Printer Buying Guide: FAQ

Your guide to choosing the best printing hardware and services for your small or medium business

How big is the price difference between colour and black and white?

The shift from monochrome to colour print has accelerated in recent years but colour pages in the office still command a price premium. Although the cost of colour is falling, it is still relatively high compared to black and white, sometimes up to a factor of 10. As a result, Gartner says more organizations are implementing usage policies to manage colour printing and keep costs under control. Gartner estimates some providers have reduced the colour page cost by as much as 40 per cent compared to 2007 levels.

Is colour really necessary?

Most users need to print colour, at least sometimes. If users are denied access to colour printers they often waste time and money on rogue personal printers, or ask favours from other users who do have colour access. Today’s colour-enabled printers and MFPs print both colour and black economically on one device and are a cost-effective way to meet the needs of an enterprise.

How do I determine the best location for each printer?

Carry out a needs assessment. Gartner says the most common enterprise ratios are between 10 and 30 users per device, with walking distances of eight to 25 metres. But it really needs to be tailored specifically for your organisation. A thorough needs assessment helps map out where to place printers and optimise resources.

What is a cloud printing service?

Cloud printing services are hosted cloud computing offerings that enable users to print documents and other materials on any device associated with the cloud. Users create content with any software tool they want and transfer the file to a cloud printing service provider via whatever device they choose. It then routes the file to a cloud attached printer at a location selected by the user, an offering that will certainly appeal to mobile workers using mobile devices. This will allow users to have documents printed without being encumbered by actual printing equipment and still have it delivered where they want it. Some providers may enable CPS as part of a Managed Print Services (MPS) offering. Gartner believes the business case for CPS is so strong that it will drive rapid acceptance by global 1,000 companies.

What is Managed Print Services (MPS)?

This is an outsourced services offering provided by a vendor. The vendor will assess the organisation’s printing needs and manage it as a service. MPS can reduce costs and improve workflows as the vendor will also track how the printer fleet is being used and user satisfaction. By analysing this information the vendor can make recommendations to ensure fleet efficiency. As a result Gartner estimates more than 50 per cent of large organisations worldwide will employ MPS by 2015. The customer pays a monthly or quarterly fee based on Cost Per Page (CPP) which is agreed on when setting up the contract. There are a large number of vendors providing this service including Canon, CSC, HP, Lexmark and Toshiba.

How is pricing determined?

Today most customers pay for printed pages in one of two ways: either a fixed per page rate or according to supply consumption. However, neither of these pricing models has anything to do with a customer’s ROI and both approaches are only loosely linked to the vendor’s cost of producing the document.

Gartner anticipates printer technology providers will offer more varied pricing approaches in which the cost per job will vary with the kind of document being printed, the person who is requesting the printed pages, or whether it is meant for internal or external readers. These approaches will price printed pages in relation to their value to the customer, rather than the amount of ink or toner consumed. Gartner expects this shift to a value based pricing model to be more prevalent in coming years.

Tomorrow: Printer Buying Guide -- Technology Checklist

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