Despite the ever-changing world of technology and the advent of cloud computing, there are still many reasons why businesses may need to commit information to physical paper. Printing is still needed across all kinds of industries to ensure communication and collaboration standards remain high.

There are many options available to you when you require printing resources for your business. One of the biggest decisions you will need to make is whether to purchase local or network printers. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each of these options right now.

What is the difference?

Local printers are connected to computers with a USB cable, you might know them as desktop printers. They’re usually consumer-grade hardware, purchased direct on-line or from the high street. These printers are only capable of being instructed by one computer at a time, which means it’s not usually practical for them to be shared by multiple team members. If a single or remote member of staff frequently needs to print off a large number of documents, it could be a good idea to provide them with access to a local printer so they don’t have to rely on a central printer.

Local printers can also add extra efficiency to projects, enabling employees to quickly see if printed documents are accurate. If an issue is spotted, it can be resolved immediately.

The pitfalls of local printers

One of the downsides of local printers is that they are expensive to run. If your local printer isn’t from a leading manufacturer and it breaks down, you may struggle to find someone who knows how to repair it. You may also face problems if the printer stops working and the job can’t quickly be sent to another machine. You will need to buy ample stocks of ink and paper for each individual printer.

Local printers are also difficult to manage, they all need printer drivers, software requirements may change, hardware becomes end of life and spares and consumables become difficult to get hold of and network security may be impacted. They usually end up as an un-managed risk ‘out of sight and out of mind’.

How does network printing work? 

Network printers are those which can be accessed by multiple computers at the same time. These printers work wirelessly, so no physical connection is necessary. When you set up a network printer, you can assign it to a particular workgroup so only the right people gain access to it.

Depending on your specific needs, a single high quality multifunction device (copier and printer in one) would meet the requirements of a sizeable team with ease.

The flexibility of network printers

What’s also great about network printers is that they can work with a wide range of operating systems and platforms, including Windows, Mac and more. They can also offer laser, thermal and inkjet printing to give just a few examples. When you make a network printer available to your team, they can take advantage of various printing solutions and use the machine regardless of what operating system they are using.

One of the disadvantages is that delays can be caused when multiple employees need to use the printer at the same time, especially when they need to print large documents. The printers will also be inaccessible if or when your network goes down. Most research suggests that network printers are more beneficial for today’s businesses than their local counterparts.

Cost and maintenance savings

The process of setting up a network printer is generally straightforward. Once the machine has been configured, you should need to partake in much maintenance from this point. Cost savings are a big reason why so many companies are opting for network printers over local machines. Once you invest in a network printer, you won’t have to provide each employee with access to a dedicated printer, you can train each team member to use the same machine and can avoid the maintenance obligations that come with running several machines.

You won’t need to buy as many print devices and supplies. The longer you use your network printer, the bigger the savings will become.

Much simpler to manage

When you run a number of individual printers, things can become very confusing. Variations on brand, supply needs, capabilities and more can result in costly training and maintenance demands, which can swallow up a great deal of your time better spent on your core business activities.

To get the most out of your printers, your team will need to stay updated on all the latest features available to them and know what the solutions are when something goes wrong. This is much easier to do when you are all using the same type of machine.

Large print volumes, remote printing and more

Network printers are designed to cope with complex tasks and higher print volumes. They tend to be much more powerful than local printers and frequently surpass their capabilities in terms of speed, handling of paper, capacity and finishing. Network printers also tend to have a longer product cycle than local machines.

One of the biggest advantages of network printers is that they can be operated from remote locations. As long as your employees are connected to your network via the internet, they can send documents to your network printer from any location. With more and more of us conducting core business tasks and working with others from outside the office, the benefits of remote printing are clear to see.

Track your printing activities

If you are based in a larger office, you may need access to more than one printer. Once your network is set up, you can add as many printers as you like, enabling staff to send documents to the most suitable machine possible, regardless of what they are printing. You can also track usage when you opt for a network printer.

Network printing gives you a clearer insight into how much printing is taking place, helps you cut down on waste and see how much you are spending on printing activities. Managed Print Services programmes give you a clear overview of the printing habits and expenditure of your company.

Need to talk to a specialist?

What’s right for one organisation isn’t always right for another, and some companies do find that local printers serve their needs better than network-based machines. If you unsure which option is right for you, it’s a good idea to talk to a print specialist who can help you come to an informed decision.

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Reduce operating costs, improve print efficiency and enhance service levels

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