The Basics of Purchasing or Upgrading Your Copier or Multifunction Printer

By Richard Bruneau

Copiers and multifunction printers (MFPs) are now integral in today’s small to medium sized businesses. Because there are so many more options to consider, and the availability of maintenance plans and leases have caused these machines to have a shelf life that often tops out around 5-6 years, most companies upgrade every 3-4 years on average. While a decade ago purchase of a new MFP may have been more straightforward, shopping for a new or upgraded machine has become a lot more challenging and sometimes complex.

If only it were easy to decide on the new model or to get the right lease. Ability Business Solutions knows how to make it easy. With that in mind, ABS tries to educate our prospective and current clients on what some of the key metrics are in determining both when to upgrade as well as what products and features to consider. Odds are that technology and features have changed considerably since the last time you purchased or upgraded your machine.

Here are some basic questions you might be asking about your next copier lease or purchase. And while this outline is designed to help you with copiers and multifunction printers, it can also apply to fax machines, scanners and wide-format printers.

When Should I Upgrade an Existing Copier or Printer?

Of course, if your lease is up then you’ll know that’s a good time to upgrade, because 5 years on a heavy-use copier or printer sets up that machine for a lot of additional (and costly) maintenance. Before anything, however, simply assess your needs. Has the load you put on that older machine changed over time and do you need to think about upgrading to a faster model or one that has a higher paper capacity or additional features? Sometimes we get caught up in the costs and details of the new lease, but we forget about the practical business aspect of the copier or MFP. You’re in business to make money after all, and if you can be more effective at what you do, then leasing a new model may be much more preferable to squeezing a few more years out of your current unit.

What Features Do I Need?

Aside from features such as speed, you also should consider finishing features like a stapler or hole punch. Do you do the kind of copying and printing that requires a larger input or output tray? When you have a finishing need for your documents that your device doesn’t handle, the manual workload to make up the difference is often not worth the hassle. Even though you may only use an automatic stapler once a month, the additional chore of performing the task manually (plus the inconsistency of the job) may be worth the additional monthly lease amount. The same goes for having to frequently change our paper or clear an output tray. Make sure that the copier or multifunction printer you’re getting does everything you need before you sign the lease. Ask a lot of specific questions and make sure you get the answers before committing.

What Type of Machine(s) Do I Require?

This may seem obvious, but many people we’ve run into jump at the idea of a MFP when they really need one or more dedicated printers. For small and even medium-sized offices, you will often benefit from specializing one or two units to just printing and finishing duties. It will allow you to keep the costs down and better allocate the features you need on the devices you need. Plus, when you specialize, you spread out the office “traffic”, sending people to the appropriate devices as needed to gather and assemble their documents. With this type of diversification, however, make sure you don’t go too conservative and end up creating a pile-up for a single copier in the office. Where this type of thinking really comes into play is with regard to specialty print jobs that take place on a daily or weekly basis. We have one client, a school, who prints weekly bulletins as well as other materials throughout the week and month. They chose a separate system to handle those duties so that the office wouldn’t get taken down for an entire afternoon or two while these supervised print jobs ran their courses. This MFP was also able to handle general office tasks as well, but it was outfitted with the required saddle stitcher and additional paper handling capabilities needed for the larger collated print runs.

How Fast Does My Machine Need to Be?

Not as fast as you might think—or faster than you may initially think. The answer lies in the efficiency of the workplace as well as your expected monthly volume (which may have gone up or down since your last lease or purchase). If your employees tend to be last-minute printers, then you don’t want them spending a lot of time standing around waiting for jobs to complete. On the other hand, if you tend to print several jobs and then go pick them up after they are completed, while continuing to work, then having the maximum print speed may not be as significant. The number of employees per machine will play a part in the desired speed, as will the average size of your print jobs. As with nearly every business, time is money and managing your employee and machine down-time can be critical to optimizing your workflow.

What Are My Operating Costs?

When you lease a copier or MFP, the operating costs you will tend to incur will either be limited to paper and staples (in the case of a lease with a maintenance agreement) or everything from toner, to drums and anything that fails outside of the warranty (including any network support or configuration needs). With a maintenance agreement your role remains to focus on your work, and everything else is covered by the service contract. And, what’s nice, is that most service contracts typically consist of a very small per-copy/print fee that covers toner, drums and all maintenance to install, replace and repair parts on your MFP or printer for the duration of the contract. If you want to handle all of those potential maintenance and supply needs yourself, your IT or maintenance department may be biting off more than it can chew, and you may incur more downtime as a result. Additionally, costs typically increase over time with a copier of MFP as parts wear out and more frequent maintenance is needed. Our recommendation is to plan to accompany your lease agreement with a maintenance contract for the same duration.

