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Duke Kimball, PrintSmart Specialist

Printers vs Copiers? 3 Costs To Consider

It’s a tale of two offices: one with an identical printer on every desk, where one is never more than a long reach away from a paper producing device. The other, a streamlined operation consolidating every desk’s printing jobs to one high-powered, highly efficient printing powerhouse that copies, scans, faxes, slices, dices, and juliennes.

The question that many an operations manager faces today: “Is it better to have a fleet of printers, or consolidate into one big multifunction copier?”

The answer? Well, frankly, it will change based on who you ask.

Your IT department will tell you to consolidate. After all, they don’t want to spend their precious time fixing and managing desktop printers.

Your office staff will tell you to keep a fleet of printers. They don’t want to have to interrupt their workflows so that they can fight for their turn at the shared copier.

But at the end of the day, you have your bottom line to consider, which leads us to ask the question:


Copiers or Printers: Which Is Cheaper?

Perhaps the first question that should be raised is that of cost: is it cheaper to run a fleet of printers, or a centralized copier?

It truly depends on your organization and your workflow. But in many cases, there isn’t much of a difference to the bottom line at the end of the day- no matter which route you pick. This catches many people off guard, so let’s explain:

There are a few different costs to factor in here. There’s the initial cost of entry for the hardware itself, the long-term costs of toner, and the costs involved in servicing and maintaining the devices.


Printing Hardware Costs

Without question, the copier is more expensive here. Single-function printers, and even some desktop all-in-ones, are exponentially cheaper than a full-size stand alone copier. Buying printers can be done piecemeal as they go on sale, avoiding a huge upfront expense.

A copier, in contrast, is either a several thousand dollar investment out of the gate, or broken down into the cost of a lease agreement, which is another monthly bill that one doesn’t have when operating a fleet of printers.

So if cost is your concern, why would you consider a copier?


Long-Term Toner Costs

While printers are initially the cheapest option, copiers tend to make up for their initial price tag by being much more efficient in their use of toner. (And, as anyone in charge of purchasing office supplies can tell you, toner is NOT cheap)

One of the most reliable ways to determine your long-term toner cost is to calculate your cost-per-page (CPP). If you take your toner costs and divide them out by the volume of paper that your office produces, you can figure out exactly how much it costs every time you click ‘file-print.’

What we find is that copiers have a much lower CPP than printers. So much so that, depending on your volume, it may actually make up for the cost of the device itself.


Maintenance & Service Costs

Here, you run into a few different considerations.

Printers, for the most part, tend to have less maintenance issues than copiers. Since there are less moving parts, there are less mechanical issues and less places for paper to get hung up within the device. Another virtue of printer’s being simpler is that they are sometimes able to be fixed in-house, as opposed to calling in a repair professional as you would with a copier.

That being said, printers are cheap enough that it’s often less hassle to replace a printer than it is to repair it, which leads to additional cost. Or if repairs are attempted, they’re being done by an in-house IT team that doesn’t specialize in printers and could probably be using their precious time on more valuable projects.

In contrast, copier maintenance and service is usually included within the cost of a lease, making it easier to budget for those costs. (Of course, this can also be true for printers on a managed print program, but we’ll discuss that a little later!) On top of that, you can usually rely on the expertise of the service tech that’s being sent to help fix your issues, provided you’re working with a respectable copier company.

Yet if something was to go wrong with your copier, your office printing is at a stand-still until that device is back up to speed. How critical is printing to your operation? Can you deal with the occasional spot of downtime? Do you have an alternate method of printing? Copiers are too expensive to replace when something goes wrong, so you’re at the mercy of that service provider to fix your problem.


To Consolidate, Or Not To Consolidate?

At the end of the day, it’s all about your workflow and what suits you best. Have the budget for an initial investment and an office that doesn’t mind sharing? Get a copier. Need maximum uptime and versatility? Go the printer route. The important thing is to go in with both eyes open, knowing what costs will inevitably arise from your chosen strategy.

Of course, you can always try for the best of both worlds and try a blended approach with a managed print program.

Many of our clients prefer to designate a copier for large jobs and maintain a number of satellite desktop printers to supplement it and improve office workflows. While initially this may seem like inviting two sets of costs, with a managed print program it actually allows for a streamlining of budgets:

  • Copiers and printers costs can be blended to ensure a more efficient cost-per-page for all printing.
  • Printers can serve as backups in case of unforeseen copier downtime.
  • Printer service is covered under the managed print agreement, reducing replacement costs.
  • Service and supplies are taken off of IT’s plate.
  • Hardware costs are made easily budgetable as a reasonable monthly payment.

If you’re interested in the benefits of a managed print program, we’d love to discuss it. At Applied Innovation, we take the time to conduct a thorough print study of our client’s entire range of printers. Not only can this information help you select the appropriate device for any given application, a managed print program can help you continually manage your devices to extend their life and give you the best overall bang for your buck.