Why buy separate devices when you can buy one device that solves all your problems. A small office can greatly benefit from a multifunction printer as long as you choose the best one suited for your business. Multifunction printers do exactly what their name suggests - they do a host of other office functions aside from printing. Their most basic function is printing but these printers include other features such as scanning and copying. Some even have fax capabilities.
Small offices can cut back on costs by buying just one device instead of buying three (or four) separate devices for each functionality. Having just one device plugged into an outlet saves on electricity. Since all the functions are bundles into one device, you just need to buy one set of consumables (ink or toner). As for convenience, it is easier to move around and carry one device instead of multiple devices. When you have very limited space in the office, one device would be better than three, addressing the problem of delegating space in an overcrowded small office. If your business is trying to cut back on computer peripherals attached to a limited number of PCs, getting one multifunction printer is better than buying a separate device to plug into each of your (most likely) overworked computers. We could all do away with the tangle of cables and electrical cords that are collecting dust bunnies and cluttering our floors.
If you already have separate dedicated devices for scanning, copying, and faxing, you must decide if you want to consolidate these features into one device. Again, consider space and economy. While having one device does save on space and electricity, the same fact would be a HUGE inconvenience (to say the least) in the event of a technical problem or if the ink or toner runs out. If your business hinges on high quality printing, high volume copying and scanning, you might find need the advance features of stand alone devices as opposed to the standard offerings of a multifunction printer.
To answer the question of how to choose the best multifunction printer, you would have to decide which of the other add-on superpowers (scan, copy, fax) would you need and how important are they to everyday operations.
As discussed in a previous article (chapter 23: printers) you should first decide what type of printing do you need and base your printer purchase off of that. You may opt to get a multifunction laser printer which is good for fast, large volume printing or you may opt to go for a multifunction inkjet printer which is good for printing colored documents. Once you have decided which kind of multifunction printer you’re getting, you need to ask yourself: What additional features do I need?
Most small offices would need the additional scan and copy functions. If you need to scan documents on a daily basis then it would make the most sense to buy a printer with a scan function. The scan function is immensely helpful for when you’re trying to reduce the amount of paper being used in the office. It helps reduce printing cost and reduces your carbon footprint. Scanning would enable you to still keep digital records of all your important documents, manuals, forms, certificates, and receipts. This is a great practice for easier and more organized records management.
The copy feature is necessary for when you need to keep or send a physical copy of an important document. These may be documents needed for filing such as a distributor agreement for a client, income tax return documents for the ATO, or some application forms you have filled out and need to mail out. You may also need copies of forms or training manuals for your employees.
The fax feature is useful for offices who still send and receive documents through fax. Sure, scanning a signed document and sending it via email would be faster but some companies list only their phone and fax numbers, and a general email address. There is a big chance that an important document falls through the cracks and gets lost in cyberspace. Some businesses prefer to send documents via fax to customers to make sure they actually receive the document and not just delete it.
It all boils down to how you are going to use the device and what your business needs are. If you need advanced features and attention to detail, then a separate device for each function is the way to go, otherwise, a multifunction printer would cover all the bases.