Radical change in the world of copiers in the past five years has given manufacturers ample sales ammunition to hit you with.

Digital machines have replaced simple analogue copiers and the technology has made multifunctionality – copy, print, scan, fax – commonplace. Whether such talk gets your juices flowing or not, it certainly makes buying one that much more complicated.
 
Advances in functionality Getting it right for your business is absolutely critical as prices and functionality range from an entry-level 10-page-per-minute copier with low usage capability to top of the range 80-page-per-minute devices.

Start by assessing your average monthly output by conducting a document audit – look at the volume of copies produced in-house and outsourced, the number of copier users in the office and the cost of maintenance and copy contracts. This should give you a strong negotiating point when buying a new machine. Your company’s needs will depend on your current usage. The basic digital office copier can produce single-sided copies at speed – ideal for copying invoices, contracts and letters.

If your staff print voluminous documents, consider a duplex facility, which means printing both sides. If presentation and complex finishing features are a priority, consider your options carefully. Copier manufacturers quote base prices and all finishing features are optional extras, priced accordingly.
 
You can produce anything from A4 and A5 stapled, saddle-stitched booklets to hole-punched, stapled 50-sheet presentations. Some copiers can print documents on a mixture of paper formats, such as heavier stock for covers and dividing sheets, or coloured paper for specific sections. Popular features Although manufacturers have rebranded their copiers as multifunctional devices, don’t feel compelled to plump for fancy features unless you’ll use them. There is still a strong market for traditional copier functionality.
 
Paper handling is another important factor. In general, standard paper capacity is 1,000 A4 sheets, incrementally upgradeable to up to 6,000 sheets on some models. There are A3 trays on some copiers, while A5, legal and banner copying is also available. At the higher end of the product range, copiers offer larger hard drives capable of storing hundreds of documents, faster speeds, standard duplex or double-sided printing, and increasingly, colour capability often at comparable speeds to mono output. Get what you pay for The more you spend the better the audit features, with coded access and job files so that users can log-in before copying and copy volumes can be charged to individual accounts or clients, a must for law firms, accountants and architect practices.
 
Security is another feature that you pay for: some models can now clean their own hard drive on a daily basis or more frequently so that there is no record or data on confidential documents that have been copied. Ask yourself whether you will really need all these new technologies and features. If not, don’t waste your money. When it comes to monthly usage, take note of manufacturers’ guidance to get an idea of the robustness of the device. Consider how many people will be using the copier.
 
Copiers are far quieter than they used to be. Panasonic has developed technology to reduce noise considerably, but there are no industry standards. The life expectancy of a copier is said to be three to five years, which is incredibly low and will quite possibly prove inaccurate. If that were really the case you might want to hold back a little.

Leasing allows you to upgrade every three years as part of the deal.