MFPs and copiers let small businesses create, duplicate and transmit documents from one location. Previously, offices relied on multiple machines to do everything that a modern multifunction printer or copier can. As the years went on, technological advances allowed manufacturers to develop cheaper and smaller components that could work together in a single system. As such, multifunction printers and copiers provide a flexible platform upon which small businesses can operate more efficiently.
As a small business owner, you may wonder how beneficial it would be to have a multifunction printer or copier in your office, given the initial cost of purchasing or leasing a machine and the need to keep paper and replacement ink or toner cartridges in stock. That question becomes even more prevalent if there are print shops nearby, including major chains like Staples that offer printing services. While taking your printing and copying needs to a third party may be an attractive option, a dedicated multifunction printer and copier in your office will save you money in the long run, since most machines can print each page for pennies when you factor in paper, ink and the overall duty cycle. Keeping these tasks in-house also makes document organization easier and keeps sensitive data in a more centrally located and secure location.
Along with their in-office benefits, MFPs and multifunction copiers often have features that not only make day-to-day operations more efficient but can also make certain tasks easier. The following are some of the features to be on the lookout for when you're considering a machine for your office.
When printing or copying a document, no one wants to stand around a machine waiting for the job to complete. Most manufacturers of today's multifunction printers and copiers strive to put fast printing machines on the market. As small businesses grow to add more employees, a faster machine will greatly benefit that company, since a slower device will be a productivity bottleneck.
Measured in pages per minute (ppm), a machine's print speed is usually the same for monochrome documents as it is for color documents, with laser printer models generally outperforming inkjet printer models. In our research, we found machines as slow as 15 ppm and as fast as 85 ppm. Naturally, the faster machines have higher price tags. The decision of how fast you need your printing to go depends largely on how frequently you need that printer to run in the first place.
Ease of Use
A multifunction printer and copier should be easy to use, since nearly everyone in your office will need to use it at some point. Thanks to most modern models' reliance on a color touchscreen and integration with Android and iOS devices for wireless printing, today's machines are highly functional regardless of a user's technical savvy.
Ease of use also applies to the system's initial setup and user training. Most malfunctions can be attributed to human error, leading to major blocks in production. For example, if a widely distributed memo is hard to read because the machine wasn't operated correctly, that will hamper your company's ability to disseminate information and result in a loss of supplies if the job must be redone.
Every multifunction device on the market has limitations. For multifunction printers and copiers, the main limitation is the duty cycle, or the maximum number of pages the machine can run through in a month. Think of it as a rule of thumb for the machine's operational endurance. In our research, we found machines that can only handle 10,000 pages per month and some that can handle 720,000. You'll need to weigh how important a machine's duty cycle is against how many pages you expect to run through it.
Connectivity and Accessibility
A modern multifunction printer and copier can connect to the internet to conduct certain tasks. It's important to consider what internet-powered features matter to your business, such as cloud-based file organization to download and print documents or faxing capabilities. In addition to online functionality, some printers can interface with other devices, such as USB flash drives or mobile phones for wireless connectivity via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
The hands-free technology in today's multifunction printers and copiers also makes these machines more accessible to a wider range of employees. Individuals with disabilities often have trouble with office machinery, so manufacturers have taken steps to make things easier for those users. With features like embossed marks on keyboards, motion sensors and larger, easier-to-read color touchscreens, anyone can use one of these machines effectively. Those additions increase not only your workers' options, but also the machine's ease of use, allowing everyone in your office to use the machine regardless of any disabilities they may have.
When looking for a cloud-compatible multifunction printer and copier, you should pay attention to the onboard data and network security measures. When you add a copy machine to your local network, it's another endpoint device that malicious actors can use to exploit your file systems. Many copiers have password controls, centralized print policy protocols that a system administrator can use to set rules for how the machine acts, and user-level access options to keep unauthorized people from using the machine. Some have encrypted hard drives to store sensitive data, while others rely on encryption protocols for their internet connections to keep data safe. If your business deals in HIPAA-protected consumer data, security should be a top priority for you in the copier you choose.
Though no one is expected to move the office's multifunction printer and copier around at a moment's notice, it's important to consider how much space the machine will occupy. Small businesses tend to not have a lot of real estate when starting out, so a massive machine would likely not make sense for most companies unless it's the crux of the business. In many cases, these machines are going to stay on a desk or filing cabinet, so weight is also an important consideration.
Key takeaway: Since most multifunction printers and copiers mostly operate the same way, features like internet functionality, high print speeds and intuitive controls can help you distinguish the best machines from mediocre ones.