Paper Management: Printers, Copiers, Scanners, Fax Units, and Multifunction Devices

By Nerino J. Petro Jr. and J. Anthony Vittal

Lawyers usually focus on the “sexy” aspects of office technology, such as computers and software. Too often, lawyers overlook and fail to appreciate the mundane tools—the items that work in the background, such as copiers, scanners, printers, and multifunction machines. Successful offices depend on these pieces of equipment, however, to generate work product and to turn paper into electronic files.

Planning Your Purchase

What do you need to know about planning an upgrade to new equipment? Focus on four basic considerations:

Cost. Several elements comprise cost. First, there is the average cost per page (CPP), which has three components—device cost, maintenance cost, and supplies cost (for ink or toner and other supplies). CPP is calculated by taking the number of pages you expect to generate over the device’s anticipated life span in your office and then amortizing the cost of the device over that number of pages and factoring in the per-page maintenance and supplies cost for that number of pages. Do not forget to include the labor cost associated with generating the work product (for example, if the CPP of manually collating and stapling copied documents exceeds the CPP of adding a collator and stapler to your copier, it may make economic sense to pay more up front for the fancier machine). Finally you have the cost of storing supplies and storing and recycling used components. Add these components together and you get a total cost of ownership (TCO) figure.

TCO is important because modern office and personal printer manufacturers follow the “Gillette” pricing model—sell the device (razor handle, printer) inexpensively, and make your profit on the consumables (blades, ink/toner). For example, Dell sells one laser printer for home use at the same price as a single high-capacity replacement toner cartridge for that unit. It is common knowledge how expensive ink for ink-jet printers can be relative to the cost of the device; indeed, an ancillary industry has evolved for the manufacture and sale of kits enabling users to refill ink cartridges. Hewlett-Packard’s new product line includes a price increase for consumables.

Therefore, you must consider the TCO of all devices in your office. Changing the mix of devices, manufacturers, and technologies may result in a lower overall TCO and a resulting improvement in your bottom line.

Ergonomics. Ease of use, ease of maintenance, and the need to get up and walk to the device to collect or generate work product all should factor into your decision.

Environmental impact. As we become increasingly conscious of the impact of technology on the environment, these factors should become part of our analysis. For example, toner apparently has adverse health impacts because it contains substances that at best are skin and eye irritants and at worst are carcinogenic or mutagenic. Studies in Austria and Australia have equated the toxicity of the toner dust emitted from laser printers and copiers with that of diesel exhaust. Toner not only is in the air we breathe, but it collects on the wall and floor around printers and copiers. Another factor is the waste generated by unrecycled components such as toner and ink cartridges.

Your needs. Most important of all, you must focus on how you will use the device. How many impressions (sides of a page) do you print, copy, and scan each month? How many pages do you fax each month? How many fax pages do you receive each month?

If your current printers and copiers have counters—either electronic or mechanical—keep track on a monthly basis. If they do not, you can estimate usage by keeping track of how many reams of paper are used by a particular device in a month. Alternatively, a study by International Data Corporation published in April 2007 indicated that the median print volume for monochrome workgroup printers was 7,020 pages per month and 6,453 pages per month for color workgroup printers generating 38 percent of their output in color.

This information will tell you the duty cycle for each device. More specifically:

  • How many copies does your office make every month on average? How many are color, how many are black-on-white?
  • How many of those copies are reproductions of work your office has generated (such as service copies of pleadings, distribution copies of contracts, etc.), and how many are copies of work generated by others and received by your office on paper?
  • For the copies that are reproductions of work your office has generated, could you just as easily generate them from a workstation or workgroup printer, or does your work volume require a copier with built-in collator and stapler?
  • For copies of work generated by others and received by your office on paper, do you need to generate paper copies, or could you be better served by scanning them to portable document format (PDF) files and saving them on your electronic systems?
  • If you shift from creating paper copies to generating PDF files, how many impressions will that subtract from the monthly duty cycle of your copier(s)?
  • What are the dimensions of the ma-terials you typically copy-letter size, legal size, tabloid size (11" x 17")?
  • Do you need duplex copying ability (the ability to copy both sides of a document and generate double-sided copies)?
  • How many impressions does your office print every month on average? How many are color, how many are black-on-white? (Research has shown that, if you print less than 60 percent of your pages in color, a printer-based workgroup device will offer you a lower cost per page).
  • Do you need duplex printing ability (the ability to print on both sides of a page)?
  • What are the dimensions of the materials you typically print- letter-size, legal-size, tabloid-size (11" x 17"), envelopes, etc.?
  • If you shift production from copiers to printers, how many impressions will that add to the monthly duty cycle of your printers?
  • If you shift from printing documents to generating PDF files, how many impressions will that subtract from the monthly duty cycle of your printer(s)? (Many courts already have shifted and many others are shifting from paper-based service and filing to e-filing and e-service.)
  • Do you copy and/or scan books and other items that you cannot readily run through a sheet feeder? If so, you will need devices with a glass copying/scanning platen as well as an automatic document feeder.

