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Grow Your Business Technology

When Buying Business Printers, Think Dollars and Sense

Tax season is near and you suddenly might find yourself printing more than usual.

However, except for businesses that are print dependent — think publishers, graphic designers, artists — it's possible that owners or managers haven’t given much thought to their next printer investment. They might simply be waiting for the current machine to die.

While the stakes might not necessarily run high, owners would do right to give some consideration to what kind of printer they need. Printing costs money, and not just in paper and ink. Printing takes time away from workers’ main responsibilities, especially when the process doesn’t go well.

Where costs exist, so do opportunities to save. A business’s next purchase could have an impact on its bottom line.

Ink: The Office Caviar

Ink is not cheap. You don’t need to own an office supply company to understand that. One report several years back said that ink could cost as much as $22 for a quarter ounce. The price of ink can frustrate consumers because, unlike sweet crude oil, there’s no market that tells you how much it should cost.

Printer cartridges come in different sizes, depending on the type of printer, the brand and other factors. The only way to determine the expense is to calculate the cost per page — cartridge cost divided by expected number of printed pages. Consumers should expect to incur about 7 cents a page on an ink-jet machine and 1.5 cents per page for laser printing, according to Judah Lerer, owner of Monsey, N.Y.-based Office Solutions, an office machine and supply store with locations in New York, Rhode Island and Dallas.

Ink-jet vs. Laser Printing

For those who print less, the ink-jet makes more sense financially. For those who print more, the laser could be more cost effective.

The breakeven point for laser printing comes quickly, according to Lerer, who used to be a practicing CPA. He says that businesses printing 100 pages a week should  consider laser printing.

“You can’t increase the amount of time you have available,” Lerer said, emphasizing that time spent waiting for a page to print is not spent improving the business. He says that ignoring the speed of laser printing is a huge mistake that businesses make too often.

Network vs. Standalone

Many printers come in two versions: the standalone and the network. Same speed, same cartridges, but one can be plugged into a multiuser network.

Once a business takes the step of hiring an employee, it makes sense to use a network printer. While it may cost a bit more, one network printer can suffice for many people and ultimately reduce equipment costs.

A network printer shouldn’t be a burden on a business’s tech capacity. Lerer said that a network printer is one of the easiest network functions to handle.

Color vs. Black & White

The color question is a black-and-white issue. That’s because black-and-white printing is the way to go.

“Color consumables are enormously expensive, and I often recommend to my customers that they take their color printing off-site to places like
Kinkos,” Lerer said. “Color printers should only be purchased in an environment where there is a constant, regular and ongoing use and need.”

Empty Cartridges

Too often, empty cartridges tend to pile up in an out-of-the-way place until their clutter prompts someone to dump the lot into the trash.

Beware, there could be value in the empty cartridges. Lerer said that some empty cartridges can be worth $7 a piece. No, a business won’t shatter profit records at that rate. But the smallest enterprises, looking to eke out whatever savings they can, will do well to know how much value their cartridges have.

The bottom line is that printers are a numbers game. Lerer offers one overriding piece of advice: “The biggest mistake is being penny-wise and time-foolish.”