Scanning horizons

With Barry Johnson, manager, eCommerce Division, in Vancouver.

As SMBs, you buy scanners for many different reasons. You might scan images for use in your marketing materials. Maybe you like to scan

and keep a copy of all your competitor’s brochures so your salespeople can refer to them from time to time. It’s possible that not every document you produce or receive exists in a digital format, but you need to store it that way in your system so you can send it to someone later. Perhaps you have tasks requiring a scanner that are specific only to your company. Whatever the reasons, you need to know what your options are. Here are six things to consider when purchasing a scanner.

  1. Scanning Technology. CCD (charge-coupled device) arrays are the most common technology in scanners. The quality of your scanning depends mostly on the quality of the scanner’s CCD array. Scanners range in price, but sometimes seemingly have few differences. The difference is usually in the quality of the scanning technology. A scanner that has a 4800 dpi CCD is considered a very high quality scanner, though most businesses and home users can use either 3200 dpi or 2400 dpi. Try to not go lower than 2400 dpi.
  2. Resolution. The clarity and sharpness of a scanned image is dependant upon the scanner’s resolution. Most scanners support 72 to 600 dpi. If you are scanning mostly text, then 72 to 150 dpi is good enough. For photos and graphics you should be using at least 300 dpi. Typically, the higher the resolution, the better the scan.
  3. Bit Depth. Bit depth refers to how many bits are used to represent each pixel. For better colour and grayscale support use a greater bit depth. For example, to support 16.7 million colours, your scanner needs to be capable of 24-bit colour. Make sure that your scanner’s CCD array is able to support a high range of colours. If not, a large bit depth will be useless.
  4. Shape and Size. You should also choose a scanner that is appropriate for where you will be using it. Some scanners can be quite bulky and difficult to use in tight spaces. If you are scanning small pictures or documents, consider a hand-held scanner. Make sure you choose a scanner that will support the sizes of the images or documents you are planning to scan. For example, not all scanners will support 11 x 17-inch documents.
  5. Software. To scan multiple types of documents you will need software that will allow you to customize and control how the scanner scans the document or image. There are a lot of useful features such as Scan-to-Print or Scan-to-Web. If you are planning to just scan and immediately print your documents or images, choose a scanner that will allow you to scan right to your printer. Make sure to find out what type of software comes with your scanner and how it works!
  6. Multi-function machines. You may be able to save a lot of space (and money) in your office with a multi-function machine. You can now purchase multi-function machines that support scanning, printing, copying, and faxing. A lot of these machines offer very high quality scanning and printing at a great price.
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