This information will enable you to identify under-utilized devices, work patterns, and device requirements for your office or workgroup. It also will give you the usage data to apply in calculating the CPP and TCO of your proposed new devices.

Printers

Modern printers come in three varieties—laser (using toner), ink-jet (using wet ink), and solid ink (proprietary technology from Xerox using wax that is sprayed onto the page and then compressed into the paper). Laser and ink-jet printers are by now familiar, but solid ink technology may be new to you. Solid ink printers provide amazingly sharp text and accurate color rendition, with color images on ordinary copier paper that rival the quality of photographs printed by a professional photofinisher. Significant recent improvements in solid ink technology, including new chemistry and new manufacturing methods, yield more usable ink in the same-sized block. In addition, solid ink comes in solid blocks of wax, which offer convenient handling and substantially reduced storage space. Because solid ink is a cartridge-free technology, there is no need to manufacture, ship, or recycle toner or ink cartridges. (The new ink stick packaging for the Phaser 8860 line is made of fully recyclable material and creates 90 percent less waste than comparable laser printers.)

As recently as five years ago, workgroup printers typically cost more than $1,000. They now can be had for as little as $300 to $500. At the same time, following the “Gillette” pricing model, the average cost of consumables has increased, so that the average CPP for a color page has gone up from about 10 cents to between 13 cents and 14 cents. That said, the pricing model also works in reverse. For example, the older-technology Xerox Phaser 8560 can be purchased for as little as about $800, with a color CPP of about 10 cents, whereas the newer-technology 8860 model will cost around $2,500, but it has a color CPP of about 3 cents. In general, if you are generating more than 2,000 impressions per month, solid ink offers the lowest CPP and can offer the lowest TCO. (Further, Xerox Corporation is an ABA member benefit provider, offering discounted pricing and terms to ABA members; see www.xids.com/nasg/assocmrkt/aba.html for more details.)

We recommend avoiding ink-jet printers for office use. That leaves toner and solid ink printers. Considering the needs of your particular environment, you may need workstation printers or workgroup printers. If you print only text documents, black-and-white (monochrome) devices with 600 x 600 resolution should suffice nicely. On the other hand, if you ever have the need to generate color pages—whether for trial or motion exhibits, brochures, fliers, applications for registration of intellectual property, or anything else—consider getting at least one high-resolution (1,200 x 1,200 or greater) color printer for your office.

If you ever print two-sided documents, such as court forms, consider getting at least one printer with duplex printing capabilities.

For workgroup printers, you will need either printers with built-in or add-on networking capability, or a print server to act as the interface between your printers and the network. Print servers are relatively inexpensive and come in both wired and wireless (WiFi) models. One of the authors is using a Linksys ( www.linksys.com) Wireless-G PrintServer (model WPS54GU2) to connect two printers to his home office WiFi network—one via the parallel port and one via USB connection.

Many workgroup printers—particularly those operating at higher speeds—offer document finishing capabilities, including copy-set separation and stapling, if your office environment requires those features.

It is beyond the scope of this article to offer recommendations as to manufacturer. They are legion. Among the manufacturers to consider, applying the TCO principles discussed above, are Xerox ( www.xerox.com), HP ( www.hp.com), Lexmark ( www.lexmark.com), Canon ( www.usa.canon.com), Brother ( www.brother-usa.com), and Océ ( www.oce.com).

