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What is a Multifunction Peripheral?

Some modern multifunction peripherals connect to a computer using USB 3.0 connections.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2014
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Multifunction peripherals are devices that are designed to take the place of single function devices in connection with the operation of a network or stand alone desktop computer. By definition, a multifunction peripheral will perform at least two different tasks that in times past would require at least two different devices. Many homes as well offices today rely on the use of a multifunction peripheral to accomplish tasks quickly and easily.

In most cases, a multifunction peripheral or MFP will provide the functions of at least two of these stand alone pieces of equipment: fax machine, scanner, printer, or copy machine. The multifunction peripheral can work as a stand-alone device, without an active connection to a network. However, many models are configured specifically for network connectivity, allowing print jobs to be sent electronically to a printer/copier that will automatically print and collate multiple copies of a given document. This eliminates the need for a hard copy to be printed and physically placed on the copier.

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MFPs may include functionality that covers more than two simple functions. For example, a digital copy machine will not only function as a copier and printer, but also as a scanner. Using software and a network connection, it is possible to scan in a document, store it on the server, then pull it up and print multiple copies. If there is a fax component, the same document can be set to fax out to a list of fax numbers as part of the overall job. In general, these machines also include such handy tools as a collating tray and a stapler.

There are several advantages to going with a multifunction peripheral. First, the purchase of a single machine to perform the work of two to four machines is often much more cost effective. This means money to invest in other aspects of the office operations. Second, the peripheral requires much less space than multiple machines. If connected to a network, the multifunction peripheral can eliminate the need for individual printers at each desktop station, as well as provide a quick way to create and send faxes without leaving the workstation. Between the savings in time, money, and space, the multifunction peripheral is well worth considering.

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