Today, a significant majority of business information is stored digitally, while companies continue to print documents at a noteworthy pace — an estimated 10,000 pages per employee each year. Despite our steady march into the digital age, the humble printer remains an essential piece of technology within the modern business landscape.
When it comes to selecting the best printers for your organization, there’s more to consider than you might think. The two primary options are a printer network, which multiple users on a server can access, and local printers, designed to be used by one dedicated user.
Each type of printer brings its own benefits and unique challenges to the table and understanding these nuances is key to making a well-informed decision for your business. In this guide, we unravel the complexities of network and local printers, empowering you to boost your print security, efficiency and productivity.
Network Printers vs. Local Printers: What’s the Difference?
When choosing a printer for your business, it’s crucial to understand the core differences between a network printer and a local printer.
What Are Network Printers?
Network printers are devices that are connected to a central network and can be accessed by multiple computers within the network. They are often used in larger business environments or areas where multiple users require access to printing services.
For instance, a design studio might employ a network printer to create large-scale designs and posters. Designers throughout the office can easily send their high-quality marketing materials to the printer from their individual workstations.
Similarly, a large accounting firm might use a network printer to print multiple copies of financial reports and statements, enabling accountants to quickly and efficiently produce high-quality financial documents.
A hospital could also use a network printer to print patient wristbands and labels, helping medical staff easily and accurately manage patient care.
Additionally, an educational institution may use a network printer to manage and distribute printed resources for students, facilitating shared access for teachers and staff across multiple departments.
What Are Local Printers?
Local printers, on the other hand, are devices that are directly connected to a specific computer, typically via a USB cable. They are most often used in smaller businesses or home offices where there’s typically one primary user.
For example, a home office might use a local printer for the convenience of easily managing and printing documents directly from a personal computer.
Similarly, a small retail store may use a local printer to generate receipts, providing customers with immediate proof of their purchases.
A freelance graphic designer might also use a local printer to produce client drafts and final pieces, ensuring high-quality prints on demand from their home studio.
There are several key differences between network and local printers, including:
- Connectivity: Network printers can be accessed by multiple computers within a network, while local printers are directly connected to a single computer.
- Printing speed: Network printers generally boast faster printing speeds, ideal for high-volume printing tasks.
- Cost: Local printers tend to be less expensive because they are made for smaller volume and therefore are often from a cheaper device tier.
- Maintenance: While local printers are simpler to maintain, network printers often require specialized IT support.
- Flexibility: Network printers offer more flexibility as they can be accessed by multiple devices, whereas local printers can only be used with the device they’re connected to.
- Security: Network printers typically offer enhanced security features like user authentication and encryption to safeguard against unauthorized access and data breaches.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Network Printers
Network printers have emerged as an essential tool for many businesses, catering to multiple users simultaneously and efficiently managing high-volume print tasks. However, they also come with their own set of challenges. Let’s dive into the pros and cons of network printers to better understand their fit for your business.
Advantages of network printers include:
- Easy management: Network printers streamline the process of managing inventory and conducting maintenance, especially in an environment with multiple users.
- Multi-user access: Network printers offer seamless access to multiple users simultaneously, eliminating the need for individual printers at each workstation.
- Improved security: Having a single network printer, as opposed to multiple local printers, can enhance security. Network printers can be fortified with additional security measures, like user authentication and encryption, to prevent unauthorized access.
- Versatility and flexibility: Network printers can operate across various platforms and operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux. They also offer users a range of printing options when hosted on a network with diverse printer types (inkjet, laser, thermal, etc.).
- Space saving: Having one printer cater to multiple users conserves space and reduces clutter.
- Quick problem-solving: If one printer breaks down, users can easily switch to another device on the network, ensuring minimal downtime.
- Efficient for IT: Remote distribution of software and printer drivers to multiple clients makes life easier for the IT department.
Disadvantages of network printers include:
- Potential delays: If the network printer is already in use, there can be delays for subsequent print jobs. However, solutions like MPowerPrint and cloud-based printing can allow users to retrieve their documents from another printer using their badge.
- Network dependency: Network printers rely heavily on the network they’re connected to. If for any reason the network goes down, it can render all the network printers inaccessible, halting important tasks. However, the risk of such interruptions can be effectively mitigated by having your network managed by a Managed Services Provider (MSP). MSPs can ensure the network remains stable and responsive, minimizing the chances of downtime. Additionally, leveraging cloud solutions like MPowerPrint can add another layer of resilience. Even if a printer goes offline, jobs sent to it can be retrieved and printed from a different device at another location, ensuring smooth and continuous printing operations. Furthermore, all your print jobs are securely stored in the cloud, allowing for safe printing whenever they need to be printed.
- Physical security: The physical security of the print device may be limited. However, functionalities like those provided by MPowerPrint ensure printing occurs only when the user is physically by the machine. Endpoint security solutions can also enhance the overall security of your network.
Ideal Businesses for Network Printers
When considering the optimal printing solution for your business, network printers emerge as a compelling choice under certain conditions. They are particularly well-suited for:
- Businesses requiring large-scale printing and sharing capabilities
- Medium-to-large-sized businesses, especially those with multiple locations
- Operations that demand advanced printing options such as duplex printing or stapling
- Environments where printing from multiple devices is a regular need
- Situations where centralized print management and cost control are high-priority considerations
Potential Impact of Network Printers
Let’s look at some hypothetical scenarios to illustrate the potential positive impact of having a printer network:
- Law firm: A large law firm could install network printers across its multiple locations. This setup would allow employees to print from any device and location, potentially boosting productivity and achieving cost savings.
