Running a small business comes with many challenges, one of which is choosing the right office equipment to meet your needs. An essential piece of equipment for any company is a reliable printer. You rely on your printer for everything from printing invoices and reports to creating marketing materials and documents.
When evaluating printers for your small business, there are several key factors to consider so you select the right model for your needs and budget. Carefully weighing these aspects will ensure your new printer helps drive productivity and efficiency across your organization. This article explores the criteria and printer types to consider when buying a printer for an SMB.
Assess Your Printing Needs
Before starting your search, identify what you will primarily use the printer for. Important questions to ask include:
- What types of documents do you regularly print? Common examples are invoices, contracts, marketing materials like brochures or flyers, manuals, financial reports, billing statements, etc.
- How many pages do you anticipate printing each month? Do you need a high print volume?
- Will you mostly print black and white documents or require color printing?
- Do employees need to print from multiple computers or mobile devices?
- What sizes of paper do you use for different document types?
- Do you need specialty features like scanning, copying or fax capability?
Once you have outlined your core printing tasks and volume, you can use those details to evaluate which printer capabilities best fit your small business’s needs. Also consider any future printing requirements as your company grows or changes.
Key Printer Features for Small Businesses
Fast Print Speed
One of the top factors to evaluate is print speed measured in pages per minute (ppm). Print speed indicates how quickly the printer can produce a document.
Faster print speeds are beneficial for handling high print volumes and keeping work flowing efficiently. When employees don’t have to wait long for critical documents, it enhances office productivity.
For moderate printing needs of 1,000 or fewer pages monthly, a printer with 20-30 ppm is typically adequate. Higher volume office environments with lots of daily printing and tight deadlines may benefit from a quicker laser printer with 30+ ppm for black and white and minimum 20 ppm for color.
The printer’s output quality directly affects how professional your documents look. Laser and inkjet printers deliver better resolution and sharper graphics and text for more polished company materials than lower-end models.
Inkjet printers work well for occasional color printing with quality almost comparable to a laser printer on plain paper. They also tend to cost less upfront, but ink refill expenses can add up over time.
Laser printers produce superior black text and monochrome graphics. They are ideal for high-volume black and white document printing. Although color laser printers cost more, the quality can justify the price if professional full-color prints are vital for your business reports and marketing collateral.
Cost Efficiency Over Time
The purchase cost is obviously important when buying office equipment. However, also calculate long-term operating costs for toner or ink replacement and energy consumption to determine the printer’s total cost of ownership (TCO).
Inkjet cartridge expenses can make cheaper units cost more per page over time. Laser toner lasts significantly longer than ink cartridges before needing a replacement, especially for more economical black and white printing.
Energy efficiency features like automatic power-saving modes during inactive periods help minimize electric costs. Consider efficiency ratings and testing conductors like ENERGY STAR® when evaluating operating costs.
Printers with paper trays that hold larger reams can also enhance efficiency by reducing refill frequency.
Most current models allow both wired (Ethernet) and wireless connectivity for convenient network access. Key connectivity aspects include:
- Does the printer offer built-in wireless and Ethernet, or is a special adapter needed?
- If your office uses mobile devices, check for compatibility with printing protocols like Apple AirPrint®, Google Cloud PrintTM or Mopria® to print directly from phones or tablets. NFC tap-to-print mobile connection is another handy feature.
- Does the printer include Wi-Fi Direct for peer-to-peer connectivity between wireless devices without a router?
- Multi-function printers often offer USB connectivity beside the main input paper tray to print directly from a flash drive.
- Some models support popular cloud services through integrations with apps like Dropbox, Evernote, Google DriveTM or Microsoft OneDrive®.
World-Class Printer Security
Protect corporate data from potential leaks or breaches through the printer with robust security provisions including:
- Encryption capabilities to scramble information as it transfers to and from the device
- Secure protocols like IPsec, SNMPv3 or SSL/TLS to prevent unauthorized access
- Options for authentication like PIN codes or badge release to control access
- Hard drive locking to block unauthorized access to any documents stored on internal drives
A printer’s paper tray capacity, supported sizes and automatic document feeder function affect efficiency. Larger trays reduce reloading needs for busy offices. Common standard sizes like letter, legal and ledger are essential, while the ability to print envelopes, labels or custom media can assist specialized tasks.
An automatic document feeder (ADF) saves employees substantial time when making multiple copies or scanning multi-page reports by feeding each sheet without manually replacing documents. For frequent large copy jobs, a higher-capacity ADF is worthwhile.
