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When you're sourcing a business machine for your company, there are two key elements that will make your life much easier and satisfy the demands of your boss and the workforce. Total Cost of Ownership is an essential element when buying any machine, and we'll look at that in another article. But just as important is to identify the specific applications that your company needs from a business machine.

Multifunction machines are a great way of covering all bases. They are designed to provide a quick and easy total office solution for your day-to-day printing, copying, faxing, telephony, and more if you need it. But you still need to establish exactly what you and your team need from your machine.

The combinations come in many shapes and sizes, but if you choose correctly your machine will ultimately save those precious business commodities - time and money!

Multifunction machines are ideal for SMEs and for those working remotely, but as part of your organisation, multifunction units will have a wide range of features, and some will perform better in certain areas. The trick is to prioritise according to output. Think about these points:

  • Do you need laser output or will inkjet suffice?
  • Mono or colour?
  • Do you have a remote employee that might benefit from telephone and fax as well as printing and scanning?
  • What functions will you use most and least often? Look for a machine that contains better-than-average features for the functions you'll use most often - you can skimp on the rest
  • Think about practicalities. If copying is an important feature for you, a machine with glass-top copying may be best. If faxing is important, make sure the model contains plenty of memory for storing documents.

It's impossible for anyone else to decide which is best for you. I can, however, give you an example of a former company I worked within where a central, high speed copier serviced multiple runs of the highest quality documentation, whereas my small personal machine facilitated multiple day-to-day tasks. Consider:

  • Do your team members each need a desktop product or would you all benefit from a central unit that supplies the team?
  • Maybe, as in my ex company, you may require a combination of both?

The point is, get it right the first time and you need not worry about this topic for a very long time.

So what's on the market?
Julie Harrison, Imaging and Documentation Product Manager at Brother says, "In the past, all-in-ones have suffered a jack of all trades, master of none reputation - this isn't the case anymore as what's on the market can match standalone machines feature for feature. The days of long treks to the photocopier or fax machine are well and truly numbered."

The choices are endless, but here's a little taster of what you can expect from a multifunction machine.

  • The new range of Brother Inkjet MFC products offers colour print, fax, copy and scan, and all have PC Fax, which allows users to fax directly from their PC. Printing speeds are up on Brother's previous inkjet range at up to 20ppm mono and 15ppm colour and print resolution is at an all-time high - up to 1200dpi x 6000dpi.
  • Another example of a manufacturer supplying a product that incorporates communication aspects within its multifunction range is Sagem. The new Sagem MF3265 offers a whole host of features - it's a high performance, professional laser fax with a fast 33.6Kbps modem. It's also a telephone, printer, copier and scanner with SMS function.

Of course, most manufactures will offer products that incorporate all facets and, once again, different machines will be targeted according to different requirements. As you can see, multifunction products can deliver the quality you require at the price you require, depending on what you require.

The great thing about this topic is that manufacturers want to make it easy for you to choose the right product. OK, so they want your custom, but they're all agreed on the concept of a multi-use product. This means that your supplier will have all the info at hand to assist you in making the right choice, and the whole process should take little more than a few extra minutes discussion with whoever the salesperson may be.

Forewarned is forearmed, therefore, knowing which applications you and your team need will allow you total control over the purchasing. All you need to do is settle upon the price and take into account one more consideration... which one do you most like the look of!!

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