• The Myth of the “Inexpensive” Printer

    It’s time for a new printer for your small office. A quick look at the web sites for any of the big-box electronic retailers reveals a huge variety of choices, from major manufacturers. Often they are bundled together with copiers, scanners, and even fax machines. Sometimes the initial cost is ridiculously low — under $80, in some cases.

    What a bargain, right?

    Well, maybe not. The printer manufacturers are taking a page from the cell phone makers: A new iPhone can set you back $700 if you actually buy it outright, but if you get a two-year service plan with a big carrier, suddenly that price drops to a fraction of the original sales figure. Sometimes, and with some models, it drops to zero. The telcomms know that while they’re taking a loss on the initial hardware sale, they’ll make all that money back (and more) on monthly charges.

    Same with that $69 All-in-One printer. It’s unlikely the manufacturer is making much (if any) money on the purchase, but what about the ink cartridges? For a home user, a cartridge might last months, but for an office? Get ready to replace that cartridge, and often. Soon, you’ll have spent more than the printer itself, and that’s what the manufacturer is counting on.

    Ever taken a really close look an ink cartridge? There’s not much material in there. About 20 mL, on average (a ketchup packet from a fast food restaurant has about 25 mL, for comparison purposes). And yet it can cost $30, sometimes more. While apples-to-apples comparisons are difficult, that can come out $5,000 per liter, making it almost certainly the most expensive liquid in your house! (Chanel No. 5 perfume is about $3,000/L, and Dom Perignon ’03 is about $300/L)

    Let’s face it, ink printer cartridges, at least the ones that use separate inks, function pretty much the same way. Yet there are literally hundreds of different models, and your printer will usually work only with the ones designed for your printer. Even a tiny difference in model numbers can make the cartridges incompatible. You have very little choice except to pay the manufacturer up to $50 per cartridge. Refills? Well, some people swear by them, but just as many swear at them. They void your warranty, they often make a mess, and they pretty much never work as well as the OEM cartridges.

    In fact, a PCWorld analysis from 2012 shows that there is an inverse relationship between the cost of the printer and the cost of replacement cartridges; For printer that retailed for more than $200, the ink cost per page was 3.9 cents for black and white, and 8.3 cents for color. For the cheaper printers, which retailed for less than $200, the costs per page jumped to 5.5 cents and 8.9 respectively.

    That adds up. After just one ream of paper (250 sheets), you’re already looking at $4.00 difference. How much paper do you go through?

    “Ah,” you’re saying, “You left out the ink that comes with the new printer! That could add up to a hundred bucks in savings right there!” Well, it might… or it might not. Many inexpensive printers come with so-called “starter” cartridges, usually marked “not for resale.” This is because they have a fraction of the ink that their replacement cartridges boast. Sometimes they’ll handle as a little as 100 pages before running dry.

    AIO units are very tempting, and for the smallest of uses, can represent a real bargain. For people who print a lot of photographs, they’re very hard to beat. But be sure to be realistic about your printing and copying needs, and if you’re like a lot of small-to-medium businesses, leasing a professional-grade unit from industry leaders like Canon or Kyocera makes good economic sense.

    Ameritel is here to help you make the right decision, something we’ve been doing for Washington-area businesses for almost 30 years.

  • Managed Print Services (MPS)

    Pretty much every business is looking for ways to reduce expenses, and improve productivity. What if one solution could do both? Managed Print Services can help!

    Garnter Research tells us that a typical office spends 1-3% of annual revenue on printing and other forms of document production, which might come as a surprise to you, as Gartner’s survey also tells that the typical organization doesn’t really know how much they spend on document production, and have no print strategy in place. Often, the expense associated with hardware acquisition, repairs, and supplies are spread across various departments and different vendors. Pinning down these costs, and identifying areas of improvement with a managed print solution strategy, can offer tangible benefits: a considerable improvement on the bottom line, reduction of waste, improved use of mature technologies, and better forecast future expenses.

    Ameritel’s Mike Hamilton, our MPS specialist, has published a white paper that describes the benefits of MPS, the path to integration, and offers solutions that your organization can use this year. To request a copy of the whtie paper, please contact Mike at mhamilton@AmeritelCorporation.com , or call us at 301-251-0222.

  • “It’s not like there’s some magic machine that makes identical copies of things.”

    “It’s not like there’s some magic machine that makes identical copies of things.”

    The line, delivered by “Mad Men’s” ad executive Don Draper, gets a chuckle out of us, viewing it as the 21st century technophiles that we are. Indeed, the episode takes place in March, 1960, coincidentally the same month that Xerox started shipping the Model 914 — the first commercially successful modern copier. Weighing over a quarter ton, with a propensity to catch fire if overtaxed, it cranked out a reasonable image every 26 seconds. To get that kind of performance, you’d have to spend $29,500, or a little over $200,000 in 2013 dollars.

    But Don was right; the modern copier took the business world by storm. Sure, prior to 1960, Don’s secretary could use a carbon paper if she only needed one or two copies (and she didn’t make any mistakes). Or she could make purple-inked, chemical-smelling mimeographs with a hand crank (anyone who graduated from high school prior to 1995 or so can remember the smell). And there were predecessors to the 914 dating back over a decade — Don’s art department probably had one — but they often used chemically-coated paper, required multiple mechanical moves, and/or required mixing up toxic chemicals. The idea that you could put a piece of paper on a flat piece of glass, press a button, and get a copy half a minute later was indeed revolutionary. Xerox sold over 200,000 914 units over an extraordinary sixteen year run.

    And the basic technology is still with us with modern copiers: Charge a drum (or belt) with a negative static charge, project an image of the original with a positive charge, which makes dry powder stick to the drum. The drum transfers the powder to paper, and a heated process locks it onto the paper. Over the last 53 years we’ve seen improvements in performance and reliability, and added thousands of features, like collating, document feeding, two-sided printing, scanning, and of course the digital features that we rely on today. But inside the machine the basic principles of the 914 live on in the most advanced copiers on the planet, like 105-page per minute Canon ImageRunner 105. It’s also what makes your laser printer work.

    Xerox owned the copier market until 1975, when a Federal Trade Commission consent decree declared them a monopoly. Within a few years, multiple competitors entered the marketplace, giving us the incredible advances in technology that we’ve seen since then.

    It’s easy to take modern office equipment for granted, but 50 short years ago, the humble copier in your office really would have been “some magic machine.” Imagine what kind of new features the next 50 years will bring…