Small Business Guide to Printers and Printing

As printers have gotten smaller and less expensive, most small business owners don’t think as carefully about what printer to buy as they once did. It used to be a big decision for a business to select a printer, particularly when all the printing done in an office might be done by a single high volume printer.

Today, printers are more capable, but much less costly than they once were, making the decision around which printer to buy less of a concern to business owners. In fact, when it’s time to buy a new printer some business owners simply don’t give it much thought. They buy the cheapest one, or the one that most closely resembles the last printer they had.

We think this is a mistake. A printer is an essential part of your business and while it’s true that printers aren’t as expensive as they once were, it’s still a decision you need to take seriously.

Printers aren’t what they used to be

Yesterday’s printers were big, expensive behemoths that represented a significant investment for business owners. As such, the decision to buy one involved quite a bit of research into their features and how they worked. Today, printers – even top quality laser printers – are much less expensive, so it’s not unusual for the decision to buy one to be handled somewhat on the fly.

But this is a mistake. Today’s printers have some important differences compared to the ones you might have bought a decade ago. It’s important to understand some of these differences so that you’ll know what you’re buying.

What are some of these differences?

Many printers are IOT-enabled. Your printer now comes with many features that were not possible a decade ago. It can perform routine self-diagnosis and update itself when it needs a security patch. It can tell you when it’s low on ink and it can even order that ink for you via the internet. It can do these things because it is connected to the Internet of Things. These features make owning and maintaining your printer much simpler, but they also may create a security vulnerability that can be exploited if proper security protocols aren’t employed. An attack of this type took place in February of 2017, underscoring the potential security vulnerability of IOT connected printers. The lesson here is that you should understand how your printer connects to the network and “phones home,” and take steps to ensure that it is not compromising the security of your network.

Laser printers are much less expensive. Most business owners are aware that laser printers are superior to inkjet for quality printing and imagery. But due to cost considerations they opt for inkjet, believing that laser printers are too expensive. A decade ago, when laser printers cost thousands of dollars, this was the case. But today a laser printer might only cost a few hundred dollars. They’re still more expensive than a comparable inkjet, but only marginally so. Today, price is not the differentiator it once was.

Printers are mobile. Printers used to take up an enormous amount of space. Now you can fit one in the glove compartment of your car. This means that if you’re doing a lot more of your work remotely or from a mobile phone, you no longer have to wait to return to your office to print those invoices or reports you created. Now you can print them out while you’re on the road. You can also print from any mobile device, using a wireless rather than a networked connection. This has clear benefits but also means that you need to take extra steps to secure a wireless enabled printer.

Printers are multifunction. Many printers aren’t just printers, they’re also copiers and fax machines. In a small office, one machine can now handle all the printing-related functions that might have once required three machines. So, when thinking about the price of a printer, consider all the ways it might be used.

Copier or Laser Printer?

One other thing to note about printers is that they are not the only technology that has seen a significant drop in prices over the last 10 years. Copiers have also come down significantly. Copiers and laser printers are also now typically multifunction, which means that a copier can be used as a printer, or vice versa. The difference between the two now typically has to do with the volume and speed of the machine. Printers are still usually slower than a high volume copier.

For business that does a lot of printing and copying, the most cost effective option may not be a printer at all – it may be a multi-function copier. These are typically more expensive than a laser printer, but can be leased if the purchase price doesn’t fit your budget.

Tolar Systems Can Help

Choosing the right printer for your business isn’t a simple matter of selecting the cheapest one. Like most technology decisions it requires consideration of your business needs and fully understanding all the options before you decide.

At Tolar Systems, we help clients understand their options so they can make the right decisions for their business. We also help clients securely manage and maintain their printers and other essential business systems to minimize downtime and disruptions to your business. Contact us today if you have questions about the printing solution that’s right for your business.