Advancements in mobile technology are allowing us to access, process and send information from more places every day, but as yet they haven’t curbed our desire to print things out. In fact, far from resulting in the hyped ‘paperless office,’ new technology has instead given birth to new ways that paper and electronic documents can be used together: benefiting few more than the small business owner. The printer is an essential business tool for a wide range of startups. 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. It’s possible to print your own business cards; letter-headed paper; promotional brochures; posters; labels; special offer displays; flyers; invoices; supplier contracts; employee contracts and much more. And remember, even in the average startup business there’s the need to print standard word documents, emails or reports. If these are substantial in length or number, you’ll need a printer that can cope with the output and that is efficient. But as much as the right printer will help you make savings, the wrong one will cost you money. As with any business purchase you need to ensure that you’re paying for a product that fits your business’s needs: nothing more, nothing less. Before you buy a printer make sure you know what you need it for and that you're roughly aware of the different types of products that are out there on the market.
Otherwise it’s more than likely you’ll end up with either a ‘bargain’ that doesn’t do everything you need it to or an expensive gadget-heavy super printer that you don’t really need. Brother, Epson, Lexmark, OKI, HP and Cannon are the leading printer manufacturers that produce printers specifically aimed at small business owners. There are, of course, plenty of other manufacturers but if you’re looking to buy an established brand that invests in researching the small business use, these are firms to start with. As with every business purchase, shop around. Compare not only prices but which company produces a product that matches the criteria you’ve decided you need. It’s also important to explore how much each printer that you’re interested in costs to maintain: basically the cost of the cartridges. An inkjet printer from one firm might cost £50 less to buy, but if the cartridges cost £10 more than any of the others it’ll cost more in the long run. For most printers, you can buy refill cartridges from other companies for substantially less money. Check to see if this an option or if the brand you’re buying offers a discount for buying their branded cartridges. It’s also important to consider that using a non-official refill cartridge may lose a small percentage of quality and this should be a consideration if quality is an issue. Where to buy Large computer retailers will stock a selection of printers, but be wary that many will only stock a wide range of general consumer products not those targeted at business use.

All the major companies have websites that allow you to view their products online and this is perhaps the best way of comparing prices and features without being influenced by a pushy salesperson.

Things to remember After reading this section you should be confident of what you want a printer is for and what you want it to do. Don’t settle for anything less; the range of printers out there is now that great that there are sure to be several that meet your exact requirements. Don’t let a salesperson tell you there’s not or persuade you to compensate one need for another – if they haven’t got the product you’re looking for then that’s their fault; someone else will. Before buying a printer, decide what you’re going to use it for. Then think about how much you’re going to use it. You need to consider the range of tasks you want the printer to perform. Do you want it to take care of all the literature your business is ever likely to produce? Do you intend to produce glossy brochures and posters with lots of images? For this you’ll need a printer not only capable of producing the format you desire, but to a finish of a high enough standard to present to clients. On the other hand, you might only want to print simple word documents were high print quality is less important but in high volume and at high speed. By considering such extreme requirements, it’s clear that buying a printer isn’t a one-size-fits-all decision. You need a printer designed for the way you want to use it, otherwise you’ll end up with one that won’t be able to do what you ask it to or one that's too expensive with features you'll never use. There are two basic types of printer that you need to know about; and will inevitably have to choose between: inkjet and laser.

Their names refer to the way they put ink onto the paper. Lasers use dry ink and transfer print onto paper using laser technology, while inkjet printers deposit wet ink onto paper.