Most companies choose digital black and white copiers or digital color copiers with a variety of features. Digital copiers — also called multifunction copiers — produce less noise than analog copiers, have fewer moving parts (which usually means fewer mechanical problems), better reproduce fine lines and photographs with similar features. Even with minimal training, your staff can quickly get used to operating a digital copier.


  • Digital multifunction copiers: digital black and white copiers can use modules to combine the functions of copiers, network printers, scanners, and fax machines. Modules supporting special functions, often sold as options, give you the ability to add functionality to your copier. Some machines can be upgraded with a "plug and play" type of upgrade while others require more extensive hardware fixes. If you want to add printing or faxing modules later, ask about the availability of the options at a later date. Most often the manufacturer discontinue the options as soon as the copier is replaced by a new model.
  • Digital color copiers : Color copiers support color printing and work much like a computer scanner connected to a laser printer. The color copier  scans an original document and transfers the information via laser to a charged image drum. Then color toner adheres to charged areas of the drum, the copier heats the toner, and a permanent image fuses onto paper. High-end color copiers apply all four colors in a single application while low-end color copiers take four passes of the same image, rolling paper around the drum each time it applies a color. Low-end color copiers cost less than high-end color copiers, but have slower copying speeds and cost per copy is a lot higher. Color copiers typically cost 30% to 50% more than black and white copiers with similar speeds and volume ratings. 
  • Main Reasons: Base your decision to buy a copier on your monthly volume, copy speed, color copying needs, and network connectivity requirements, not bells and whistles. A small office copier should work for businesses that plan to make less than 1,000 copies per month. However, you'll find more advanced features and service guarantees offered with business-grade copiers. Expect prices to increase as copier capacity, speed, and monthly volume increases. 

  • Determine copier capacity: How many copies do you plan to make each month? If you already own or lease a copier, you can determine your actual copier usage by looking at the counter, usually found under the platen glass. You can also use your monthly paper consumption to help determine your current copy and print volume. If you don't have a copier, examine your copy shop receipts to get a sense of your volume. Increase your figure by 30% to 50% if you plan to use your copier as a network printer. Also increase your rough volume figure by at least 15% to account for future growth. It's better to pay for more capacity than you need than risk overworking and damaging an essential piece of office equipment. 
  • Consider copier speed: Copier speed is measured in copies per minute (cpm), pages per minute (ppm), or outputs per minute (opm). Each term describes the number of letter-size pages the machine can produce in one minute when running at full speed. The copier industry has six segments that specify copier speed, ranging from Segment 1 machines that run 15 to 20 ppm to Segment 6 machines that top 91 ppm. Most offices will get by comfortably with machines from Segments 2 - 4, in the 20 to 50 ppm range. If you expect to make a lot of one-time single copies, ask about first-copy speed (the number of seconds it takes for a copier to produce a single copy). Also expect slower speeds for more complex forms of copying such as making two-sided copies, copying onto larger sheets, and sorting.


Look at the cost of copier consumables


  • Remember to figure in the cost of consumables, such as toner. Color copier consumables, such as paper, color toner and developer, often have a higher cost than consumables used by black and white copiers. For example, the paper used for color prints is usually brighter, heavier, and more expensive than paper used for regular copying. 

  • Color copiers use four complementary toner colors: cyan toner, magenta toner, yellow toner, and black toner. Each toner color typically comes in a separate bottle or cartridge, so you can replace colors as they run out. Toner also needs to be mixed with the developer so that it will magnetically attract to the copier drum and properly fuse to paper. Most color copiers require a separate developer for each toner color. When copies seem to get lighter, it's usually time to change developer. When you run out of toner, you'll see an overall unevenness in color.

Evaluate Copier Features


  • Automatic document feeder (ADF): An automatic document feeder (ADF) allows you to copy multi-page documents without having to lift and lower the cover for every sheet you copy. Instead, you drop a stack of originals (up to 50 pages) into the feeder, press start, and the ADF automatically pulls each page through. If you copy lots of double sided originals, you should invest in a reverse document feeder (RADF), which can flip pages inside the machine for simplified double-sided copying. 
  • Sorting:
    Digital copiers
    can sort copied sets electronically without the use of sorter bins. Instead of separate bins, the copies are placed in a single tray at a right angle or offset from each other, allowing you to easily identify where one set ends and another begins. Bin-free sorting allows you to make unlimited sets at one time rather than only as many sets as you have sorter bins. 
  • Finishing: You may want a finisher if you are frequently going to copy many sets of multi-page documents. The most familiar type of finisher is the automatic stapler, which can be a huge time-saver. More advanced versions include three-hole punches, saddle stitch binding, folding, and more. Finishers are optional on most machines and usually carry an additional cost. If you do need multi copies of a set of document, like 50 copies of a 10 page document. Then finisher is a good add on for you.
  • Paper supplies: Each paper feed unit is a separate paper source. The number of sources is important if you want to be able to copy onto different paper stocks, such as letter size (8.5" X 11"), legal size (8.5" X 14"), ledger (11" X 17") or transparencies, without reloading the machine. Paper sources typically hold a minimum of 250 to 550 sheets, and the largest-capacity units can hold up to 3,000 sheets. 
  • Paper trays: Typically, copiers include at least one fixed-size and a couple of adjustable-size paper trays. Unfortunately, the heavy paper stock often jams if you load it into a standard paper tray. To get around this problem, most copiers include a bypass tray, a special tray that provides a straight paper path for heavy paper and labels. 

