How Much Does a Printer Cost? Look Beyond the Price Tag

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Often, when an organization contacts us to evaluate its printing costs and help determine whether a Managed Print service is a fit, we’ll visit their facility to assess its existing printer fleet. What prompts the visit is often a realization that a company’s print costs are eating up a sizable chunk of its operational budget.

When we ask to see the machines they currently use, we’re often ushered past several administrative offices to their large copy machines and multifunction printers (MFPs), which also include finishing options and copy, scan and fax features. These organizations are often surprised when we tell them we’d like to take an inventory and evaluate each desktop printer we saw while walking past all those offices.

How much is a printer?  

Desktop printers that specialize in photo reproductions can be found for $250 or less. The price range of other inkjet printers can be anywhere from $100 for an entry-level black-and-white printer — like those used in home offices — to more than $1,000, depending on their quality and intended use.

There’s an assumption that because desktop printers are inexpensive, their impact on printing costs and the overall budget is minimal. Such an assumption is often far from the truth.

When looking at the big picture, desktop printers need to be included as part of an overall print strategy if an organization expects to rein in their printing costs. Overuse could erode your organization’s profitability – and pose other risks.

Eliminating all desktop printers isn’t feasible for most, but it’s important to consider their lifetime costs and other downsides.

1. Higher Ink & Toner Costs

Yes, the initial cost of the actual printer was a steal, but did you know that’s somewhat by design? Desktop printer manufacturers don’t expect to make a profit on the physical printer; rather, they count on users paying for supplies.

Printer ink is more expensive than gasoline, ranking as one of the top 10 most expensive liquids in the world at more than $2,700 per gallon! When you consider that desktop printers use up to 300% more ink than a multifunction printer, especially on color copies, it can end up costing three to four times as much to operate.

2. The Number of Desktop Devices

Studies show about a four-to-one employee/printer ratio: For every 20 people in an office, there are likely as many as five printers and one MFP. While we’ve seen the number of desktop printers decline in recent years — especially inkjet types of printers — the costs do add up.

This isn’t only from the toner costs mentioned previously, but also because inexpensive office equipment typically has a shorter lifespan. While the purchase price has come down for many printers, including laser printers, their life expectancies have come down with it, requiring more frequent repairs and replacements. Most desktop printers only last around three to five years. A lower purchase price can give a false sense of savings, but long-term operating costs can end up being much higher.

With many organizations enacting green initiatives, the impact of all those discarded devices and ink cartridges in landfills should also be considered. While toner cartridges can be recycled, more than 350 million of them continue to be thrown in the trash each year.

3. Convenience Leads to Excessive Printing

People inevitably print more on their desktops than on an MFP, once again leading to more frequent orders of cartridges and paper use. Users will think twice about printing a document if they know they have to walk down the hall to retrieve it from a shared printer rather than reach across their desks.

There are those who argue that the time to walk to the shared printer is an unnecessary labor cost, especially if the printed document isn’t there upon arrival or another high-volume print job is running. Some of these scenarios can be addressed with the right print management software, which allows for pull printing, dynamic routing and mobile printing. Print management software also includes user tracking and reporting to help identify costs across departments and pinpoint further potential savings.

4. Hackers Love Unsecured Office Printers

One reason we’re so diligent about including desktop printers in a company’s comprehensive print strategy is because more than half of all printers can be easily hacked.

In fact, a group of cybersecurity experts at CyberNews randomly selected 50,000 printers that were accessible over the internet with enabled network printing features and were able to print to 28,000 of those devices! They emphasized that they did not exploit those vulnerabilities; instead, they actually printed a document to the printers informing the business owners about the breach and how to prevent future cyber attacks.

In short, if a printer is connected to an organization’s network, it is a potential access point for cybercriminals. Why does this happen? Many desktop devices have default security settings and unencrypted data. If a user doesn’t change those default passwords, even amateur hackers can easily access systems and capture any data using a standard PRN reader.

In general, an MFP is more secure and cost effective from an operational standpoint. We’re not saying an organization should eliminate all desktop printers; there are some functions that may necessitate their use, such as printing of checks or highly sensitive documents. What’s important is to assess where efficiencies can be made and to make sure all print devices are running well, secure and can work within a print strategy.

Each situation is unique, and our Office Print Audit Checklist can be a great help to determine where you might have unnecessary print costs. Download it now to get a head start. The Gordon Flesch Company is happy to do a comprehensive assessment of your print needs and develop a strategy that can save your organization time and money, and help mitigate security risks. Reach out to us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

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