Despite moves toward the paperless office, the fact remains that hard copies of documents are inevitably required, which means that printers remain essential technology for any office, large or small, says Heinrich Pretorius, Canon product specialist at DCC.

However, choosing the right printer is sometimes challenging, as the print industry is packed full of jargon that can make features difficult to understand. Unpacking the terminology around printers can help organisations better understand features and functionality, helping them to choose the right printer to support the needs of their business for maximum value and Return On Investment (ROI).

According to a study by Canon on Web-to-Print, 86% of print buyers do not understand the technical language used by their print department or supplier. This led to 43% of buyers experiencing unsatisfactory print jobs due to misunderstanding terminology. Different sizes of organisation, workgroups and individual users will have conflicting requirements when it comes to printing, and a one size fits all approach will inevitably result in dissatisfaction. Understanding certain print terminology can help organisations to ensure that they purchase the right printer for their needs. Below are a few examples of where print jargon results in the purchase of an incorrect printer:

* A-sizes – These are standard paper sizes, such as A3 and A4. Organisations and users should ensure their printer can handle the print sizes they require. Most small office jobs will only require A4 printing, however, some users may need to print A3 (which is larger than A4), and others might need to print even larger formats. Make sure the printer you selected can handle the jobs you require.

* CMYK – This refers to the four print process colours used in the majority of laser and ink printers today. These are Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black. When purchasing a colour printer it is beneficial to ensure that the device uses separate cartridges for each printer, instead of a combined CMY colour cartridge, to minimise waste. Otherwise a printer will be unable to print any colour if one of the three CMY colours has run out.

* DPI – This stands for Dots Per Inch and refers to the resolution that the printer is able to produce. The higher the DPI, the better the quality of the print. When printing photographs and marketing material, amongst other examples, it is beneficial to use a higher DPI printer setting, as this will produce more professional results.

* Duplex – This means double-sided printing. Duplex printing helps to reduce paper consumption by up to 50%, and is a useful feature on any printer. Organisations should look for a printer that is able to offer automatic duplex printing.

* Duty cycle and monthly page volume – This refers to the volume of documents a printer can handle. If you have heavy printing requirements, make sure you purchase a printer with the ability to keep up with demand.

* Non-impact printing – This refers to both laser and ink printing technologies that do not use an impact method to create prints. Older technology such as the dot matrix printer utilised a ribbon and keys similar to a typewriter to product prints. These impact printers are still useful for creating multiple duplicate copies of certain documents such as invoicing and warehousing applications.

In addition to these features, organisations should also look at certain other characteristics. Networking capabilities will determine whether a printer can be shared wirelessly or connected to a network via Ethernet. Mobile printing capabilities will enable the printer to be used directly by smartphones and tablets. Workflows such as scan to email and scan to folders can help to improve job efficiency, security features such as secure print release can help to ensure confidential documents are not seen by unauthorised eyes, and downloadable printing applications (apps) can extend functionality. In addition, high capacity toners can handle higher volumes of print jobs before needing to be replaced, reducing the Cost Per Page (CPP) and administrative tasks.

Ultimately, organisations need to examine the specific needs of the user, department or workgroup that requires a printer, and then work with their printer supplier to obtain the most suitable solution. This will not only save money in the long term as the longevity of the printer is improved, it will also enhance productivity by facilitating efficient printing and print workflows.