Copiers

Copiers, like printers, come in all shapes and sizes. Color and monochrome, desktop and floor-standing, low- or high-resolution, with single or multiple paper trays, various paper size- and weight-handling capabilities, simplex or duplex copying, and automatic document feeders of varying capacities. They can be accessorized with document finishers, access controls to restrict access to the device and/or various of its features, expense tracking abilities, and the like. Some even can be configured to send output to distant locations (copy here, print there). Many offer all of the functionality of multi-function printers (discussed below). As with everything else, deciding what to get requires a balancing of your needs, your wants, and the costs. Again, it is beyond the scope of this article to offer recommendations as to manufacturer, but investigate Xerox, HP, Canon, Océ, and Ricoh ( www.ricoh-usa.com).

Scanners

Choosing the right scanner can present a difficult decision if you don’t know about all of the available options and features, such as the ability to auto-feed documents, scan over-size documents, and scan books.

If you plan to capture text from the scanned files, then you will need optical character recognition (OCR) software. If documents are saved as text files (thus enabling text searching, editing, etc., in the future) the OCR software should be compatible with the scanner and with your word-processing program. Many scanners and OCR software come bundled together, allowing you to buy a package that will suit the needs of your practice. Often, these bundles also include a rudimentary document management component. If these options are important to you, be sure to look for them in the description of the scanner package or in accessory software available from the scanner vendor.

The de facto standard for storing documents is PDF. A PDF can be either an image file (think of this as a picture of the original document) or an image file with a layer of text (this is made possible by use of OCR software). Adobe introduced the PDF file structure. Because Adobe makes the Adobe Reader software needed to read PDF files available free and because many scanners come with the software to create PDFs from scanned images, PDF has gown into the dominant standard for archiving information. The format also allows all of the original notes and markings on the document to remain intact.

Scanners range in price from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. Understanding your options and needs—including whether your applications or volume indicate a need for a stand-alone scanner or whether you should opt for a multifunction device (discussed below)—will help you determine what is appropriate to buy and reasonable to spend.

Broadly, you must choose between two types of scanners: flatbed and sheet-fed. Flatbed scanners look similar to a small copier and require you to lay each page to be scanned on the scanner glass. They allow you to lay pictures, odd-sized papers, books, and other objects on the glass platen over a scanning element. Examples of flatbed scanners include the Fujitsu fi-60 ( www.fujitsu.com/us), CanoScan LiDE 600F, and the HP Scanjet 8300. Sheet-fed scanners work like a fax machine or copier to scan original documents. Look for sheetfed scanners with an automatic document feeder (ADF). ADF capacity refers to the number of sheets that can be loaded at one time for scanning. ADFs generally have a capacity of at least 50 sheets (more is better). Sheetfed scanners include the Fujitsu ScanSnap S510, Fujitsu fi-5120C, Visioneer Patriot 430 ( www.visioneer.com), Xerox Documate 252 and 262,
and the Canon DR-2050C. Although a sheetfed scanner will meet the needs of most firms, if a large percentage of what you will scan is in book form, then you may want to consider a combination of a flatbed scanner that also has an ADF, such as the HP Scanjet 7650, Visioneer 9650, or Canon DR-1210. You can also purchase a more capable sheetfed scanner and a lower-cost flatbed scanner for the few occasions you may need that capability.

Portable scanners are great tools for road warriors to quickly scan paper documents while they are out of the office. They are quite small and typically take one sheet at a time. Examples include the Visioneer Strobe XP 300 and the Fujitsu ScanSnap S300, which also includes an ADF. Another mobile scanner, the scan pen, allows the user to sweep a pen device over a piece of paper and capture the text. One example is the Planon RC800 DocuPen ( www.planon.com). These devices are useful for scanning text from books and other discrete text on the fly.

Additional options to consider include duplex scanning (if you scan many double-sided documents) and color/grayscale
scanning (if you scan high-resolution color images and graphics). Color/grayscale scanners cost more, but if you plan to scan materials for evidence presentation, it will be worth the investment. And, as with printers and copiers, always consider the duty cycle of the scanner. Underestimating the duty cycle can result in mechanical failure if the duty cycle is exceeded.

Fax Units

We have come a long way from the days when faxing a document meant wrapping a page around a scanning roller, fitting the roller into the machine, and going for coffee while the machine was sending it.
We now can send and receive faxes in monochrome or color (depending on the
features of the sending and receiving machines) at a speed that is almost as fast as copying them. Because faxes use the same digital scanners that are used by copiers and scanners, almost every copier and scanner manufacturer also makes fax machines. These manufacturers also sell multifunction devices that combine fax functions with printing, copying, and scanning (these machines are discussed in detail below).