Budget-Friendly Operating Costs
One advantage of a laser printer is lower long-term ownership costs, thanks to high-capacity toner cartridges lasting through thousands of pages before needing replacement. By comparison inkjet printers require replacing expensive cartridges much more frequently to maintain print quality.
Consider efficiency programs from printer manufacturers allowing more economical toner replenishment options based on your average monthly print volume. For example, HP offers cost-efficient managed printing services and plans for SMBs to optimize toner usage like HP Instant Ink or HP+ services.
Types of Printers Suitable for Small Businesses
Now that we’ve covered the key features to evaluate, let’s examine some printer categories and major brands offering models well-suited for SMB environments.
Laser printers produce professional-quality output with sharp black text well-suited for high-volume document printing. Using static electricity and toner powder or gel, they are extremely fast and durable for busy offices. Monochrome laser printers print only in black and white, while color lasers also support full, vibrant color graphics and photos when required for brochures, presentations or reports.
Major laser printer manufacturers include Brother, Canon, HP, Konica Minolta and Xerox. When evaluating laser printer models, pay attention to the duty cycle monthly maximum print volume recommended to match your business’s needs. Other factors are print speeds, paper trays, security provisions and toner yields.
Multifunction (All-In-One) Printers
Multifunction or all-in-one (AIO) printers incorporate printing capabilities with scanning, copying and sometimes fax functionality into one device. This combo printer and office copier saves significant space over separate machines. It also offers cost savings and workflow efficiencies since employees can quickly copy, scan or fax documents without switching between numerous gadgets.
Inkjet printers more commonly support scanning/copying functions, while laser all-in-ones provide faster output speeds and higher monthly duty cycles better suited for busy workgroups.
Canon, Epson, HP and Brother lead the multifunction printer market, so you can compare those manufacturer’s models for the best fit. Focus attention on print quality, color scanning functionality if needed, paper handling and the provider’s print/scan software usability.
Does your team ever need to print documents, invoices or records from job sites or while traveling off-site? Today’s portable printers allow printing from mobile devices virtually anywhere thanks to lightweight construction and built-in battery power combined with wireless connectivity. These modern conveniences make remote printing possible from customer locations or even user smartphones, tablets or laptops in the field.
Top manufacturers providing rugged, reliable mobile printers include Brother, Canon, Epson, Fujitsu and Zebra Technologies focused on on-the-go requirements. When evaluating portable printer options, prioritize mobility, print speed/quality, paper handling, battery life span between charges and device durability/reliability.
Departmental Workgroup Printers
Larger businesses may benefit from installing faster, higher-duty printers designated for workgroups with the highest daily print volumes like accounting, customer service or human resources departments. These workhorse printers can churn out documents at speeds over 40+ ppm to meet tight deadlines. They come equipped with multiple large-capacity paper trays to minimize reloading needs plus advanced networking for convenient access across the workgroup.
All the major printer brands offer departmental models designed for mid-to-large size business applications needing robust functionality, easy networking and simple central management. Focus comparisons on print speeds, maximum monthly duty cycle, standard and optional paper trays, security features and standard network management tools.
What About Managed Print Services?
Another option worth considering is outsourcing management and maintenance of your business’s printers through a managed print service (MPS). An MPS provider supplies the printers, toner, parts and service technicians as part of a simple per-page printing fee. This routes the hassles of purchasing, replacing and repairing office printers to outside experts so you can focus on core operations.
Managed print services often prove cost-effective for document-intensive SMBs by:
- Optimizing device efficiencies to cut unnecessary printing and related costs
- Lowering labor obligations related to printer troubleshooting or supply management
- Providing group printers with follow-me printing helpful for on-the-go mobile employees
- Enabling convenient printer monitoring to proactively address potential device issues before disruptions
- Scalable printing functionality aligns with evolving business requirements
- Predictable budgets from fixed per-page print costs
By outsourcing printer management to an MPS program, small businesses obtain reliable, business-grade printing matched to their current needs. That liberates in-house staff from equipment headaches so they can better assist customers and spur productivity.
Key Takeaways in Selecting an SMB Printer
To recap, follow this decision checklist when buying printers for your small business:
- Carefully evaluate typical printing needs for volume, formats, special features, etc.
- Prioritize speed, print quality, operating costs and security based on document importance and usage frequency
- Compare leading printer models and brands for capabilities that best align with SMB requirements
- Calculate total lifecycle expenses (including long-term consumables like ink or toner) to determine cost efficiency
- Determine whether outsourcing printing through a managed print service makes sense for your company from a convenience, cost and reliability standpoint
- Check that the printer fits within annual budgets while delivering the performance and versatility your business needs both currently and as operational needs evolve in the future
By carefully weighing these factors, your company can invest wisely in new printers tailored for commercial environments. Today’s latest models make printing faster and easier so that creating critical documents fits seamlessly into daily work rather than hindering productivity. The right printer ultimately helps build a more collaborative, efficient work environment essential for small business growth.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What functions do I need in a printer for my small business?
