An Ugly job but someone’s gotta print it

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In a world that is becoming increasingly more paperless, some people still must toil in reams of paper and vats of toner. Who are these people? Small business owners and their employees. All jokes aside; if you’re a lawyer, car dealer, healthcare provider, or anyone that handles contracts and receipts there is no escaping the necessity of paper. While the technology of making paper hasn’t evolved to drastically in the last 50 years, the method for printing on it certainly has.

Printers are the real headache of paper-strapped small businesses. Beyond handling a constant onslaught of printing jobs, the requirements a printer must have to get purchase cover cost,  connectivity, reliability, speed, scanning, faxing, copying, ease of use, and a modicum of intuitive troubleshooting when it inevitably fails or jams. See in an office where your IT person is basically whomever used a device last, every device needs to work on-demand and be the mechanical equivalent of the swiss army knife, i.e. multifaceted. So if you’re about to fork over the company credit card to the office manager to pick up “any printer” at Staples over lunch, take a beat to consider the things you’re not thinking about.

First off, 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 very likely to find out custom ink cartridges are where the actual costs are. Ink-gouging is nearly industry wide, so the best work around 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 sky rocket your ink costs, as well as maintenance issues. So if you’re mainly dealing with contracts, receipts, memos, and records steer clear of color.

Third, businesses looking for cheaper 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.

Now as for brands… printers are not a 1940s Ford or Chevy debate. The well known consumer brands such as HP, Canon, and Epson get a bad wrap but some of their laser products are top notch. Now fork that company card over with confidence your office manager has a lunch errand to run.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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