when everyone is fighting to use the printer such as the start of a school term or end of financial year.
- Laser vs Inkjet?
Laser vs Inkjet is one of those questions that you think you know the answer to but probably don’t.
Traditionally, lasers have produced better quality but this is reflected in the cost and (poorer) environmental credentials. Inkjet has improved in quality and ink now dries immediately and doesn’t smudge – laser still has the high sheen though.
In weighing up these two technologies Home vs Office use is a consideration. Partly environmental – inkjet can use as little as 10% of power compared with the equivalent laser and with less components and consumables means less packaging waste and delivery mileage.
Budget, or cost is a significant differentiator as well. Lasers are on average 20% more expensive on hardware and at least twice as much on operating costs.
Despite the cheap purchase price, home-use products from retailers tend to be significantly more expensive per printed page to operate, making them a poor choice for someone working from home if they are doing much printing (~30 pages per week). They also come limited support if something goes wrong.
Last but certainly not least on the laser vs inkjet debate is reliability. If your printer stopped working for a day what would be the impact on your organisation? As we all know, it’s always going to be the day when you need it most. Inkjet models have significantly less consumable parts that are common failure points on lasers improving their reliability and environmental footprint.
- Do you need to be able to Fax?
Fond memories of faxing used to announce your advancing years to colleagues. Enjoy the nostalgia but faxing, although not as popular as it once was remains alive and well, often because it’s seen as being secure and an alternative when IT Infrastructures go down. It remains popular in the United States, Germany and Japan, often in government, healthcare and finance sectors.
QR codes were unloved until the pandemic revealed their worth and, like bar codes, are used in many scanning environments now.
- Printing finishing and other options – do you need stapling, booklet finishers or wide format?
Things to think about include double-sided print, also known as duplex although many organisations would probably consider this essential from an environmental point of view.
Do you need stapling units or booklet finishers? If you’re doing big mail outs you may need a labels facility or need speciality paper stock then a large capacity tray could be essential. For large volume scanning then a heavy-duty document feed system will be more robust.
Perhaps some of the more specialist requirements include print room for extremely high volumes, banner printing up to 1.2metres and wide format printing such as A1 and A0.
Again though, think carefully about how often you’ll use these functions because it may be cheaper to contract these out rather than pay extra to have them in-house.
That’s pretty much everything you need to think about when buying or renting such an important piece of kit for your charity or business. You’re all set to resist the salesperson selling you features you don’t need!
A startling fact is that on average, businesses only use around 20% of the features. Eg: do you need A3 printing? If it’s a tiny amount then an A4-only printer could be the most cost-effective solution.