Buyer’s Guide

A staple of the office for decades, the copier has come a long way since Xerox introduced the first fully automated plain-paper photocopier in 1959. Today’s models have more in common with computers than they do with that first Xerox 914: modern business copiers combine copying, laser printing, faxing, scanning, and more into one networked machine.

The following are some basic questions to have answered before purchasing or upgrading an MFP for your office:
What is my volume?

If you already own or lease a copier, you can determine your actual copier usage by looking at the counter. If you do not have a copier, examine your copy shop receipts to get a sense for your volume. If you are going to use the copier as a network printer, increase the figure by 30% to 50%. You can also use your monthly paper consumption to help determine your current copy and print volume.

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How fast do I need it?

Copier speed is measured in copies per minute (cpm), pages per minute (ppm), or outputs per minute (opm). Whichever term is used, it refers to the number of letter-sized pages the machine can produce in one minute when running at full speed. The copier industry defines six segments defined by speed, ranging from Segment 1 machines that run 15 to 20 ppm to Segment 6 machines that top 91 ppm. Most offices will get by comfortably with machines from Segments 2 – 4, in the 20 to 50 ppm range.

Of course, more complex forms of copying – making two-sided copies, copying on to larger sheets, and sorting – will be slower. If you will be frequently doing these types of copying, make sure you anticipate and plan for the slower speed.

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Black & White v. Color?

For most businesses that need some color printing and/or copying, a black and white/color hybrid is the best choice. By switching between b&w and color modes, a hybrid office copier can save you money in expensive color copier consumables.

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Here is additional information with which to arm yourself prior to decision making:

Traditional Features

An office copier with an automatic document feeder (ADF) allows you to copy multi-page documents without having to lift and lower the cover for every sheet you copy. Instead, you drop a stack of originals into the feeder, press start, and the ADF automatically pulls each page through. If you copy lots of double sided originals, you should invest in a recirculating automatic document feeder (RADF), which can flip pages inside the machine for simplified double-sided copying.

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Sorting and Finishing

Digital copiers can sort copied sets electronically without the use of sorter bins. Instead of separate bins, the copies are placed in a single tray at a right angle or offset from each other, allowing you to easily identify where one set ends and another begins. Bin-free sorting allows you to make unlimited sets at one time, rather than only as many sets as you have sorter bins. You may want a finisher if you are frequently going to copy many sets of multi-page documents. The most familiar type of finisher is the automatic stapler, which can be a huge time-saver. More advanced versions include three-hole punches, saddle stitch binding, folding, and more.

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Paper Supply

Each paper tray or paper feed unit is a separate paper source. The number of sources is important if you want to be able to copy onto different paper stocks, such as letterhead, legal size stock or transparencies, without reloading the machine. Paper sources typically hold a minimum of 50 to 100 sheets, and the largest-capacity units can hold up to 3,000 sheets. Typically, office copiers include at least one fixed-size and a couple of adjustable-size paper trays. Unfortunately, heavy paper stock often jams if you load it into a standard paper tray. To get around this problem, most copiers include a bypass tray, a special tray that provides a straight paper path for heavy paper and labels.

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More Features

Add a printer module and network card to a digital copier and it can double as an office laser printer, working at the same speed it makes copies. A copier can allow your employees to produce dozens of stapled copies of a five-page, two-sided proposal – without leaving their desks. Most offices can benefit from using a copier as a printer as per-page costs can be as little as 20% of laser printer printing costs.

Most copiers run standard networking protocols, but you still need to make sure the model you choose is compatible with your network. Involving your IT department in this aspect of the copier purchase decision upfront can save you significant headaches later.

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Digital multi-function devices scan every document being copied into memory before printing a copy, so it’s natural that they can be used for creating electronic versions of your paper documents. A document feeder can be used as a sheet fed scanner, rapidly scanning multiple pages, while books and other thicker objects that can’t go through the feeder can be scanned directly on the glass.

Add-ons to scanning functionality include OCR (optical character recognition) software that turns your papers into editable electronic documents, and the ability to scan directly to e-mail or a computer desktop.

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With the addition of a fax module, you can send and receive faxes through the copier. You can easily send multi-page faxes using the document feeder, or you can use the copier glass to fax single pages or parts of books or catalogs. Incoming faxes are printed as they’re received, sometimes into a separate output tray. With a network interface, users can even send faxes from their computers.

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Automatic Shut-Off

Almost all copiers now have an automatic shut-off option – it saves energy and decreases wear on a copier by turning the machine off if it has not been used for a set period of time.

Many digital multi-function devices allow you to require that users enter a code before they can make copies. This provides a level of security – preventing unauthorized usage – as well as allowing you to analyze current usage patterns by department. Some machines can also hold faxes or network documents in memory until the correct code is entered, then print them. This prevents confidential documents from being left in the output tray for any passerby to view.

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Environmental Friendliness

Copiers can be huge consumers of electricity – and all that paper has to come from somewhere. But despite this, copiers are becoming more environmentally friendly all the time: energy efficiency is one of the prime concerns of manufacturers and consumers alike.

Newer digital copiers usually have “energy save” modes that cause the machine to power down if it hasn’t been used for a certain period of time. Also look for “Energy Star” rated copiers that save money while protecting the environment through intelligent power management.

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