- Manufacturing company: A manufacturing firm could use network printers to generate shipping labels and invoices. Such a setup could streamline operations and reduce printing costs.
- Healthcare provider: A healthcare provider could enhance patient care and reduce administrative time by employing network printers to print patient records and prescriptions. Network printers would enable medical staff to access and print patient information from any device.
- Advertising agency: An advertising agency could use network printers to produce high-quality marketing materials rapidly. This could help the agency deliver professional-quality materials to their clients promptly, enhancing their reputation and bottom line.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Local Printers
Choosing local printers comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore them:
Advantages of local printers include:
- Direct access: Local printers are typically located next to the user’s computer, providing immediate and reliable access to printed documents.
- Ease of setup: The “plug and play” feature in most local printers automatically detects the printer and installs necessary drivers, simplifying setup.
- Ideal for remote work: Local printers can be a practical solution for remote workers who need to print but don’t work on-site.
Disadvantages of local printers include:
- Costly maintenance: Keeping multiple local printers operational for a number of staff members can be expensive.
- Potential productivity drops: If a local printer breaks down, employees can’t reroute the print job to another printer, leading to potential drops in productivity.
- Processor use: Local printers use additional processor clock cycles for printing tasks.
- Security risk: Multiple local printers can increase risk exposure, particularly when printing sensitive information. It’s harder to monitor what’s being printed, potentially creating data security issues.
Ideal Use Cases for Local Printers
Local printers could be the best choice for:
- Small businesses, home offices or personal use
- Situations where a single device or user needs to print a limited number of documents
- Businesses or individuals with limited printing needs
- Instances where cost is a paramount concern
Potential Impact of Local Printers
The following hypothetical scenarios outline how local printers could improve business operations:
- Home-based business owner, who uses a local printer to easily print invoices and shipping labels, enhancing order processing and customer satisfaction
- Personal trainer, who uses a local printer to print workout plans and schedules for clients, thus improving their organization and professional image
- Retail store, which uses a local printer to print signage and promotions, allowing for quick updates to in-store marketing materials
- Graphic designer, who uses a local printer to produce high-quality proofs and mock-ups, enhancing the accuracy and quality of their design work
Managed Print Services: Solutions to Help Manage Both Local Printers and Network Printers
Managed print services can serve as an efficient solution for businesses juggling both local and network printers. Let’s delve into the specifics:
What Are Managed Print Services?
Managed Print Services are offerings by third-party IT service providers that manage and maintain a company’s IT infrastructure, systems and applications. These services encompass monitoring and maintaining network and server performance, providing cybersecurity solutions, managing software and hardware upgrades and delivering technical support and troubleshooting services. The key objective of MPS is to offer businesses a cost-effective method to manage their IT needs, allowing internal resources to focus on core business functions.
Managed print services help address common printing issues through:
- Streamlined printer management: MPS offer comprehensive oversight of your entire printer fleet, regardless of whether they’re network or local printers. By monitoring printer use and maintenance, MPS can predict and prevent issues, reducing downtime and improving efficiency.
- Improved security: MPS can implement advanced security measures, such as user authentication and encryption, to protect your printers from unauthorized access and data breaches. This is especially important for network printers that can be more vulnerable to cyber threats.
- Reduced printing costs: By optimizing printer use and maintaining equipment to prevent unexpected failures, MPS can significantly lower printing costs. MPS also helps businesses understand their printing habits and implement cost-saving measures, such as duplex printing and print job routing.
- Enhanced productivity: By minimizing printer-related downtime and offering user-friendly interfaces and features, MPS can increase staff productivity. Employees can focus on their primary tasks instead of dealing with printer-related issues.
- Environmental sustainability: MPS can help businesses reduce their environmental impact by promoting sustainable printing practices, like reducing paper waste and recycling cartridges. They also help to minimize energy consumption by keeping equipment in optimal condition.
Potential Impact of Managed Print Services
The following scenarios depict how MPS could potentially improve business operations:
- Manufacturing company: Implementing MPS could consolidate printing infrastructure, potentially reducing printing expenses and enhancing productivity.
- Healthcare provider: MPS could help improve document security and reduce waste, leading to improved compliance with regulations and reduced printing costs.
- Law firm: Implementing MPS could streamline document management and reduce printing expenses, potentially resulting in heightened productivity and a diminished environmental impact.
- University: With MPS, a university could optimize printer usage and reduce printing costs, by decreasing paper consumption and contributing to sustainability efforts.
- Retail store: MPS could help enhance document management and cut printing expenses, potentially boosting productivity and achieving cost savings.
Choosing the Right Printer: Final Thoughts and Recommendations
Deciding between network printers and local printers is an essential choice tailored to your organization’s unique needs. The choice should be anchored on the size of your business, the volume of print tasks and the balance between cost and convenience.
Network printers shine in settings that require extensive printing across multiple users or locations, while local printers are ideal for situations that demand simple, dedicated printing tasks. Regardless of the path you choose, managed print services can help streamline your operations, offering a blend of cost-effectiveness, security and productivity enhancement.
Ultimately, the right printing environment could be a strategic mix of both network and local printers, overseen by an MPS solution that aligns with your business’s demands.
Ready to optimize your printing operations?
If you’re contemplating how managed print services can enhance your business, our team at Secur-Serv is ready to guide you. Contact us to explore customized solutions tailored to your needs and step toward smart, efficient printer management today!