Connect a network multifunction copier to your internal network and allow your staff to print, copy, or send faxes from their computers. Because the machine is still a copier, users can also make collated, even stapled, sets of documents without having to leave their seats.


  • Printing: Add a printer module and network card to a digital copier and it can double as an office laser printer — working at the same speed it makes copies. For example, the copier can allow your employees to produce dozens of stapled copies of a five-page, two-sided proposal without leaving their desks. Most offices can benefit from using a copier as a printer as per-page costs can be as little as 20% of laser printer printing costs. Most copiers run standard networking protocols, but you still need to make sure the model you choose is compatible with your network. Involving your IT department in this aspect of the copier purchase decision upfront can save you significant headaches later. 
  • Faxing: With the addition of a fax module, you can send and receive faxes through the copier. You can easily send multi-page faxes using the document feeder, or you can use the copier glass to fax single pages or parts of books or catalogs. Incoming faxes print as they're received, sometimes into a separate output tray. With a network interface, users can even send faxes from their computers. 
  • Stackless duplexing: Digital copiers with enough memory can support stackless duplexing by storing each side of the original page in memory, then printing both sides of the copy. This means the number of two-sided copies you make is no longer limited by the capacity of a duplex tray. You will get your duplexed copies much faster, too. 
  • Automatic sizing: Digital copiers usually offer an automatic sizing function that enables the copier to note the dimensions of your original document and adjust itself using preset reduction/enlargement settings, even if your copying paper is a different size than your original. 
  • Automatic shut-off: Almost all copiers now have an automatic shut-off option - it saves energy and decreases wear on a copier by turning the machine off if it has not been used for a set period of time.
  • Security: Many digital copiers allow you to require that users enter a code before they can make copies. This provides a level of security, preventing unauthorized usage and allowing you to analyze current usage patterns by the department. Some machines can also hold faxes or network documents in memory until the correct code is entered, then print them. This prevents confidential documents from being left in the output tray for any passerby to view.

Decide How Much Copier Memory You Need


Copiers use RAM, the same memory used in computers, to support features such as scan once/print many, automatic page numbering, faxing, and printing. Copiers come with anywhere from 4 MB to 256 MB and higher of RAM, and you can install additional memory to boost productivity and enable more memory-intensive features. In some cases, a fairly small cache of memory is dedicated for each function - copying, printing, and faxing. In other configurations, a single larger cache is shared between functions. Find out how memory is allocated before you decide on how much to buy. Insufficient memory will result in slower output and an inability to print or copy new documents.


  • Copier memory: By holding a scanned image of each original page in memory, copiers are able to produce as many sets of documents as required without feeding the originals through again. The number of pages that can be duplicated with this "scan once/print many" feature depends on the size of the originals and the amount of detail. With less memory, the copier may be unable to complete larger copy jobs in one run. Often, you can't take advantage of advanced image editing features without purchasing extra memory. If you intend to use any image editing features, or frequently produce complex documents with over 20 pages, make sure you get at least 16 MB of copier memory. 
  • Fax memory: 2 MB of fax memory holds about 60 - 100 pages, depends on the text or graphics on the page, which should be enough for most offices. Unless you plan to hold many international faxes in memory to send during off-peak hours, you probably won't need to upgrade your fax memory. 
  • Printer memory: Printer memory determines the overall efficiency and speed of the printer. As with the copier, more detailed documents will require more memory to process. In addition, memory-hungry printer languages such as PostScript can require memory for faster printing. The standard 2 MB to 8 MB of memory many printers are equipped with is typically not enough for effective printing. Additional memory or hard drives are almost always available as an option.

Service Your Copiers


  • Service contract pricing is based on estimated copy volume. However, your actual copier usage will likely fluctuate month to month due to regular business cycles or summer vacations. While it may be tempting to overestimate your expected copy volume to get a lower per-copy rate, if you do not meet that maximum, you will not be reimbursed for the difference. Similarly, if you estimate copy volume too low, you may have to pay a per-copy fee for every copy above your limit. If you're still trying to assess copy volume, try to get a service plan that is based on your estimated annual, not monthly, number of copies.