I need to buy a new office printer. What should I purchase?

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The business world is becoming increasingly more paperless, but many small business owners and their employees still must toil in reams of paper and vats of toner. If you’re a lawyer, car dealer, healthcare provider, or anyone who handles contracts and receipts, there is no escaping the necessity of paper. While the technology of making paper hasn’t evolved drastically in the last 50 years, the method for printing on it certainly has.

Printers can be a real headache for small businesses. Beyond handling a constant onslaught of printing jobs, printers must also have connectivity, reliability, speed, scanning, faxing, copying, ease of use, and a modicum of intuitive troubleshooting when it inevitably fails or jams. In a small business where your IT person is whoever used the device last, a printer needs to work on demand and be the mechanical equivalent of the Swiss army knife. So if you’re about to pick up “any printer” at Staples over lunch, take a moment to consider these things that you may not be thinking about.

First, ink (or “toner,” as the printer industry likes to call it) is the real bear. Pick up a cheap home or business model, and you’re likely to find out that custom ink cartridges are where the actual costs are. Ink-gouging is nearly industry wide, so the best way to work around it is to understand what kind of things you’ll be printing.

Second, do you really need to print in color? Unless you are printing brochures or fancy designs in-house, color printing will skyrocket your ink costs, as well as your maintenance issues. If you’re mainly dealing with contracts, receipts, memos and records, steer clear of color.

Third, businesses looking for less expensive ink, black-and-white printing and speed of delivery should only consider laser printers. While off-the-shelf laser printers may cost more, their ink cartridges are larger and only one color. This means less maintenance, longer-lasting cartridges, lower toner costs, and, as a bonus, crisper text.

As for brands, printers are not a Ford or Chevy debate. The well-known consumer brands such as HP, Canon and Epson get a bad rap, but some of their laser products are top-notch. ♦

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

 

 

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