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Choosing the right photocopier for your business

Buying or leasing a photocopier for your business may seem like a simple thing to do – after all, what you need is a photocopier, right?

However, there are myriad variations on the type of services the copier may also be able to offer you, such as scanning capabilities, faxing – if you need that for your office – and the ability to print on both sides of the paper (known as ‘Duplexing’).

You may also need to consider whether you need a colour copier or mono only, as colour copiers can be as much as 30% more expensive. Hybrid copiers give you the best of both worlds, with money-saving capabilities if you only need to print in black and white, but the option to use full colour as and when you need to, so you ensure a professional image to clients.

The ability to access after-sales service may also be important – yes, there is usually one person in the office who is able to deal with most photocopier problems successfully, but what about the time when even they are defeated and you desperately need to produce copies for an essential presentation and there is no backup?

Time is money

How fast your photocopier operates may not be something you have even considered, but waiting longer than you have to for your copying to be completed will lead to frustration among employees and, frankly, time being wasted unnecessarily.

You need to consider the speed of the copier based on the amount of time taken to make the first copy (it should be under 10 seconds) and how many pages per minute can be completed (anything from 20-50 per minute is a good rate).

Paper handling

No-one wants to sit and feed the photocopier like it is the office pet, so making sure you choose one that has a decent method for paper handling is key.

For many companies, the majority of copying will be A4, but there are certain firms – and even certain times at other companies – where you need a machine that can handle more than just that size, or even just paper.

For example, booklets, brochures, cards, transparencies, A3 or larger printouts may also be needed, and you need to be sure the copier you choose can handle all of this for you.

You should also check the amount of use the copier will get so you know the one you choose is correct. If you already have a machine in-house, check the data on the counter below the plate glass window to see how many copies you make a month.

If you outsource these services, then look at how much has been ordered and spent in the last month to work out the cost-effectiveness of getting your own photocopier.

If you need additional services from your photocopier, such as finishing options including the ability to make booklets, saddle stitching or three-hole punching, you need to consider this as part of the purchase parameters. The greater the number of finishing options, the lower the workload for your staff.

Choosing a provider

You may have a particular make that is desirable to you, and if that is the case you may not be swayed from that. But whether you do or not, it is sensible to establish a few facts before you sign on the dotted line.

For example, you need to understand you are dealing with a reputable company, which has more than one brand available to you and is happy to offer references from current clients.

They can tell you the level of service they receive, whether they are happy with the availability and expertise of technicians when required, and any other benefits they receive from the dealer.

You should check what is included in the maintenance and service contracts before you buy them, and that the manufacturer’s parts are used in servicing.

You can pay for the maintenance of your copier by the hour if you wish, but this can become very expensive if you have a major breakdown of the machine.

Photocopier costs

Getting the right photocopier for your needs will impact on the price you have to pay. Home business use or personal use copiers come in at between £50 and £400, although you may need to add extras to make them work more efficiently, such as software or paper feeders.

Business grade copiers that are ideal for SMEs and even some larger corporations cost between £750 and £5,000.

Commercial grade copiers which can print more than 100 pages per minute cost a hefty £20,000 to £50,000 and you would need to be making more than 600,000 copies per month to justify the expense of one of these.

On top of the cost of the copier you have the maintenance and consumables to consider, such as ink, paper, cartridges and toner. They will require servicing, and staff may also need training to get the most out of the copier you choose.

Additional memory or printer servers, plus installing the required software may add to the costs, and should be considered alongside the price of the basic purchase.

Purchasing or renting a photocopier

You can choose to buy a copier outright, which will involve a lump sum payment to the dealer and it would become an asset on your balance sheet. This might be effective for tax purposes, but you would need to speak to your accountant to be sure.

Buying a copier may give you a greater chance of getting additional services as part of the deal, such as ongoing maintenance, but you may end up paying for these services separately anyway.

Renting a machine would involve a payment for the photocopier rental itself, and the servicing package. The cost will vary based on the type of copier and other related equipment you may have, and how many copies are likely to be generated by your staff each month.

However, it does give you the option to upgrade your photocopier more regularly, and is particularly feasible if you need more than five photocopiers in your organisation.

You can also lease-to-own the copier, which means you can eventually own the machine outright through a series of payments. But as with any loan – because this is effectively what you are taking out in this instance – you would need to pay attention to the amount of interest you would be paying, and any terms of the lease agreement you sign.

The amount you pay in service charges can depend on the number of copies made and if volumes are low you may be charged a monthly fee in addition to the cost per copy you have to pay.

The charges related to copy volumes are vital to understand, especially if the dealer has unrealistic volume requirements in the contract. Similarly, you have to estimate your copy volume accurately to get the right contract for your business.

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