This section really isn’t all that hard. But we’ll take a minute or two to review each of these technologies and comment briefly on them.
Printers create textual and graphical output on paper. They come in several varieties:
- Color Options: The colors they can print – Black and White or Color.
- Method: The method they use to create the images on the paper – this includes Inkjet, Laser, or Wax.
- Very few businesses should be using inkjet. While it may be tempting because the price on inkjet printers is so low, don’t be deceived. The costs in ink are quite high and will quickly raise the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the printer far above that of a similar laser or wax model.
- Laser has a high capacity print for a low price and is a good choice.
- Wax is an attractive choice because it has a high yield with a similar price point as laser but with a more environmentally friendly approach that doesn’t include cartridges – just blocks of wax.
Fax machines allow one to transmit a copy of a document from one location to another. These are remnants of an older day, but still heavily in use – in part b/c laws sometimes permit faxed documents to be legally binding but not other formats – such as emailed documents.
You have several options when purchasing a fax:
- Traditional – In this case your fax will attach to a traditional phone jack and operate over regular phone lines. This means you’ll pay long-distance charges, the connection will be slow (dial-up internet speeds), but the device will be fairly inexpensive.
- Service – You can use a service such as eFax to get around having a fax machine at all. Scan in a digital copy of a document and then send it via a service like eFax to have it transmitted to another fax machine. Personally, I find HelloFax very intuitive and free for basic use.
- IP Based Fax – This utilizes a number of different methods to allow for sending a fax over the TCP/IP network while still being received as a physical fax on the recipient side. It usually involves either a traditional fax machine with a converter box to translate the signal to IP and back or a fax machine which is built to operate on IP.
Scanners are used to take a one dimensional object (e.g. printed text or images) and create an image representation of it on a computer in one of a variety of formats. Using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software one can turn documents (with a high degree of accuracy) into electronic documents (e.g. a Microsoft Word document) rather than images of a document (e.g. a JPEG file).
Copiers are used to create a physical copy of an already existing paper document or image.
When we talk about the devices above it is worthwhile to note that there is little reason to have these devices as separate entities. Rather most printer manufacturers now offer multi-function machines which are capable of performing all these different roles in one unit. This has several significant and distinct advantages:
- Centralized Troubleshooting – Rather than having a multitude of devices for technicians to troubleshoot this creates one centralized device to be troubleshot, of course it also makes one centralized point of failure. It may be worthwhile to purchase a same-day 4 hr. repair warranty if you have only one multifunction or to purchase a spare unit.
- Space Savings – The sprawl of equipment can be significantly condensed in this one unit.
- Price Savings – Multifunctions are affordable in price and are much better than redundant, seldom used multiple instances of devices.
Secondly, it is worth noting that there is very little reason for there to be multiple devices in a small or medium office. As a culture we are already overweight, it is not going to hurt anyone to get up and walk to a centralized location to get their papers from a multifunction.
There are numerous manufacturers of these devices, some popular choices include HP, Konica-Minolta, Canon, and Xerox. Dell has also been entering the market and I have been generally pleased with their products thus far.