All For One, One For All

A printer for every PC? Forget it--one network printer can get the job done

If you're still trying to connect every single workstation to its own printer, it's high time you considered the advantages of networking. From pooling resources and saving money to ensuring that everyone's work flows faster, hooking all your PCs up to a network has become a must for today's tech-savvy entrepreneurs. And with numerous workgroups now sharing files and applications, adding the right printer (or even two) to the mix has become increasingly important.

The sharing of one or two printers (rather than each person having his or her own) doesn't just open up space on everybody's desks, but also cuts down on purchasing and maintenance costs. One way to put that savings to good use is to apply it toward the purchase of a high-quality printer, so that everyone on the network is able to produce documents with a professional look, and your company will always put its best print forward.

A speedy, sturdy monochrome laser printer is the best option to consider when choosing a network printer. Sure, those under-$100 network inkjets sound tempting, but they lack the long-term duty cycles of lasers. In fact, some inkjets have a machine life of only 75,000 pages before they need to be replaced, compared to the near-infinite machine life for a well-maintained laser.

Lasers print the sharpest, crispest images--and the high-end ones do so at dazzling speeds. While low-end models costing less than $600 average about 12 pages per minute, you can find premium-quality network lasers that print 40 ppm in the $2,000 to $3,000 range. Most entrepreneurs opt for a printer priced between $400 and $700, says Larry Jameson, a forecasting analyst with Lyra Research Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.

A word of caution, though: Manufacturers' claims about their printer speeds rarely take into account printer warm-up delays or the time it takes for your PC to communicate with the printer. This means clicking on your print icon won't necessarily translate into instant printing. Timesaving features to look for: a printer with an instant-on fuser, and a job-status feature that can monitor printing jobs from your computer so you know when they're completed.

Jill Amadio is a freelance writer in Newport Beach, California, who has covered technology for 10 years.

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This article was originally published in the March 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: All For One, One For All.

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