How to get the most from your office printer

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(This post originally appeared on AVG)

I’ve got some thoughts.

For starters, stop the soul searching and buy a laser printer.  Ever wonder why those ink jet devices are so cheap?  Because you get what you pay for.  A laser printer is a little more expensive, but so much better.  We use a Brother HL2270 unit and love it.  It prints fast and clear.  It’s reliable.  The quality is good.   True, it’s a little noisy.  And yes, we sometimes inexplicably suffer from the Chinese character syndrome mentioned above.  And yes, I cry every time I have to purchase one of their $70 replacement cartridges.  But I’ve found that, over the long term, a laser printer provides better ROI compared to an inkjet model.  And I’ve also figured out a few ways to reduce the cost of ink, which I’ll describe shortly.

Stay away from color printers.  Really, do you have to print in color?  Is it that important?  I understand if you’re a design or graphics business, but then again if that’s the type of business you’re in then most of my advice here is irrelevant anyway because you’re probably looking at a whole other universe of high end printing machines.  For most small businesses though, a straight black and white laser printer is more than sufficient.  It saves significantly on color ink (can you believe some printer manufacturers actually make you replace ALL the ink when only one color cartridge runs out?  Believe it. ).  The printing is faster.  The cost is less.  And if you’re really in need of a color print out just take it to a local office supply store and print it out there.

And of course, there’s ink.  I’ve got lots of thoughts about ink.

For starters, download the sprang eco sans font from Ecofont.  It’ll automatically install on your computer.  That font is made up of lots of tiny little holes that the Beatles sang about in “A Day In The Life” and cannot be detected by the human eye.  It also saves something like 30% of your ink costs when used.  Also, cough up $10 a year and buy inkgard.  This little application installs itself as another “printer” on your network.  Choose the “inkgard” printer and a dialog box will appear, asking you how much ink you want to use.  Select a lot of ink if it’s a formal document.  Or a little ink if it’s just an internal office memo.  Combining the ecofont along with inkgard software will cut down your visits to the office supply store significantly.

If you do have an inkjet printer make sure to buy the refurbished kind of ink.  Sometimes people complain about the quality but for the most part it’s OK.  And it’s a lot less expensive than the kind sold by the printer manufacturers.  Unfortunately you’ll have to bite the bullet if you’re using a laser printer – it’s much harder to get replacement ink for these devices.  A good place to start looking for refurbished cartridges and also get a ton of great advice about increasing the life of your cartridges (and printer) in general is fixyourownprinter.

Always buy a wireless printer.  These are pretty much standard nowadays.  Even so, I still find some clients not getting that you don’t have to have your printer attached to that old Windows 95 machine anymore for it to work.  Wireless printers are easy to setup and, like advertised, they can be found anywhere on your network without much configuration.  Be warned though – some local installation of drivers is still needed.  So don’t just think you’ll start printing from your iPad right away.

Also, get a printer with cloud printing capability.  For example, when you buy certain Hewlett Packard models you’ll also be able to get a special email address assigned to you.  That way when any of your employees are out and about and they need to print out a document they just send the document to that email address.  The email is magically routed to the printer in your office, the printer recognizes the incoming email as a command to a print…and it prints.  That’s pretty cool stuff, especially if (like me) you’ve struggled for years trying to get your remote people more connected into your office.  And it goes without saying that the printing can be done from any device that sends an email too.

Finally…and please…consider just not printing.

Enough with the mailing of invoices for example.  If you don’t use an online invoicing service likeFreshbooks or Invoicebubble, then just download the free PrimoPDF and email your invoices as PDF files.  It speeds up collection and makes filing much easier.

And enough with the big print jobs.  Just outsource this work to Staples or Office Depot or Fedex Kinkos or your local shop who can print, stuff and mail faster and quicker than you can.  And forget the scanning devices – just keep an old fax machine around and use Efax.  Every fax received there will be converted into a PDF for you and emailed back.  They store the files too if you don’t want to.

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