Start by evaluating your core printing volume to determine an adequate print speed measured in pages per minute (ppm) along with monthly maximum duty cycle. Also factor special features like scanning, copying, faxing, networking protocols or finishing options that prove worthwhile for business-related documents.
- Should I buy or lease my office printers?
If cash flow is tight, leasing allows upgrading printers more frequently to avoid obsolescence. However, purchasing is typically more cost-effective long term and gives full ownership. Managed print services offer a hybrid approach leveraging outside expertise to maximize printer ROI.
- What is the typical lifecycle of a workgroup printer?
With proper maintenance, newer enterprise-level monochrome laser printers average lifespans around 5-8 years. High-use color lasers may last 3-5 years before requiring replacement. Inkjet all-in-ones tend to have shorter 2-4 year effective lifespans.
- How much should I budget for a decent color laser printer?
At publication time, quality color laser printers for SMB use start around $300 on the low end, with versatile mid-range models between $400-$700. High-volume networkable color lasers run from $800 up to several thousand dollars for busy workgroups.
- What supplies do laser printers use?
Laser printers rely on toner powder, now also available in gel formulations, to bond the print to paper using precision heat and pressure. Toner cartridges must be replaced periodically, with higher-yield cartridges reducing long-term costs.
- Should I consider an extended printer warranty?
Extended warranties beyond the initial year may provide worthwhile protection given that printers contain many components vulnerable to eventual failure. Just ensure terms align with your expected three-to-five year usage before paying extra.
- How often should you maintenance clean a printer?
To maintain excellent print quality and extend operational reliability, plan to thoroughly clean laser printers inside and out every few months. Pay particular attention to clearing paper dust from key internal components like rollers, fusers and transfers belts when cleaning.
- What printer security features protect documents?
Standard data protections like encryption, secure protocols, user authentication and hard drive locks boost printer security. Extra functions like watermarks, digital signatures, secure print jobs, automatic data deletions after printing and physical device locks also help fortify sensitive documents.
- How can I estimate total cost of ownership before buying a printer?
When printer shopping, pay attention to total lifecycle costs, not just upfront purchase prices. Calculate expenses like long-term supplies, maintenance kits, power consumption and replacement parts over an assumed three to five year useful lifespan to determine overall TCO.
- Should my small business invest in a label printer?
If your business ships many packages or needs to mark assets/inventory, a desktop label printer easily creates shipping labels, name badges, file folder tags and more specialized media keeps branding consistent. Top label printer brands include Brother, Dymo, Epson and Zebra.
- What features help printers connect with mobile devices?
To enable convenient mobile printing, look for wireless connectivity options like Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, Bluetooth or NFC tap-to-print which allow sending print jobs from smartphones, tablets and laptops to compatible printers.
- How many pages can the average printer print per month?
Light-duty basic printers max out around 1,000-2,000 pages per month, while moderate home office printers print 5,000+ pages monthly. Standard workgroup printers handle 10,000-50,000 pages per month. But maximum monthly duty cycles of robust enterprise-grade units reach up to 300,000 pages for busy departments.
- What does ppm (pages per minute) mean for printers?
Pages per minute (ppm) indicates print speed, meaning how many sides of a full sheet of paper the printer can complete per minute. Most printers list separate ppm rates for black-only versus full color prints. Faster speeds improve efficiency for frequent high-volume business printing.
- What paper sizes should my office printer support?
To meet typical business needs, prioritize printers handling letter (8.5 x 11 inches), legal (8.5 x 14 inches) and 11 x 17 inch tabloid or ledger sizes. Automatic support for envelopes and ability to accommodate custom media sizes up to 12 x 18 inches may also prove helpful.
Choosing an effective printer tailored for your company’s needs boosts document workflows and office efficiencies. Carefully reflecting on usage requirements, running costs, key features and leading printer manufacturers’ offerings ensures your purchase decision aligns with current small business printing demands. Investing in the right printer ultimately relieves frustrations over equipment shortcomings.
With faster speeds, enhanced connectivity, stringent security, sharper quality and simplified management capabilities, the latest generation of office printers better encourages staff productivity while presenting a more professional image critical for small business growth. By following the guidance in this article, your company can benefit from modern printing innovations while avoiding regret over choosing the wrong model.