What is a multifunction printer?

A multifunction printer (MFP) is a device that consolidates the functionality of a printer, copier, scanner and/or fax into one machine. Laser All-in-one Multifunction printers are a common choice for budget-minded businesses that want to consolidate assets, reduce costs and improve workflow. 

1. Know your requirements.

Understand what you need the multifunction printer to do for you and your end users. Beyond printing and copying, how do you want to use the multifunction printer to help manage documents, reduce paper, simplify workflow, scan to the cloud, work remotely, etc.? How many copy, print, fax, scan and email jobs will you run each day? How many users will share the device? Will you need it to be color capable? Wireless? Mobile- and cloud-connected?


2. Know the total cost of ownership (TCO) and cost/value benefits.

When evaluating a multifunction printer, beware of looking only at the cost of the initial hardware. There are a number of other factors to consider, including the cost of supplies. Once ink costs are taken into consideration, inkjet multifunction printers, initially perceived as being low-cost, often turn out to have an equivalent or higher TCO than the better-performing laser multifunction printers. 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 you need.

Your multifunction printer can become a useful asset in managing and controlling costs for printing and imaging, and can also add new capabilities to your organization if you choose wisely. Consider how multifunction printers can address total cost of ownership for printing and imaging assets, better consolidate and improve management of resources across the organization, and improve business process efficiency.

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 specification sheets with data from independent testing agencies. What are experienced people in the industry saying about the quality and performance of the product you are considering?

4. Know how easy it is to connect to an existing network.

Consider how easily the multifunction printer system will integrate with your existing network. Is it easy to deploy? Does it require minimal start-up training? Does it come with software or wizards to guide you through installation, troubleshooting and upgrading?

If your workgroup needs to print from multiple, distributed devices (smartphones, tablets, laptops, etc.) to one easily accessible location, then consider buying a wireless, or WiFi, multifunction printer. WiFi multifunction printers connect to a network without needing to be hard-wired or cabled into that network. This enables easy mobile printing, without unsightly cords to trip over.

5. Know how easy it is to use.

Prevent bottlenecks and costly employee downtime by finding a multifunction printer that's easy to operate. Check for intuitive user interfaces, minimal training requirements, and easily accessible online help and documentation. If you do need support, check that the product is backed by manufacturer-provided service and support coverage.

Tablet-like interfaces make the newest-generation multifunction printers especially easy to use. They let you touch, swipe, pinch and scroll just like you would on a smartphone or tablet. And with apps integrated into the interface, you can add, delete or swap tools for your own customized workflows.

Mobile- and cloud-connected multifunction printers make it easy to work from just about anywhere. On these MFPs, apps become your shortcut for downloading, sharing, printing, scanning, distributing -- even translating -- documents on the go.

6. Know its multitasking abilities.

Look for a multifunction printer 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 (AiOs), offer multiple functions all in one device, but may not multitask simultaneously. If they cannot deliver all the functions of a multifunction printer concurrently, then 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 you and your staff to solve, prevent or anticipate problems. Solid bi-directional communication, both at the multifunction printer 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. This is something you may want now or in the future. Look for device relationship management software that optimizes the multifunction printer’s availability and uptime. Does the vendor provide superior response time and provide consistent quality of service? You want to trust your multifunction printer will stay up and running to ensure you have an efficient and productive office.

The more sophisticated multifunction printers let you not only manage fleets, but also information. With the right tools built in, such as integration with Managed Print Services, your MFP becomes the hub of your document environment. It can automate business processes, optimize device management remotely, and assist your help desk with built-in tools. An app-connected interface opens a gateway of future possibilities for device, and document, management as well.