How to Select the Best Printer for Your Business

If you haven't purchased a printer in a while, you might be in for a surprise. New features and advancements in printing technologies are challenging the long-held notion that laser printers are for businesses and inkjet printers are for consumers. Nowadays, both laser and inkjet printers can meet the needs of businesses.

Laser and inkjet printers offer a wide variety of features, which can make it difficult to choose a machine. By answering a few questions, you can get a better idea of the type of printer that will best fit your business's printing needs.

How Many Pages Do You Print Each Month?

Determining how many pages you and your employees will print each month is important. Purchasing a model designed for a low volume of printing when you really need one that can handle a high volume can lead to printer problems and excessive repairs. Conversely, buying an expensive, high-volume printer when you only need a low-volume one does not make sense financially.

Printer manufacturers often provide two measurements related to volume:

  • Maximum monthly duty cycle: This metric specifies the highest number of pages a printer can produce each month without being damaged. To determine this number, the manufacturer uses stress testing to bring the printer to the point of failure.
  • Recommended monthly page volume: This measurement represents the suggested range of printed pages each month. Staying within this range will help ensure optimal performance and a long printer life, according to the manufacturers.

When shopping for printers, you should keep these two metrics in mind. Your normal printing volume should be more in line with the recommended monthly page volume than the maximum monthly duty cycle. Printers that consistently operate close to their maximum number will require more maintenance, and those that regularly exceed it will likely break down.

How Fast Do You Need to Print?

Print speed is a factor you will want to consider, especially if the printer will be heavily used. Historically, laser printers have been faster than their inkjet counterparts. In some instances, this is no longer the case due to advancements in inkjet technology. The most notable development is the use of a stationary array of printing nozzles rather than the traditional moving array. The stationary array enables these inkjet machines to print at a rate similar to the speed of high-end laser machines. Additionally, new developments in inkjet-head designs have helped speed up inkjet printers. These improvements, though, are only found in some inkjet models.

The bottom line is that you cannot assume that inkjet printers are slow and laser printers are fast. Instead, you need to compare the print speed of the machines you are considering. Print speed is often measured by how many pages per minute (PPM) are printed. If many employees will be using the same printer or you often print long documents, you might want to get a machine that has a high PPM rate. Most printer specifications include PPM rates, so you can easily compare them.

It is important to keep in mind, though, that the PPM rate you experience in the office might be lower than the advertised rate. Many variables affect printer speed, including the print-quality setting you are using, whether your pages include graphic elements (e.g., images, lines), and even your computer's operating system. Plus, PPM rate does not take into account the time it takes printers to fully print the first page. The first page has its own metric (first page out) because printing it takes longer. This metric depends on several factors, including how long it takes to warm up the print engine and start the motor that drives the paper through the machine.

What Do You Want the Printer to Do?

Asking "What do you want the printer to do?" might seem silly — of course, you want it to print. However, some machines can do more. All-in-one printers provide additional capabilities such as copying, scanning, and faxing.

Having a machine that can print, copy, scan, and fax can save you money and office space because you only have to buy and house one machine rather than four. However, if the all-in-one printer breaks down, you could potentially be without all these capabilities. Plus, there are more points of failure. If a feature that you need fails and cannot be repaired, you have to replace the whole printer.

Do You Need to Print in Color?

Historically, laser printers were best for printing in monochrome (i.e., shades of one color, usually black), while inkjet printers were best for printing in color. Nowadays, the lines are somewhat blurred, thanks to advances in printing technology.

If you regularly print documents that contain charts, logos, or other visual elements, you will likely want to purchase a color printer. Otherwise, you might consider using a monochrome machine, which can help keep printing costs down.

No matter whether you want to get a color or monochrome machine, you need to consider its cost per page (CPP), which is a ballpark figure of how much you will spend on ink or toner to print one page. You can calculate a monochrome printer's CPP by dividing the ink or toner cartridge's price by its estimated page yield. For color printers, you need to make this calculation for each ink cartridge (e.g., yellow, magenta, cyan, and black cartridges) and add those numbers together.

Printer vendors provide the estimated page yields, which are usually included in the ink or toner cartridge's specifications. These numbers are generated according to guidelines published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), so they can easily be compared across printer brands. This comparison might show, for example, that a printer with a low sticker price will cost more in the long run due to a high CPP.

How Do You Want to Connect to the Printer?

Printers often provide several connectivity options, which fall into two categories: wired and wireless. Generally, wired connections are faster and more secure, while wireless connections are more convenient to use.

If you want a wired connection, you need to make sure that the printer has an Ethernet or USB port. Many machines have both. Using an Ethernet cable, you can connect a printer to a network. A USB cable is usually used to connect a printer to a single computer.

Wireless printers typically use Wi-Fi network connectivity. They also might support options that let you print from smartphones and other mobile devices. For instance, if both your phone and printer support Wi-Fi Direct, you can install an application that lets you print files from your phone without having to connect and log in to a Wi-Fi network.

Do You Need Specific Printer Features?

Laser and inkjet printers come with a wide variety of features. Popular ones among businesses include:

  • Duplexing (i.e., printing on both sides of a page)
  • Automatic document feeder
  • Dedicated tray for legal-size paper
  • Flatbed copier and scanner (all-in-one printers only)
  • Energy Star certified
  • Interactive touchscreen controls

Before shopping for a printer, it is a good idea to make a list of the features that you and your employees need. That way, you will remember to look for those features when comparing printers.

Do Your Research before Selecting a Printer

Business printers need to work efficiently and reliably in addition to producing quality results. So, when you are in the market for a new printer, it is important to do some research, such as finding out their CPPs and PPMs. If this proves to be a difficult task, we can help you select the best one for your business.