What is a Multifunction Printer?
A Multifunction Printer, often referred to as an MFP, is a device that consolidates the functionality of a printer, copier, scanner and/or fax into one machine. Multifunction Printers are becoming a common choice for budget-minded businesses that want to consolidate assets, reduce costs, and improve workflow. If also considering scanners, take a look at our list of MFPs, specifically recommended for scanning documents.
Multifunction Evaluation Considerations
To make an informed decision about what multifunction printer is right for you, you need to ask the right questions. Here are the eight things you must know before you buy a multifunction printer.
1. Know your requirements
Understand what you need the multifunction printer to do for you and your end users. Beyond printing and copying, how do you want to use the MFP to help manage documents, reduce paper, simplify workflow, manage forms, etc? How many copy, print, fax, scan, and email jobs will you run each day? How many users will share the device? Will you need it to be color capable? There are a number of requirements to consider. Our Multifunction Buyer's Guide (PDF) can help you further define your requirements.
2. Know the Total Cost of Operation (TCO) and Cost/Value benefits
When evaluating a multifunction printer, beware of looking only at the cost of the initial hardware. There are a number of other factors to consider, including the cost of supplies. Once ink costs are taken into consideration, inkjet multifunction printers, initially perceived as being low cost, often turn out to have an equivalent or higher TCO than the higher performing laser and solid ink multifunction printers. TCO can also increase significantly for devices that are hard to use and maintain, unreliable, or lack the features and capability to efficiently and effectively produce the results you need.
Your multifunction printer can become a useful asset in managing and controlling costs for printing and imaging, and can also add new capabilities to your organization if you choose wisely. Consider how MFPs can address total cost of ownership for printing and imaging assets, better consolidate and improve management of resources across the organization, and improve business process efficiency.
3. Know how easy it is to connect to an existing network
Consider how easily the system will integrate with your existing network. Is it easy to deploy? Does it require minimal start-up training? Does it come with software or wizards to guide you through installation, troubleshooting, and upgrading?
4. Know its multitasking abilities
Look for a multifunction printer that can truly multi-task. Can users access each function they need, even if other functions are already in use? Be aware that some products, such as All-in-Ones (AiOs), offer multiple functions all in one device, but can't multi-task, so they cannot deliver all the functions of a multifunction printer concurrently so you may risk downtime due to bottlenecks at the device.
5. Know its bi-directional communication capabilities
A failure to communicate timely and accurate information to users and IT administrators on the status of jobs, queues, and devices will result in more intervention by you and your staff to solve, prevent or anticipate problems. Solid bi-directional communication, both at the device and across the network is essential to keeping a product running consistently. Look for print job and device status capabilities from the desktop and the ability to view all job queues at the device and across the network.
6. Know the available device management, remote intelligence, and support
Consider the vendor's commitment to providing robust device and fleet management tools and utilities. This is something you may want now or in the future. Look for device relationship management software that optimizes the device's availability and uptime. Does the vendor provide superior response time and provide consistent quality of service? You want to trust your multifunction printer will stay up and running to ensure you have an efficient and productive office.
7. Know whether it provides the level of security and confidentiality you need
Does the device offer the appropriate level of security for your business? Is it scaleable to provide more security if your needs change? Does the system come equipped with full system security built in as a standard option or is the security only available for single system components that are sold as options?
8. Know what software and solutions are available
Understand what compatible software and solutions are available from the vendor, as well as their solution partners.
Multifunction printers can help you streamline duplicate and cumbersome document processes and electronically organize, edit and archive your paper documents. With an MFP and a simple software application you can turn paper documents into an electronic format and send to multiple destinations - email, document repositories, network folders, mobile printing, even remote printers - with a single scan. An MFP that can multi-task effectively can enhance your document workflow and help reduce print costs.