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Do You Copy?

If you've reached the point where you need to invest in a copier, we've got the rundown on choosing one to match your business and your budget.

There comes a time in the life of every growing business when it becomes necessary to sever ties with the neighborhood copy shop. When your copy bills start looking more like your lease payments, and you're on a first-name basis with every Kinko's employee, it's time to step away and invest in your own copier. In particular, a workgroup copier is a smart place to start. They don't have to be the size of a semi-truck, like those at the copy shop. Many are svelte and economical designs that still cover your needs.

A multifunction device might be a good place to start looking: You can handle your printing as well as copying needs without investing in multiple machines. The Canon imageRunner 1630 covers printing and copying needs at speeds up to 16 ppm in a desktop-size device. Its 20,000 page per month duty cycle (typical for the $2,000 price range) will handle most needs, and its networking option is a good idea for workgroups needing to share a printer as well. For budget-conscious buyers, the $599 (all prices street) Brother MFC-8840DN is a low-cost, network-ready alternative with fax and printing capabilities. The duplex function is a paper-saving extra.

Sharp's AR-168S Digital Imager is a compact multifunction printer that fits easily in a tight office environment. The plug-and-play AR-168S delivers up to 16 ppm. Sharp also offers a network expansion kit for $750, which allows AR-168S users to take advantage of network options such as scanning directly to e-mail or FTP. A bit larger in physical size, HP's LaserJet 4100mfp also scans at 600 dpi, but can produce prints at 1,200 dpi at a speedier 25 ppm. The LaserJet 4100mfp is a little pricier, starting at $1,999, compared to Sharp's price tag of $999 ($1,749 if you add the network expansion kit).

The Imagistics im2520f, which starts at $10,930, is an industrial-strength multifunctional copier that includes scanning features. The im2520f has a print speed of up to 25 ppm and a massive maximum capacity of 3,950 sheets. That will keep you busy for awhile without having to reload. In comparison, the HP LaserJet 4100mfp can be upgraded to a capacity of 1,600 sheets, including a 100-sheet multipurpose tray. The lower-priced Sharp AR-168S is expandable to 500 sheets. Consider the monthly load you're likely to put on your new copier when you're looking at the paper capacity.

For that hefty price tag, the Imagistics im2520f includes several sophisticated finishing options, including saddle stitching and two- and three-hole punching. As you've probably guessed, the im2520f is not a desktop machine. And this larger machine size can tackle 11-by-17 paper. The investment could make sense for businesses that need to do their own publishing of manuals, product literature and other big projects.

When copying is all you really need to do, check into a model like the $1,349 Xerox CopyCentre C20. Its price tag is lower because it doesn't lump in any printer functions. It has a host of handy features, like automatic two-sided copying, "scan once, print many" technology that speeds up the job, and a toner-saving mode. It features 22 ppm, 1,200-sheet maximum capacity with an optional second tray, and 20,000-page monthly duty cycle.

All those specifications can be a lot to wade through. Important factors to consider are the size of the workgroup, the types of documents you'll be copying, and how much use the machine will receive. Look at your current needs, and factor in some room to grow. With the wide range of price tags and features, there's a copier out there that's just right for your business.

Shopping List

Scan these models for print speed, amount of memory, functions-and, of course, price.

MANUFACTURER/
MODEL
CONTACT FEATURES STREET
PRICE
Brother
MFC-8840DN
(888) 879-3232
www.brother.com
21 ppm, 32MB memory, 50-sheet document feeder $599
Canon
imageRunner 1630
(800) OK-CANON
www.usa.canon.com
16 ppm, 16MB memory, 30-sheet document feeder $1,950
HP
LaserJet 4100mfp
(800) 752-0900
www.hp.com
25 ppm in black, 64MB memory, 30-sheet document feeder, also Mac- and Linux-compatible $1,999
Imagistics
im2520f
(866) IMAGISTICS
www.imagistics.com
25 ppm, 64MB memory, 80-sheet document feeder $10,930
Sharp
AR-168S Digital Imager
(800) BE-SHARP
www.sharpusa.com
16 ppm, 32MB memory, 30-sheet document feeder $999
Xerox
CopyCentre C20
(800) ASK-XEROX
www.xerox.com
32MB memory, 50-page document feeder $1,349

Research editor Steve Cooper contributed to this article.

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This article was originally published in the November 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Do You Copy?.

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