My Thoughts On Printers

English: An HP LaserJet 4200 dtns printer

Image via Wikipedia

Just this past week, while the rest of us were out enjoying the holiday season, Hewlett Packard released a fix for certain of its printers susceptible to remote hacking.  Really?  There’s a guy out there who wants to hack into my small business’ printer and take control of it? Good luck to him – more than likely the printer will just mysteriously go offline he won’t be able to do anything at all.  That’s what happens to me all the time.

We’re about to enter 2012 and amazingly these problems still occur.  And to be fair, this isn’t always the fault of the printer manufacturer.  Oftentimes network, internet and poor setup issues are the cause.  But many of my clients still suffer paper jams.  I still hear complaints about the remarkable consumption of ink.  Sometimes documents print out with Chinese-like characters instead of the real thing (and sadly, they still make as much as sense as the original).  And printers continue to disappear from networks only to re-appear an hour later without an explanation.  My kids do the same.

Even so, there have been plenty of advances in printing technology.  Only yesterday PC Week predicted that “the year 2012 will be a good one for printers.”   More choices, more features.  And I can only hope better quality.  Printers have come a long way since those noisy dot matrix machines we once used back in the day (and amazingly some retail stores and airlines still swear by).  And so have I.  I’ve been selling technology and relying on printers for almost two decades.  And I’ve learned a few things about printers.  Particularly for a small business.

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.

Lifehacker recently had an interesting piece about ink sensors which I’ve tried and found useful.  In it, the author suggests how to extend the life of your ink by covering up the cartridge’s sensor.  Admitting that it may not work for all printers “most toner cartridges have a small sensor hole on the non-gear side of the cartridge, covering this up with a small piece of electrical tape might bring your printer back to life.”   Wait a second…do you mean to say that some printer manufacturers may cause the “out of ink” light to go on too early in order to scare their customers into buying replacement ink from them before it’s actually needed?  Never!

Printer usability has improved over the years and for this I’m grateful.  Two new advances are worth deploying in any small business.

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