With the improvements in telecommunications and the Internet, however, paper faxing is going out of fashion. Many users are shifting to scanning documents to PDF files and e-mailing those files, or sending and receiving faxes directly from their workstations. Faxing software has been around for many years—almost since the first PC modem allowed you to send and receive faxes from your computer. With the Internet, however, fax services such as eFax ( www.efax.com) and jConnect ( www.j2.com), among others, allow you to print documents to the fax format, assemble a fax from multiple documents, and fax them—and receive faxes as attachments to e-mail messages in PDF, TIFF, and proprietary formats. In that manner, so long as you have access to a computer and the Internet, you can send and receive faxes from virtually anywhere. In addition, you can easily forward the inbound fax to other recipients via e-mail or new outbound fax and can digitally sign an inbound fax from your computer and send it back to the originator. This convenience, however, comes at a price. For example:

  • The eFax Pro service costs $19.95 per month (including an inbound fax number and a 200 page-per-month inbound fax allowance). Outbound faxes are charged at 10 cents per page, as are inbound faxes in excess of the monthly allowance.
  • The more basic eFax Plus service costs $16.95 per month (including an inbound fax number, a 130- page-per-month inbound fax allowance, and a 30-page-per-month outbound fax allowance). For usage above the allowance, outbound faxes are charged at 10 cents per page, and inbound faxes are charged at 15 cents per page.
  • jConnect Premier costs $19.95 per month or $220 per year (including an inbound fax number). Out-bound faxes are charged at 10 cents per page to U.S. numbers; inbound faxes are free.

Of course, if you can send and receive faxes from anywhere with an Internet connection, you no longer will have the excuse that you weren’t in the office to receive the fax. On the other hand, you will never have to worry about whether there is paper or toner in the fax, or whether there is grunge on the scanner glass that generates lines down the faxes of your outbound faxes; and you will never have to wait for an outbound fax to send before an inbound fax can be received.

Multifunction Devices

These devices, commonly known as multi-function printers or MFPs, provide the convenience of a printer, copier, scanner, and fax machine in a single floor-standing or countertop device. Replacing a panoply of other devices with a workgroup MFP will enable you to save space, simplify supply ordering and stocking, and streamline maintenance. MFPs are ideal for small offices or for workgroups, but they are available in all sizes and capacities (for example, Xerox offers a host of color and monochrome MFP systems, beginning with the 24 ppm Phaser 3200MFP and ranging up to the 95 ppm Xerox 4595).

MFPs generally come in two types: printer-based (the desktop versions we typically think of as MFPs) and copier-based (the kind discussed above in the copier section). Printer-based MFPs typically are designed for lower duty cycles and have a higher CPP for supplies. Copier-based MFPs typically are designed for higher duty cycles and have a lower CPP for supplies and maintenance—but a significantly higher equipment cost.

Plan for upgrading in the future. Any MFP should have the capability to add more paper trays, add more RAM, add or increase the size of the built-in hard disk drive for storing jobs in process, and include or add networking.

Finally, service after the sale may be one of the most important factors to consider before making a purchase. Be sure the vendor you choose stands behind its products. For example, Xerox’s Total Satisfaction Guarantee covers all Xerox equipment and allows customers to replace or repair any equipment if the customer isn’t completely satisfied.

Whatever you do, plan carefully. According to an estimate by Gartner Decision Tools for Vendor Selection, organizations usually spend up to a quarter of their overall purchasing costs and almost one-third of their time to installation selecting an MFP. If you conscientiously apply the TCO decision metrics discussed above, you likely will opt for an MFP for your office.

Conclusion

Whatever your needs, whatever your desires, whatever your budget, there are devices or applications available for you. Plan carefully, buy wisely, and you should have a system that will work well for you and your team. 

Nerino J. Petro Jr. is the practice management advisor for the State Bar of Wisconsin. He may be reached at . J. Anthony Vittal is in private practice with The Vittal Law Firm, based in Los Angeles, California. A former member of the ABA Standing Committee on Technology and Information Systems, a member of the editorial boards for Tech eNotes and the Technology & Practice Guide issues of GPSolo , and a member of various technology-oriented committees of ABA Sections, he speaks and writes frequently on legal technology topics. He may be reached at .

Copyright 2008

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