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Calculating print costs per page

The trouble with managing your business printing costs is that it's not always apparent what those costs are. One of the most useful measures, though, is the actually cost of your output - in other words, the total amount of money it cost you to print a single page. Here's how to calculate it.

First things first: think about the cost of your printer. The purchase prices of printers range from as little as £20 for inkjet models aimed at home users to to thousands for large office-friendly laser models aimed at heavy workloads.

Many printers are supplied without the requisite cables to connect them, so remember to include the extra cost of these, if they weren't thrown in.

Buried in the manufacturer's information about the product, you'll find an estimate of the device's 'duty cycle' - the total number of pages you can expect it to print during its working life. Divide the purchase price of your printer by this figure, and you'll have the first element of your cost per page. This will only amount to a fraction of a penny, but as we'll seem it all adds up...

Next comes the cost of consumables. Laser toner cartridges have a much lower cost per page than inkjet cartridges, and generally need to be replaced far less often. Both types of consumable will quote a total page yield, though. Again, divide the cost of the consumable by the total page yield to provide a per-page figure.

Remember to factor in the cost of each individual ink in the case of inkjets - and be aware that page yield is generally quoted at a nominal 5 per cent coverage (around the coverage of an average page of text). If you regularly print pages with much higher coverage, such as photos, you can expect a much lower page yield.

Include in your calculations the cost of parts that will need to be replaced. The drum that's used to create the printed image inside a laser printer will need to be replaced after a duty cycle of several thousand pages, and can be costly - so make sure you reckon on a replacement cost. Again, divide this by the stated duty cycle of the part.

Next, reckon on the cost of your paper. Divide the cost of a packet by the number of sheets it contains to get a per-sheet figure.

Now it's time to add those figures together to arrive at a total per-page. If you routinely print double-sided, halve your paper cost to take this into account, so that you get an accurate picture of your cost per-side.

A comprehensive calculation like this is the key to getting a fuller understanding of your print costs - but even this can't take into account certain intangible expenses, such as the cost of device failures, maintenance and downtime.

For a very rough idea of cost per page basis, try an online reckoner such as HP's page cost calculator (opens in new tab).

This article was brought to you as part of THINQ's Business Printing Hub in association with HP. monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.