It's 40 years since an article in Business Week predicted that there would, one day, be a PC on every desk, and that this technological revolution would lead to the "paperless office".
Well, they got the PC bit right, but the paperless office is still something of a pipe dream. Reducing printing costs remains a challenge for businesses of all sizes, but there are a number of simple guidelines that can help you to make more efficient use of your office printer.
Picking a printer
When purchasing a printer, or printing system, you should first analyse your printing needs. Improvements in the quality of text output mean that inkjet printers are increasingly finding their way into the SMB sector, but if you need to print thousands of pages of text documents every month, then the traditional laser printer still rules the roost.
Colour laser printers are also available, and much less expensive than they used to be. However, inkjet printers remain the best option for colour graphics and photo output. Inkjet printers can also print on a wider variety of media, such as cardboard or glossy photo papers, and specialised A3 inkjets can be useful for posters and graphic design work.
Whether you choose a laser or inkjet printer, always make sure that the printer offers high-yield ink or toner cartridges that can help to reduce running costs.
Many people never really bother to explore the on-screen menus when setting up a new printer. Take a closer look and you may find options such as a low-power or sleep mode that can dramatically reduce energy consumption when the printer is idle.
You've probably seen emails that remind you to "consider the environment before printing this email". In fact, you should think twice before printing any type of document, and always consider digital alternatives - such as Adobe's PDF file format - that can easily be sent by email.
Copy and scan
Modern multifunction printers can be used to scan and copy documents. But instead of simply making more paper copies of a document, they may also offer an option to convert paper documents into a PDF file that can be viewed on screen.
Most printers include an 'economy' or 'draft' mode that uses less ink or toner. Using this as the default setting for routine printing tasks can reduce your printing costs significantly, and you can still switch to a higher quality mode for presentations and other important documents.
Do you need colour?
Documents such as web pages, graphs, and charts, can often be printed in black and white, saving on expensive colour inks and toners.
This might seem rather obvious, but many office printers churn out hundreds of pages every day only using one side of the paper. Using your printer's duplex (two-sided) option can reduce paper consumption dramatically.
Pull, not push
Many enterprise printing systems now offer a 'pull-printing' option. Instead of sitting at your desk and sending documents to a remote printer, pull-printing requires the user to manually enter a security code on the printer itself. This provides greater security, reduces uncollected paper left in the printer - and might even make people think twice before pushing the 'Print' button.