Choose a model that meets your needs for volume, speed and convenience.
You don’t necessarily need a network printer in order to do networked printing. Almost any printer can be networked by connecting it with a computer and setting the computer to act as a print server for the network. Printers that are designed for network use (with one or more interface ports such as Ethernet or Token Ring) offer other options and capabilities with network use in mind.
Consider your network laser printer choices carefully before making a purchase decision some of the available printer features may truly be necessary for your network printing to be efficient. On the other hand, you don’t want to pay for a printer that has lots of bells and whistles you’ll never use.
Where do you start? First find out approximately how many pages your network prints per month. Then look for printer models with monthly duty-cycle ratings that can handle your highest volume periods. (the duty-cycle rating reflects the “robustness” of the printer’s engine – 15,000 pages per month, for example.)
Next, consider the number of people who will be networked to the printer – the more people networked, the faster you’ll want to machine to print. A small workgroup should be able to print efficiently from a 12- to 16- page-per-minute printer. Medium-sized workgroups would be better off with 17 to 25 pages per minute, while a department would require speeds between 26 and 40 pages per minute.
Having narrowed your list even more, consider what types of capabilities and features you’ll need. Duplexing (automatic double-sided printing) should be high on the list of all but the smallest networks. For most smaller network printers, duplexers are optional add-ons; they come standard on larger machines.
An envelope feeder is often required for medium and large workgroups, and may be indispensable for a small workgroup that does frequent or high-volume mailing.
A sorter/mailbox would be wasted on a small workgroup (especially given the cost – around $1,300) but would help increase the efficiency of a medium-sized network and be absolutely necessary for a large one.
A hard disk is usually only needed by a department-sized network, which can achieve more efficient printing by sorting fonts and frequently used forms on the printer itself.
Paper handling capacity is another thing to consider. Do you need to print on pages larger than letter and legal size? Or on heavier papers, such as card stock? Also consider input and output capacity. To avoid having to constantly replenish the standard paper tray, you may want to add optional input/output drawers and trays.
Cross-platform capability will also be necessary if both Macintosh and IBM-based systems will be networked.