Printers are still an integral part of an office infrastructure. So much so that it is probably one of the first tech purchases you make when establishing a business.
If choosing the right printer features is not tricky enough — inkjet versus laserjet, colour versus black and white, single versus multifunction — there is also the option of setting up your printers as local devices or network devices.
Since each of these printer installation types has their own advantages, the right option will depend on which one better fits the needs of your business. In this post, we will cover the difference between local and network printers to help you make the best possible decision.
A local printer is one that is plugged directly into a computer via a USB cable. By default, most printers will load their software onto a computer when you connect it for the first time. So, getting started with a local printer is a simple matter of taking it out of the box, plugging it in, and following the installation instructions.
However, a local printer can only be accessed from that particular computer. In an office environment, each employee can have their own printer connected to their computer or they can have one workstation (computer plus printer) where everyone prints their documents from.
If you don’t want a separate printer for every computer in your business, a network printer is the answer. This type of printer links to your business network server, enabling anyone in the office to use it, and they don’t even need to be on the premises to print. A network printer can be connected via an ethernet cable or wirelessly to a router, and is usually accessed via a workstation (printer only).
Choosing between local vs network setup
Fortunately, the choice between a local printer and network printer setup is not as adversarial as choosing between ADSL and fibre internet. Considering that it’s possible to configure a local printer into a network printer, and vice versa, one can even say that they co-exist quite harmoniously. But, what happens when you have to compare the perks of the two?
If you want your employees to have personal and reliable access to a printer, connecting locally is a good choice. There’s no waiting in line for one’s turn to print or walking all the way to a printing station at the other side of the office — things that can disrupt their productivity.
Being familiar to most users and having a user-friendly interface, local printers are easy to implement and navigate. This is an important consideration if your employees will be printing lots of documents every day. Because a local printer is readily available to a user, each printout can quickly be checked for accuracy and quality. If there is an issue, it can be discovered and solved quickly so that the workflow keeps moving.
If you want your employees to have more flexibility in terms of printing, a network printer might work for you. Network printers’ efficiency lies in that they are always on and connected — you don’t need to turn on a computer for the printer to work. They offer users more print mobility, meaning your employees can use their laptops to print via wireless internet from other parts of the office. Network printers are also compatible with the most commonly used computer operating systems.
Many of the expenses associated with local printers can be reduced. You don’t need to buy a personal printer for every employee, and this option lets you save money on maintenance and printer supply costs. Instead of providing individual printers, your employees might be better off with one or two network printers with faster speeds and better print quality.
Local and network printers are both suitable for specific users, so some may prefer one over the other. Not because it’s superior but because it’s designed around the printing needs and requirements of their business.