Should We Buy, Rent or Lease the Copier or MFP?

Whether you buy, rent or lease a copier or printer depends upon several factors. Many of these will have to do with the tax or business advantages of leasing or renting with respect to available capital and depreciation. Leasing has a noticeably advantageous depreciation policy, but you will pay more over time than if you buy a machine outright. Leases are also desirable for those who look at these office products simply as a part of the cost of doing business, a factor which ensures they can presume upon those fees every month and also know that every 3-5 years they can upgrade their equipment to the latest model—and also make adjustments where needed. We also recommend staggering your leases in order to capitalize on needed upgrades on a more frequent and periodic nature. This is really helpful for offices where there are many machines running concurrently. In this case you will likely end up with a new and updated machine every year or so. It’s also important to understand the terms of your lease agreement, so that you know what happens at the end of the lease (whether you own the machine or are required to ship it back to a distributor or service center.)

What Should I Look for in a Service Contract or Agreement?

With respect to service, a copier, printer or MFP should definitely be accompanied by a service agreement. These can be no-contract monthly maintenance agreements or longer-term contracts. Which one you’re interested in depends upon your print/copy volume and your ability to negotiate per-image rates (often called “clicks”). In either case, you want to negotiate a service agreement that is fair and covers everything you’ll require, save for paper and some consumables like staples. Most service agreements cover toner, drums and other wearable parts in addition to any required maintenance to keep the copier or MFP up and running.

What Type of Tech Support is Necessary?

From a previous ABS email update titled “Buy Your Printers from a Problem-Solver, Not a ‘Vendor,’” I mentioned a few things (quoted from Xerox publication):

•   Know how easy it is to connect to an existing network
Consider how easily the system will integrate with your existing network. Is it easy to deploy? Does it require minimal start-up training? Does it come with software or wizards to guide you through installation, troubleshooting, and upgrading?

•   Know its bi-directional communication capabilities
A failure to communicate timely and accurate information to users and IT administrators on the status of jobs, queues, and devices will result in more intervention by you and your staff to solve, prevent or anticipate problems. Solid bi-directional communication, both at the device and across the network is essential to keeping a product running consistently. Look for print job and device status capabilities from the desktop and the ability to view all job queues at the device and across the network.

•   Know the available device management, remote intelligence, and support
Consider the vendor's commitment to providing robust device and fleet management tools and utilities. This is something you may want now or in the future. Look for device relationship management software that optimizes the device's availability and uptime. Does the vendor provide superior response time and provide consistent quality of service? You want to trust your multifunction printer will stay up and running to ensure you have an efficient and productive office.

•   Know whether it provides the level of security and confidentiality you need
Does the device offer the appropriate level of security for your business? Is it scaleable to provide more security if your needs change?

•   Know what software and solutions are available
Understand what compatible software and solutions are available from the vendor, as well as their solution partners.

Ability Business Solutions will make sure you’re able to determine all of the above.

New or Refurbished?

For long-term, consistent results and maximum return on investment, it doesn't pay to invest in cheap machines. And you don’t have to. You can save money without buying anything new. High quality, refurbished machines can be purchased or leased that immediately improve the functionality and efficiency of your office. Or you can invest in a new machine for long-term reliability and durability. Either makes good sense.

If it is time to replace an aging copy machine, fax machine or both or if you are tired of paying thousands of dollars a year on expensive copy machine leases, consider one of our fully refurbished printers. These fantastic business machines allow you to network print, copy and scan at up to 55 pages per minute. They also allow you to Scan to e-mail, Scan to PDF file (or other file), and Scan to folder. These machines are an excellent value, and you can own it instead of leasing. But both options are available on affordable terms.

At ABS make sure we find out what your needs are before we determine what we can offer. Many business owners and managers find after meeting with us that they aren’t currently getting the kind of service we provide. Or they find that they have been spending too much money unnecessarily. We consider every relevant factor to your business and collaborate with you on the solution. These are some examples of top-selling machines that come with IT support to enable your business to have a NO PROBLEMS installation from the beginning.

Richard Bruneau

Ability Business Solutions
1556 So. Main Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
Ph. 801-466-8486
Fax. 801-466-4580
Cell: 801-440-5818