Local vs Network Printers and How Your Business Can Benefit

By: Dan Larkin
December 5, 2023

When it comes to printing, there are a variety of options. One decision you'll have to work through is whether local printers or network printers will better serve the needs of your company. So…what’s the difference between local and network printers, and what do you need to know when making your decision? Let's start by defining your options.

What Is a Local Printer?

local vs network printers

A local printer is one which is directly connected to a specific computer via a USB cable. It’s only accessible from that particular workstation and, therefore, can only service one computer at a time. 

The Good

How about this for starters: Operating system updates won’t disrupt your ability to print! Local printers can also improve the efficiency of project workflow. And when a local printer is used to print out pieces for a project, it is easy to immediately see if the printed materials are accurate. If there is a problem, it can be corrected quickly.

The Bad

While convenient, local printers do have downsides, especially when it comes to costs. Buying and maintaining multiple printers can add significantly to print costs. Additionally, if a local printer isn't one of the top brand names and it breaks down, it can be difficult to find someone qualified to repair it. 

What Is a Network Printer? 

adult male office worker in a blue shirt using the office printer/scanner.

A network printer is part of a workgroup or network of computers that can all access the same printers at the same time. A network printer does not have to have a physical connection to the network. Instead, it can be connected wirelessly and assigned to a workgroup. 

The Good

Network printers offer flexibility and efficiency to all employees in the office; they can operate with multiple platforms and a variety of different printer types (laser, inkjet, thermal, etc.). This means users throughout the office can access network printers regardless of the platform in use on their device. Additionally, network printing solutions offer employees a variety of print options.

The Bad

As a downside, with multiple users capable of accessing the same printers, projects can be delayed when the printer is already in use. Additionally, if the network goes down or your operating system has an awkward update, it can disrupt your staff’s ability to print. 

Network printers also have many of the same cybersecurity vulnerabilities as other smart devices. Your network printers will need proper print security to protect your business’s systems, tools, and data. Fortunately, it’s easy to get help with improving print security if you happen to know a good provider (hint, hint!). 

Local vs. Network — Which Is Better

While certain businesses and work environments are better served by local printers, we've found that the majority of today's businesses are better served by network printers. 

A significant component in determining print costs is how many devices you use throughout your workplace. Just because a printer has been paid for doesn’t mean it isn’t costing you anything to keep using it. Supplies, maintenance, and energy aren’t cheap! And if your printer is outdated, it’s probably costing you more than it’s worth

How Is a Network Printer Identified on the Network? 

Three variables are used to identify a network printer on the network: its IP address, its name and its hardware. Any of these will effectively communicate which print device is on the network. 

7 Benefits for Business From Network Printers

Network printer in use

A network printer has many advantages over having each computer directly connected to its own printer. Network printers are relatively simple to set up and very easy to use once configured. The benefits network printers bring make them the preferred printer setup in today’s office environment. 

#1 - Cost Savings

I touched on this earlier, but with network printers, you can save a great deal of money on supplies, maintenance, and energy, which is why we take a hard look at personal printers when conducting print assessments. 

#2 - Less Maintenance

When you switch to network printers, there will be fewer devices and more similar models. That means your print environment will require less maintenance overall, and the maintenance that’s still needed will be easier to perform and manage. 

#3 - Easier Onboarding

Individual printers can vary by brand, age, capabilities, and supply requirements; these variations require specific training, understanding, monitoring, and maintenance, which can take up your employees’ time. With fewer, more similar printers, it will be easier for new employees to get the most out of them. 

#4 - Access to Enhanced Capabilities

Designed to handle more complex tasks and volume, network printers are generally capable of producing higher quality documents than personal printers can. A central network printer is almost certain to have better capabilities than personal printers in terms of printing capacity, speed, paper handling, and advanced finishing capabilities. In addition, these types of devices often have an extended product lifecycle

#5 - Allows Remote Use

A network printer can accommodate employees working from remote locations who still need to print. By connecting to the network using the Internet, employees can send documents to print from anywhere. 

#6 - You Can Hook Up Multiple Printers

Some offices require more than one printer. For example, you might need to print high-quality graphics in one department and need to accommodate larger print volumes in another. 

With a network print environment, you can connect as many printers as necessary and give your employees the ability to send their projects to the best printer for the job

#7 - Simple Tracking

A lack of usage tracking almost certainly converts to unmanaged and uncontrolled print costs. It's much simpler to track the printer and supply usage with network printers, especially when used with a managed print services program.

Local vs. Network - What Is Best for Your Business? 

The answer is probably a network printer, but as you might have guessed from reading this blog, it ultimately depends on your core business operations. 

Sorry! You probably read this far because you want better than an “it depends” answer, and while I hope this blog provided some helpful context, I get it! 

Fortunately, we print experts at Marco have put our heads together to design a quick quiz to help you pinpoint the best printer for your business. Best part? It only takes two minutes! Click the link below to access it. 

Need Help Finding The Best Printer For Your Business? Use This Helpful Tool

Topics: Copiers & Printers