printers have become an indispensable component of the
enterprise.Today, there are various types of office
printers with different features. Here's some advice
for choosing a printer that'll cater to your specific
requirements. by Soutiman Das Gupta
your company's Head Office LAN extend over a number
of floors, have several workstations, and house your
server infrastructure? Do you spend valuable time, money,
personnel, and other resources to deploy and maintain
robust enterprise applications? Are you on your toes
all the time to ensure that the network is able to support
data traffic activity for ERP, SCM, CRM, and other applications?
Here's a startling bit of information. The results of
an independent survey of network traffic among enterprises,
conducted by a printer vendor say that, in a LAN around
50 percent of the traffic is printer traffic. It's not
ERP traffic, CRM information, and database queries,
but printer data. Are you surprised?
Perhaps not, because a printer is not just a dumb terminal
anymore. Printers have evolved from noisy, bulky, and
resource-intensive devices to manageable, intelligent,
and multi-function devices. They now have their own
print server to manage print queues, provide document
privacy, and facilitate workgroups and collaboration.
printing systems can even photocopy, scan, fax, e-mail,
page, and send SMS messages
too. Printers today are definitely efficient and user-friendly
devices that contribute to workplace
In case you have a heterogeneous environment like
IBM mainframes, Solaris servers, and Windows workstations
here are some issues that need to be addressed.
Host connectivity - The print server must be able
to reliably connect to each of the hosts in the
corporate environment. The server should support
different technologies like ESCON, Bus, Ethernet,
TCP/IP, and Token Ring.
Management of files and resources - The print
server must be able to recognize and support all
of the file types your organization uses. The
server should support multiple file formats like
EBCDIC, Adobe PDF, Xerox LCDS and Metacode, PCL,
PostScript, and ASCII. This allows specific files
to be routed to targeted printers.
Connecting to multiple printers - The server should
be able to send the correct output to each system
without creating too much network overhead.
The late 60s and early 70s saw the emergence of Impact
Printers, one of which was the Dot Matrix Printer. These
printers reproduce each character with individual dots
from the impact of pins applied to an inked ribbon and
struck onto the underlying sheet of paper. Dot matrix
printers are fast disappearing and this printer's 30-year
old signal protocol may die out soon, with increased
use of USB. However, dot matrix printers continue to
be used in POS (point of sale) systems and for bulk
printing of address labels and (wide-format) departmental
Most Network Printers available today use inkjet and
laser technologies. Both these technologies have their
own unique advantages and disadvantages which make them
suitable them for particular organizations. Aspects
like number of users, desired print quality, job volume,
and cost also play a role to help you decide which one's
right for your organization.
Inkjet Printers are the largest selling today and were
the first to deliver full color capability. Earlier
inkjets had a massive advantage over laser printers
due to its ability to produce color. Although color
laser printers have developed since the late 1990s,
its price may be prohibitively high for many organizations.
Typical color inkjet printers use two types of cartridges,
black and color. The black cartridge is economical for
text-based printing. Ink technology for both cartridges
has evolved substantially in the last few years. Not
only do many printers include automatic 'stirring' functions
to keep the ink from plugging, but many include reservoir
measuring chips to let users know how much remaining
ink is in the cartridge. Some printers even use capacity
information to determine in advance whether enough ink
remains to complete a print task before beginning it.
But the primary downside of using these printers is
the operation cost. Ink cartridges are not cheap and
since high-quality final copy is important, expensive
paper may also be a necessity. Cartridges need to be
changed more frequently and the special coated paper
required to produce high-quality output is very expensive.
When it comes to comparing the cost per page, inkjets
work out about ten times more expensive than laser printers.
Laser printers quickly became popular due to the high
quality of their print and their relatively low running
costs. Laser printers have a number of advantages over
the rival inkjet technology. They produce much better
quality black text documents than inkjets, and they
can turn out more pages per month at a lower cost per
page than inkjets. So if you require an office printer
a laser may be the best option.
Laser in color
Laser printing can be adapted to color by using cyan,
magenta, and yellow in combination to produce the different
printable colors. The printer performs four passes through
its electro-photographic process by placing toners on
the page one at a time or building up the four-color
image on an intermediate transfer surface.
Apart from their speed, one of the main advantages of
color lasers is the durability of its output. The chemically
inert toner is fused onto the paper's surface rather
than absorbed into it as in the case of most inkjets.
This allows color lasers to print well on a variety
of media without the problems of smudging and fading.
to look for when buying
There are a number of printers and Multi-Function
Devices (MFDs) available in the market with a
variety of features. It's up to you to chose the
one which best fits your organization.
Print quality - The two main determinants of color
print quality are resolution, measured in dots
per inch (dpi), and the number of levels or graduations
that can be printed per dot. Generally speaking,
the higher the resolution and the more levels
per dot, the better the overall print quality.
Most printers make a trade-off, some opting for
higher resolution and others settling for more
levels per dot, the best solution depends on the
printer's intended use.
current generation of printers promise very high
resolutions. HP LaserJet 900 promises 600 x 600
dpi and Canon iR 1600/2000 offers 2400 x 600 dpi.
Pages Per Minute (ppm) - This feature is important
if you have to deal with very large print volumes.
The ppm count may vary between 16 and 30 ppm.
The issue really is how quick do you want to print
and what kind of volumes are you looking at?
OS support - Many printers, particularly inexpensive
ones, have key functionality as part of their
software drivers. Some therefore require a variant
of Windows to work properly. If you don't use
Windows be sure that the printer supports your
chosen OS (you need the appropriate printer drivers).
General quality - Be sure to subjectively evaluate
the output from different printers by taking test
prints. Remember though that these test prints
rarely are set to show the best quality the printer
can do. And the paper used for demonstrations
is usually cheap, resulting in inferior quality
Cartridge size - The capacity of the cartridges
dictates how frequently you will need to change
cartridges. This also has an impact on cost per
page for printing and is a concern for high-volume
printing. Remember, cartridges of different vendors
usually do not interoperate. This can be frustrating
in case of printers from multiple vendors in the
Host-based operation - To save cost many printers,
especially cheap ones, offload some processing
duties to a software driver and use the main PC's
CPU. This is very similar to how 'soft modems'
work. Host-based printers are usually fine but
may cause server overhead.
MFD - Do you really need a device which will print,
fax, e-mail, photocopy, scan, and create PDF files?
These are costly and when they breakdown, they
can be difficult to repair. Use a MFD only if
you feel the need.
Warranty issues - Printers fail more frequently
than most other components due to their moving
parts and inks that can leak, dry up or clog.
Be sure to get as long a warranty as you can.
Resist the temptation to buy extended warranties
unless they are very cheap and the printer is
Vendor support - Don't get caught with a vendor
that doesn't provide adequate local support and
doesn't have helpdesk facilities.
Das Gupta can be reached at email@example.com