Guide

Computer hardware for business

Printers, scanners and multi-function devices

If you use several computers and peripherals (such as printers and scanners), it may benefit your business to network them together.

Sharing printers over a network

A network allows you to share internet connections, data and resources within your business, improving both efficiency and speed of working.

Originally, all computer networks used fixed wiring to link PCs and peripherals. However, many businesses now have wireless networks - which are ideal for workers who need mobility - or wired networks with wireless hubs in shared spaces.

For more information, see computer networking and wireless technology.

Types of office printers

Printers are essential for most businesses. There are three basic types of printers:

  • Laser printers produce colour or black print and are suitable for most office printing needs. They are more expensive than other types of printers but are more economical if you do lots of printing and are relatively fast.
  • Inkjet printers can carry out either colour or black printing. Some inkjet printers can produce photographic quality images. Although cheap to purchase, inkjet supplies like paper and ink make them expensive per page printed. They are also slower than comparable laser printers.
  • Impact printers, such as dot matrix printers, are now rarely used except for special purposes, eg for printing forms used with accounts packages.

You can connect printers directly to desktop PCs, or share them on a wired or wireless network. Shared printers are preferable for most small offices, but some workers may need a personal printer in a secure location, particularly if they are dealing with sensitive or confidential information.

As with most computer equipment, unless you have in-house expertise, it is worth paying for a maintenance contract for your printer. Access to the right support can help reduce disruption and downtime in case of any equipment failure. See more on hardware installation, maintenance and support.

Office scanners

Scanners are used to capture images digitally. They can be useful in an office for storing content digitally that is only available in print and for extracting text from documents such as books. You can connect scanners directly to a desktop PC.

Multi-function devices: advantages and disadvantages

A small office usually needs a printer, a photocopier, a fax machine and perhaps a scanner. These can be combined in one multi-function device. They have several advantages:

  • the total cost may be lower than the combined cost of separate units
  • they save floor and desk space
  • there is less to install

However, such devices may not deliver all the performance available from separate units and, if they fail, you may lose all the functions at once and will need to replace the entire unit.