Like any other computer peripheral, there are several types of
printers available. Some printers employ technologies that mimic
manual typewriter-style functionality, while others spray ink on
paper, or use a laser to generate an image of the page to be
printed. Printer hardware interfaces with a PC or network using
parallel, serial, or data networking protocols. There are several
factors to consider when evaluating printers for procurement and
deployment in your computing environment.
The following sections discuss the various printer types and the
protocols that printers use to communicate with computers.
There are several aspects to factor into printer evaluations.
The following specifies some of the most common criteria when
evaluating your printing needs.
Evaluating your organizational needs and how a printer services
those needs is the essential criteria in determining the right type
of printer for your environment. The most important question to ask
is "What do we need to print?" Since there
are specialized printers for text, images, or any variation
thereof, you should be certain that you procure the right tool for
For example, if your requirements call for high-quality color
images on professional-grade glossy paper, it is recommended you
use a dye-sublimation or thermal wax transfer color printer instead
of a laser or impact printer.
Conversely, laser or inkjet printers are well-suited for
printing rough drafts or documents intended for internal
distribution (such high-volume printers are usually called
workgroup printers). Determining the needs
of the everyday user allows administrators to determine the right
printer for the job.
Other factors to consider are features such as duplexing — the ability to print on both
sides of a piece of paper. Traditionally, printers could only print
on one side of the page (called simplex
printing). Most lower-end printer models today do not have
duplexing by default (they may, however, be capable of a manual
duplexing method that requires the user to flip the paper
themselves). Some models offer add-on hardware for duplexing; such
add-ons can drive one-time costs up considerably. However, duplex
printing may reduce costs over time by reducing the amount of paper
used to print documents, thus reducing the cost of consumables — primarily paper.
Another factor to consider is paper size. Most printers are
capable of handling the more common paper sizes:
letter — (8 1/2" x 11")
A4 — (210mm x 297mm)
JIS B5 — (182mm x 257mm)
legal — (8 1/2" x 14")
If certain departments (such as marketing or design) have
specialized needs such as creating posters or banners, there are
large-format printers capable of using
A3 (297mm x 420mm) or tabloid (11" x 17")
paper sizes. In addition, there are printers capable of even larger
sizes, although these are often only used for specialized purposes,
such as printing blueprints.
Additionally, high-end features such as network modules for
workgroup and remote site printing should also be considered during
Cost is another factor to consider when evaluating printers.
However, determining the one-time cost associated with the purchase
of the printer itself is not sufficient. There are other costs to
consider, such as consumables, parts and maintenance, and printer
As the name implies, consumables is a general term used to
describe the material used up during the printing process.
Consumables primarily take the form of media and ink.
The media is the material on which the text or image is printed.
The choice of media is heavily dependent on the type of information
For example, creating an accurate print of a digital image
requires a special glossy paper that can withstand prolonged
exposure to natural or artificial lighting, as well as ensure
accuracy of color reproduction; these qualities are known as color
fastness. For archival-quality documents that require durability
and a professional level of legibility (such as contracts,
rï¿½sumï¿½s, and permanent records),
a matte (or non-glossy) paper should be
used. The stock (or thickness) of paper is
also important, as some printers have a paper path that is not
straight. The use of paper that is too thin or too thick can result
in jams. Some printers can also print on transparencies, allowing the information to be
projected on a screen during presentations.
Specialized media such as those noted here can affect the cost
of consumables, and should be taken into consideration when
evaluating printing needs.
Ink is a generalized term, as not all printers use liquid inks.
For example, laser printers use a powder known as toner, while impact printers use ribbons saturated
with ink. There are specialized printers that heat the ink during
the printing process, while others spray small droplets of ink onto
the media. Ink replacement costs vary widely and depend on whether
the container holding the ink can be recharged (refilled) or if it requires a complete
replacement of the ink cartridge.