The MFP 10-point checklist
Multifunction printers consolidate the functionality of a printer, copier, scanner and fax into one machine.
Multifunction printers, typically known as MFPs, are very popular devices - both for organisations and for vendors. They consolidate the functionality of a printer, copier, scanner and/or fax into one machine.
MFPs are becoming a common choice for thrifty organisations that want to consolidate assets, reduce costs and improve workflow. They also reduce energy consumption, cut the amount of office space needed, and improve control, especially of paper and consumables. For many organisations, they have become the catalyst for an office equipment consolidation exercise, which has the dual effect of saving money and restoring control from office automation chaos.
At some point, all organisations of any size will need to make an informed decision about what MFP printer is right for them. If a company does this, it needs to ask the right questions. Here are the 10 things to know before buying an MFP.
When evaluating an MFP, beware of looking only at the cost of the initial hardware.Rob Abraham is MD of Bytes Document Solutions.
1. Know the company's requirements Understand what the company needs the MFP to do for it and its end-users. Beyond printing and copying, how does a company want to use the MFP to help manage documents, reduce paper, simplify workflow and manage forms? How many copy, print, fax, scan, and e-mail jobs will the business run each day? How many users will share the device? Will it need to be colour-capable? Xerox's Multifunction Buyer's Guide (PDF) can help further define the requirements. Visit www.office.xerox.com/latest/MFPGD-01.PDF.
2. Know the total cost of ownership (TCO) and cost/value benefits When evaluating an MFP, beware of looking only at the cost of the initial hardware. There are other factors to consider, including the cost of supplies. Once ink costs are taken into consideration, inkjet MFPs, initially perceived as being low cost, often turn out to have an equivalent or higher TCO than the higher performing laser and solid ink MFPs. TCO can also increase significantly for devices that are hard to use and maintain, unreliable, or lack the features and capability to efficiently and effectively produce the results needed.
3. Know what third parties have to say Compare the data on the actual performance and management and support issues promoted on the vendor's spec sheets, with data from independent testing agencies. What are experienced people saying about the quality and performance of the product?
4. Know how easy it is to connect to an existing network Consider how easily the system will integrate with the existing network. Is it easy to deploy? Does it require minimal start-up training? Does it come with software or wizards to guide users through installation, troubleshooting, and upgrading?
5. Know how easy it is to use Prevent bottlenecks and costly employee downtime by finding an MFP that's easy to operate. Check for intuitive user interfaces, minimal training requirements, and easily accessible online help and documentation. If support is needed, check that the product is backed by manufacturer-provided service and support coverage.
6. Know its multitasking abilities Look for an MFP that can truly multifunction. Can users access each function they need, even if other functions are already in use? Be aware that some products, such as all-in-ones, offer multiple functions all in one device, but can't multi-task, so they cannot deliver all the functions of an MFP concurrently so you may risk downtime due to bottlenecks.
7. Know its bi-directional communication capabilities A failure to communicate timely and accurate information to users and IT administrators on the status of jobs, queues, and devices will result in more intervention by companies and staff to solve, prevent or anticipate problems. Solid bi-directional communication, both at the device and across the network, is essential to keeping a product running consistently. Look for print job and device status capabilities from the desktop and the ability to view all job queues at the device and across the network.
8. Know the available device management, remote intelligence, and support Consider the vendor's commitment to providing robust device and fleet management tools and utilities. Look for device relationship management software that optimises the device's availability and uptime. Does the vendor provide superior response time and provide consistent quality of service?
9. Know whether it provides the level of security and confidentiality needed Does the device offer the appropriate level of security? Is it scalable to provide more security if the company's needs change?
10. Know what software and solutions are available Understand what compatible software and solutions are available from the vendor, as well as their solution partners.
MFPs can help streamline duplicate and cumbersome document processes and electronically organise, edit and archive paper documents.
With an MFP and a simple software application paper documents can be turned into electronic format and sent to multiple destinations - e-mail, document repositories, network folders, even remote printers - with a single scan.
Once armed with the knowledge gathered by asking these questions, companies will be prepared to make the right decision.
* Rob Abraham is MD of Bytes Document Solutions.