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Getting wise to printing costs: 5 steps for comparing printer costs

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Computing and printing costs in an office

In my early days as a young academic and energetic and ambitious psychologist, I had many spirited discussions with the Director of our Computing Center.  A full Professor of Chemistry, he favored computing power.  Like many psychologists, I wanted better peripherals.

When we use computers in business, the cost of

  • inputting data and
  • printing reports

is far more expensive than an extra ten minutes or so every week on number-crunching.

Our costs come from

  • The peripherals for putting in data
  • The time to tap in data
  • The time to check the data
  • The time to print reports
  • The costs of peripherals otherwise known as printers
  • The costs of consumables

And for that matter –

  • The cost of checking out the best deals
  • Designing an efficient system and training people to use it.

A good inexpensive black-and-white office printer

This week someone asked me to recommend a printer and I’ve looked around for the best printers available right now.

Brother are still making their ‘disposable’ printers that are well worth looking at.

The cost structure of a printer goes like this:

#1 Do we need color printing and any additional facilities like copying?  If not, look for a MONO LASER printer.

#2  Search for the best deals locally and on Amazon

  • The two will give you a good comparison of cost prices and Amazon has good reviews.
  • Amazon will help you consider what extras you should buy.
  • You can also compare the cost and time of driving to your neighborhood big box store with buying from Amazon.

#3 Now think how much printing you do

You have three things to think about: how fast you must print and how often you print and how much you print each year.

  • I’ve found 15 to 20 pages per minute (ppm) quite fast enough, but some printers promise 30 ppm and are horribly slow.  So keep an eye out for complaints on the reviews.
  • Every printer has a limit to what you can print per month without overworking it.  200 to 500 pages is typical for an entry level machine.  That is a lot of paper – half to one ream! Do you do more than that?  Will you make your machine distinctly unhappy?
  • Your annual print is 12x your monthly print, of course.  This number is important for costing your printing and planning ahead.  So read on!

#4 Laser printers come with five costs: the printer itself, a drum, toner, a USB cable and shipping

  • The USB cable is cheap – a few British pounds.  Just make sure you have one. Printers often ship without one!  If you are discarding an old printer, you may have one that is in good repair.
  • Some printers combine drum and toner.  The advantage of Brother machines is that they separate the drum and toner.  Here is where it gets interesting.  The drum is almost as expensive as a printer.  Hence, when the drum is ‘kaput’, you throw away the whole printer and buy another one!

The drum comes with an expected life in pages, say 12 000 pages!  Yay! You can plan ahead.  If you print 500 pages a month, give-or-take, your printer will last you for two years!  If you are chancing the monthly print rate (see above) and printing 12 000 pages a year, your printer will last you, say, one year.

One cost – the administration cost of buying your printer – has just plummeted because you can plan ahead!

  • The toner usually has a lower rating – say 1500 pages.  Toner is not cheap, so it is a good idea to cost it for the lifetime of the printer – or the drum, in this case.  Divide the toner rating into the drum rating and work out what ink will cost you for the life of the printer.  You can buy enough toner for the life of the drum.  If you don’t print a lot, you can bear in mind that toner does have a shelf life and there can be other reasons why a printer may not last several years (coffee, theft, lightning strikes), so maybe buy enough toner for a year ahead.  Also consider whether the model is new or nearly obsolete and whether toner will be on the market in two year’s time.
  • And then there is the cost of the printer itself.  Usually entry-level mono lasers cost as little as a good inkjet and ship with the drum and a small toner cartridge worth 3000 pages or so. The documentation is usually vague on this but you can ring up the local store and ask!

#5 Work out your printing costs!

  • Now you can cost your printer – purchase cost (plus tax) + USB cable if you need one + shipping or trip to the store + drum (no cost because it comes with the machine) + toner for one year.

Brother HL- 2037

As at end of October 2009, Brother has a machine selling through Amazon with the following costs:

  • Printer including drum worth 12 000 pages – GBP70.00
  • Cable – GBP3.00
  • Shipping – GBP0.00
  • Toner – 1 included, but good for unknown pages. A new TN1005 is good for 1500 pages (3 reams) that sells anywhere between GBP55.00 and GNP35.00
  • The machine should be good for a further 6 lots of toner using up the 12000 page life of the printer.

I am going to recommend this printer and wish I had bought one for myself.  I used a similar version when I was teaching.

I bought one at the start of each year and bought enough toner to last the life of the drum.  It worked perfectly (though as an academic I used one with longer drum life of 25 000 pages which lasted roughly one year.)

For a lot of small businesses, 12 000 pages will last many years.  S0 it is important to buy a new model and the Brother HL-2037 is the newest.

Amazon Associates

I am also going to use this to check the Amazon Associates scheme so if you want to “buy me a cup of coffee”, you can follow this link!

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