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3 Tactics for Weaning Your Office off of Printers

Printers cost a lot of money. Well, to be more accurate, the printers themselves are pretty inexpensive. But paper and toner add up -- as we've reported before, some estimate that corporations spend between 1% and 3% of their annual revenue on printing. Costs aside, hardcopies are inconvenient and wasteful. Here in the 21st century, we can do better. The New York Times recently discussed several ways to wean your office off printers and move toward a completely paper-free environment. Here are some top recommendations:

1. Print to PDF. As long as you have a smart backup solution in place, you can avoid printing documents for your records. Instead, print to PDF or XPS (Microsoft's alternative file format found in Windows Vista and Windows 7) and save the file on your PC's hard drive. That document is now more easily found via searches, and it's significantly cheaper to manage.

2. Invest in digital signatures. One of the most common reasons for printing is to sign a document. You can eliminate that requirement by using a digital signature. Hello Fax, for example, is an online fax service that can store a digital version of your signature. You can stamp any digital document with that signature and email or fax it from a PC. There's no longer any need to print stuff just to sign it.

3. Extend the life of your ink. As you make the transition to a printerless office, you can reduce the cost of the printers you have by getting more out of the ink or toner they're using. You can set the print mode to draft, for example, or possibly even switch to a "green" font that uses less toner to print. And consider using third-party, refurbished, or refilled ink cartridges, which are generally less expensive than the authorized replacements from the printer's manufacture.

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