Questions Small Businesses Should Ask When Selecting Printers

It’s often referred to as the rule of three — the principle that suggests that things that come in threes are more compelling, satisfying or effective. Whether we realize it or not, many people, when given three choices, have been conditioned to believe the one in the middle is often the best. Technology vendors keyed into this rule long ago, and it’s become almost standard practice to bundle products and services into three simple groups: good, better and best. Guess which one is most popular? The middle one. Most of us look at the entry level, good package and decide it’s simply too basic. And because we’re always trying to curb spending, the high-end, or best choice could be more than we need. But that one in the middle? It often looks just right.

The trouble with this approach in a business environment is that it assumes the individual needs of every organization can be adequately addressed with a handful of standardized product and service bundles. However, no two businesses are alike. Each has very specific requirements when it comes to technology. Therefore, in lieu of compromising with good, better or best, it would behoove small businesses to think in terms of best, best, best.

Nowhere is this more important than with printer acquisitions. Printers serve as central workhorses for most small businesses. And today’s printers are getting better all the time with engineering leaps that anticipate the needs of small business owners and deliver more and more amazing printing experiences.

Choosing the right print solution can provide a competitive edge to a small business by boosting productivity, efficiency and the professionalism of documents, all while saving time and money. So how does one determine which print solution might be best, best, best for a particular customer? Start by helping them answer these questions:

1. Should a printer help boost business productivity and efficiency?

The short answer is “absolutely.” According to a recent global SMB survey1, increasing productivity is one of the top five business priorities cited by IT professionals. Yet few small business owners consider how their printers can aid in this objective.

To determine whether a printer might enhance productivity, examine the role it will play in the organization. Very small businesses printing about 500 to 2,000 pages per month can get by with a more basic machine – so long as it’s reliable. On the other hand, high-volume businesses printing more than 6,000 pages per month will want a more robust multifunction printer (MFP). Help your customers understand the differences between the fundamental product features, such as speed, quality, and reliability, but also look closely at whether the MFP can perform various tasks concurrently (some can only handle one job at a time). It is also important to scrutinize how networking and online capabilities vary among printers. In the digitized world, this last point will be increasingly important for growing companies because a connected printer enables a variety of services and solutions to help manage and optimize the printer’s capabilities.

2. How can a business determine total cost of ownership (TCO) for printers?    

We tend to think about printer costs in terms of what we pay at the register. We know what we paid per device. We usually know how much we pay for replacement ink and repairs. But few customers have a solid grasp on what each printer costs during its lifetime.

Not all printers are created equal, and TCO can widely vary. Many printing vendors provide a cost-per-page analysis, and you can find multiple third-party comparisons online. In addition, there are a variety of tools to help calculate printer TCO for a specific business; the gapTCO Report is one example. To better understand how to estimate TCO, industry pundits suggest multiplying the published costs per page by the estimated number of pages the business prints on an annual basis. Then simply add these amounts to arrive at the estimated total cost per year. Multiply that by the number of years the business plans to own the printer, and then add the purchase cost.

3. How much printer speed does the business really need?

When evaluating small business needs, it’s helpful to know that the minimum speed for inkjet printers is approximately 20 ppm in black and white and 11 ppm in color. Laser printers will produce black-and-white pages at approximately 26 ppm. Performance rises with more industrial-strength printers, but adding speed doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank.

4. Should security be a concern?

This seems like a question with an obvious answer, but the question itself isn’t actually that simple. If a printer operates behind a firewall (there’s most likely one in the local Wi-Fi router), then it should be about as safe as any other device on the local network. However, if the printer is connecting to the internet without the added protection of a firewall, then additional security management precautions could become necessary.

Fortunately, many vendors are doing their part to boost security via sophisticated security capabilities integrated into both the printer hardware and software, offering additional managed security services as add-on options. These add-on options can include threat detection software, data encryption technologies optimized to protect document exchanges, reporting capabilities to comply with government regulatory reporting requirements and consultations with experts who can help businesses develop a customized security management plan.

5. Are the environmental aspects of printers important?

If it’s easy and cost effective to choose printers that will help reduce your customer’s carbon footprint and the amount of plastics in landfills, why not do so?

It’s fairly painless to be environmentally responsible today. Many leading printer vendors offer printer cartridge recycling programs where materials are separated, refined and blended with other recycled plastics that are used in new printers and cartridges.

When helping your customers select a printer, spend a little time discerning which vendors offer the most environmentally friendly machines and prioritize those with progressive sustainability programs. Your customers will be happy you did.

So what’s the most critical takeaway for your customers after they examine their printer needs more closely?

Most businesses have truly customized needs, but may not know how to identify the right printing solution required to fully optimize productivity and cost savings. They may not have realized that a best, best, best approach even exists. By seeking out the best features with the best functionality and best services, small business owners can enjoy printers that go beyond basic printing services and contribute to the bottom line, ultimately, providing the best result possible.

1 Enterprise Strategy Group’s 2015 Global SMB Technology and Business Trends

Contributor: Stephanie Dismore, HP Inc., @hpbiznow

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of The Imaging Channel.

Stephanie Dismore is vice president and general manager, Americas Channels, at HP Inc. In this role, Dismore is responsible for leading and managing all aspects of HP’s commercial and consumer channel sales in the U.S., spanning distribution, national solution providers, regional VARs, public sector, and SMB partners in the commercial channel, as well as retail partners in consumer electronics, office product super stores, regional retails, e-tail and specialty channels. Dismore is also responsible for overseeing all channel-related partner planning, development and programs for the Americas region.