What’s the Difference Between an AiO and an MFP?

 WC-LogoDefinition:

AiO = All in One imaging device
MFP = Multi-Functional Peripheral

In general, an AiO is a standalone digital-imaging device that can typically print, copy, scan and sometimes fax.  This configuration makes a lot of sense for virtually any home or small office, as its cost, footprint and energy consumption is a fraction of that of an individual printer, individual copier, etc.

An MFP is virtually the same as an AIO, except for one key feature–networking.  Simply said, an MFP can be connected to your wired or wireless LAN so that it can be more easily managed and its myriad functions can be more easily shared by several users.

Can’t I share an AIO?
Yes, using the printer sharing features of your OS.  However, AiOs connect directly to a host computer via its USB port.  This means that the host PC can share the printing function (but not scanning or PC fax functions) with other PC users on the network.  An AiO uses the resources of the host PC to provide shared printing whenever anybody else prints remotely.  This can result in a noticeable degradation in the performance of the host PC when it is being used.

Even when nobody is using the host PC, it must be powered on and functioning properly in order for others to share the printing function–a major inconvenience, especially when it is commonly known that Microsoft Windows PCs begin to misbehave if they are left running and unattended for more than a few days.  And take it from us, there’s nothing more annoying than hearing “I can’t print” complaints (well maybe “I can’t get on the Internet”) from co-workers, spouses or offspring.

An MFP is connected to the network instead of to a host PC and is designed so that multiple users can utilize all of its functions.  Consequently, it does not require the resources of a host PC for proper operation and will drastically reduce the “I can’t print” complaints.  Unlike with AIOs, remote users can also take advantage of the MFP’s scanning and PC fax capabilities, as well as any card readers that may be built into the device.

Who cares about printer management?
Everybody should.  There is no easier way to manage your printing costs than regular printer management.  That is, examining the color/B&W ratio of your printing and proactively ordering ink/toner and maintenance kits.  Some MFPs will also you allow you to restrict color printing only to specified users, which can result in considerable cost savings.  A network connection allows you to remotely manage every MFP on your network, but with AIOs, you can only manage one AIO at a time and it has to be done directly from from the host PC.

Why would I need network scanning?
Network scanning allows remote users to “push” digital scans directly to their computer desktops.  Without network scanning, users would have to use the host PC that it is connected to the scanner, which results in considerable disruptions for the primary user of that host PC.

What is Wirth Consulting’s recommendation?
We think that you should always consider an MFP over an AiO unless you have only one PC, or you are convinced that you will never have a network over which to share the multiple functions that an AiO provides.

UPDATE: Virtually every AiO has some form of networking these days and the main differentials between the MFP and AiO are generally as such:

AiO MFP
Max. Paper Size A4 A3
Imaging Technology Ink Toner
MSRP <$750 >$750

Happy Reading!
Terry Wirth

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