The business world may be an increasingly digital one but having access to hard copies of documents is still very much a part of the modern office. To this end, the printer remains an essential business tool for all businesses. Used wisely it’ll create professional documents and promotional literature that in the past would have resulted in a trip to the printers; saving you money and time.

When choosing a printer there are two costs you need to consider when choosing a printer for your business. The first is the physical cost of the printer itself. This will be the initial outlay but over the life of the printer will work out to be the cheaper component as the second cost, the consumables – paper, ink, toner – will work out considerably higher over time.

Printers: what to look for

Printer speed
The speed of the average printer is determined by how many per minute (ppm) it can produce. Manufacturers tend to offer 'optimum' print speeds as opposed to real world speeds, which tend to be lower. Even so, you should be expecting around 30 pages per minute from the average printer, with colour documents taking longer than black and white. 

Print resolution
The print resolution of your machine will often determine how sharp an image or text document looks. Referred to as dpi (Dots Per Inch)  it will give you a good indication of how sharp image quality is. Basic printers should deliver at 1200 x 4800 dpi, with high-end models offering higher print resolutions.

Ink and paper are the most expensive parts of the any printer so getting the right balance is crucial.  If you're looking at printing largely text then opting for a high-capacity inkjet will save you money and stop the need for constantly switching cartridges.

The days of the dedicated printer port are long gone as almost all printers now connect to your network using USB. If space is at a premium in your office it may be worth considering wireless LAN, as this technology allows you to be more flexible as to where you base your printer. 

Types of printer
There are four different types of printer that the modern business can readily use. Here we look at the various advantages and disadvantages of each technology.

Inkjet printers
Inkjet printers tend to be cheaper than laser printers, for the simple reason they tend to offer a lower quality finish. Inkjet printers also tend to be slower and can be more expensive to maintain, with ink cartridges needing to be regularly replaced.

Inkjet technology has improved in recent years, with entry-level models boasting integrated Wi-Fi as well as multiple ink well options. So much so that it's increasingly difficult to see where the multipurpose inkjet printer ends and photo-printers begin. 

Inkjets offer good quality colour printing at an affordable price. If you’re buying for colour, consider what exactly you’re going to print and the finish you require. For a high quality photograph finish opt for a printer with six colours as opposed to the standard four.

Laser printers
Laser printers continue to cost more than inkjet printers but if you're simply printing out word documents, the cost of toner over that of ink makes the initial investment more cost-effective over the lifetime of the machine.

If you're keen to print in bulk, then laser printers continue to have the clear advantage in speed too. However, laser printers aren’t always superior in quality when it comes to colour. Colour lasers can be very expensive and if you’re buying for colour make sure you’re getting a significantly better finish than an inkjet could offer for a fraction of the price.

If space is at a premium in your office then the All-in-one makes great sense as it brings together print, fax, scan and photocopy functions all in one box. Designed as the encompassing solution for the small business manager who needs to buy all of these products individually, they’re often small desktop machines that take up little space and do, in a lot of cases, offer excellent value.

That may sound amazing but it's worth remembering that being a jack of all trades over leads to being master in none. We'd consider looking at these devices quite carefully and certainly take more research than a traditional printer. Look at the qualities of each component, otherwise that ‘bargain’ could end up becoming a redundant waste of space while you gradually end up purchasing individual items that actually do what you require them for.

Photo printers
Blurring the line between inkjet printer is the photo printer, which may well be an option should you be looking to print out high quality images. Designed primarily for the digital photography enthusiast, they can be expensive to run and may not be core to your business needs.

Top five business printers

Brother DCP-7055
The Brother DCP-7055 an entry-level mono multifunction printer that is best suited to small business use where it's scan/copy/print functions can be put to best use.
Price: £120
Speed: 20ppm
Duplex: No
Paper size: A4
Wi-Fi: No
Size:  405 x 398 x 268mm
Weight: 9.8kg
Contact: Brother UK

HP Officejet 7500A
This is an incredibly compact sized printer with the ability to print up to A3 in size, that comes with Wi-Fi and support for a host of paper formats
Price: £208 
Speed: 33ppm
Duplex: None
Paper size: Up to A3
Wi-Fi: Yes
Size: 606 x 426 x 293mm
Weight: 14kg
Contact: HP

HP LaserJet Pro M1536dnf
A capable laser printer than offers duplex printing that is perfectly suited to the small or medium sized business
Price: £230
Speed: 25ppm
Duplex: Yes
Paper size: A4
Wi-Fi: Yes
Size: 441 x 343 x 373mm
Weight: 12kg
Contact: HP

Epson Stylus SX525WD
This highly compact but extremely well laid out machine is an easy-to-use, all-in-one wireless printer that comes with the latest wireless technology.
Price: £110
Speed: 36ppm
Duplex: Yes
Paper size: A4
Wi-Fi: Yes
Size: 455 x 359 x 164mm
Weight: 6.2kg
Contact: Epson

Epson Aculaser M2400DN
Delivering a high print speed and high yield toner cartridges, the Epson AcuLaser M2400D is a fast and flexible mono printer offering duplex and network connectivity.
Price: £326
Speed: 35ppm
Duplex: Yes
Paper size: A4
Wi-Fi: No
Size: 378 x 390 x 255mm
Weight: 11.5kg
Contact: Epson

* All prices are VAT inclusive and correct at time of publishing but can vary at different suppliers.