Consumer technology has risen in recent years to previously unfathomable heights. That smartphone you carry around in your back pocket and use to take calls, text your friends and check your email? It’s got more speed and memory than the most powerful desktop computers of not-so-long ago. Likewise, there are many consumer level home office supplies that could be sufficient for business purposes – like a multifunction printer that performs quadruple duty as a printer, copier, scanner, and fax machine. But are you better off purchasing a business printer? Or can you get away with using a consumer printer for your business needs? The answer to those questions depends greatly on what you need your printer to do, and how often. Here are a few things to take into consideration.
Determine Your Printing Quantity Needs
A printer’s duty cycle is the spec that gives you an idea of how much of a workload it’s capable of taking on. Consumer printers have average duty cycles in the range of 8,000. This means that the printer can print about 8,000 sheets of paper per month. Higher end enterprise printers can handle far more, with duty cycles that range anywhere from 20,000 to 100,000 and more. This number is important because if you consistently overwork a printer, it can break down.
Do your due diligence and create accurate projections of the quantity of print jobs your business needs. Additionally, don’t forget to look at the size of the printer’s paper tray. Typical consumer printer trays can carry only a fraction of the number of sheets that business printers can. Even if your duty cycle is up to snuff, you could find yourself having to refill the tray numerous times throughout the day if the printer you choose doesn’t have a big enough paper tray.
Check Your Ports
Most consumer printers have USB ports that allow you to pair them with a single computer at a time. You can also use the USB port to plug your printer into a wireless router that numerous computers throughout the office can access. However, depending on how your office environment is set up, you may require a printer with an Ethernet port that can be plugged into an enterprise printing server.
Internal Memory Considerations
If you’re planning on connecting a consumer printer to an enterprise printing server, the chief consideration should be the printer’s ability to store multiple print jobs without experiencing data bottlenecks that can max out the internal drive’s capabilities. Before you decide to throw your consumer level printer into the mix at the office, check the internal memory specs to ensure it’s up to snuff with your business technology needs. The greater the printer’s RAM, the greater its ability to shoulder the burden of numerous print jobs being sent its way. Some low end consumer printers have extremely limited internal memory that may not be sufficient for a busy office environment.
The Need For Speed
All printers have speed ratings that estimate the time it takes to print a single sheet. While it may seem intuitive to seek a printer with maximum speed capability, there are certain factors that can impact a printer’s speed that have nothing to do with its speed rating – such as the quality of the print job itself. In other words, you can gain a lot of speed if you set your office printer’s default to draft mode versus super high quality.
Don’t Forget Your DPI
If you’re going to be using a consumer-grade printer for business purposes, consider the quality of print jobs you’ll need to produce. A printer’s DPI (or dots per inch) is an indicator of quality – the more dots per inch the printer is capable of, the better the quality. Therefore, if you have the need to share your printouts with clients, consider sinking some cash into a printer with a high DPI rating. If all you need your business printer to do is print up interoffice documents that will be judged more for their contents than their quality, you can get away with a printer that’s got a lower DPI rating. Printers capable of producing 300 DPI printouts are good enough for interoffice documents; for “outside eyes,” consider going to 600 DPI; and if your printouts require the reproduction of high-quality images or photographs, you will likely need a printer capable of 1200 DPI.
The Bottom Line
Consumer printers can be used to great effect in business environments. But depending on how often the printer will be used, and how, will determine if you’d be better off springing for an enterprise level printer. Without a business printer you may run the risk of print job bottlenecks, rapidly depleted ink or toner, and the need to constantly refill the paper tray. While it’s not likely that the average value brand home printer can stand up to the fierce demands of enterprise printing, it may be sufficient for a modestly sized office that doesn’t rely on the printer as its central piece of equipment.