Despite various past predictions, printing, faxing, scanning or photocopying have remained stubbornly ingrained in business, leaving the paperless office something of a pipe dream. Thankfully, a modern small business multifunction printer packs many of the above-mentioned features into a single device, cutting down on costs and eliminating the need to purchase and operate a bunch of disparate peripherals.
When it comes to multifunction printers though, how do you select the ideal unit among the many options on the market today? Given that new business printers are released all the time, or may not be available in your region to begin with, we won't provide a list of specific models in this article. Instead, we'll identify six of the most important features that you should look for when shopping for your next small business multifunction printer.
Top 6 Small business Multifunction Printer Features
1. Automatic Document Feeder
When purchasing a multifunction printer for your business, an important factor to consider is whether it comes equipped with an automatic document feeder, also known as an ADF. Instead of being restricted to scanning one sheet at a time, an ADF allows you to place anywhere between 20 to 50 sheets of documents into a tray where they are automatically fed into the multifunction printer one piece at a time.
Though ADF-equipped multifunction printers tend to cost more, they save a tremendous amount of time when you're confronted with stacks of document to process. With this in mind, it may be a good idea to purchase an ADF-equipped multifunction printer even if you need the feature only on occasion. The only exception would be for organizations that perform voluminous amounts of scanning or copying. Obviously, that scenario would lend itself well to using dedicated high-speed scanners and high-volume photocopying machines.
2. Network Support
Another important multifunction printer feature to look for is networking capability. A network-enabled small business multifunction printer connects to the LAN (Local Area Network) as a shared device to receive print jobs from other computers located on the same network. There are other options for sharing printers, of course, but they either entail buying an additional print server adapter or enabling printer sharing at the operating system level and leaving the computer switched on.
In comparison, a network printer typically comes equipped with onboard memory, and it's non-blocking. This means that clicking on "Print" at a source computer will send the print job to the printer spool and return the users to their applications to continue their work. In contrast, the use of a print server usually necessitates the installation of a third-party utility, and which typically prevents other workstations from connecting – and printing – until the current job is done.
We highly recommend buying a multifunction printer that includes network support over one that doesn’t. In addition, small business printers that are network-enabled also incorporate USB ports for the flexibility of deploying them in non-network environments. Increasingly, multifunction printers equipped with wireless networking are appearing on the market. They offer great convenience, though the caveat is that large print jobs may take longer due to the inherently slower speed of Wi-Fi compared to wired networks.
3. Fax Capability
More multifunction printers are discarding fax capability as the popularity of this mode of communication declines. However, many small businesses still incorporate the use of fax in their business processes, which necessitates the purchase of multifunction printers with fax capability to work with them. As a legacy technology though, it does mean that just about every multifunction printer that does include built-in fax capability incorporates the fastest 33.6Kbps fax modem for high-speed fax transmission.
On this front, some of the more advanced models may offer the capability to forward incoming fax to a PC workstation instead of printing it out. This is an excellent feature for reducing paper waste, as well as for filtering the inevitable fax spam.