1. What am I doing right now?
Take a serious look at your workflow. If you are currently producing discs in-house, think about what you like about your current system and what you don't like. This will provide you with a list of features that are important to your organization.
2. Who will be doing the actual work?
You'll need to know who will be running the disc printing/publishing equipment. Will this person be able to devote all of her attention to the publisher or will she be working on other tasks while she is publishing your discs? Also consider the value of disc publishing to your organization versus the value of the other tasks this person is contributing.
For most businesses, the person who is publishing the discs is doing a variety of important tasks, so it makes sense to automate as much of the process as possible to save labor costs.
Churches and nonprofit organizations, on the other hand, may have a group of volunteers available to concentrate solely on disc production for two or three hours at a time.
3. Are you looking for a machine that's going to take care of everything or just a printer and towers?
All-in-one disc publishers are great for the newbie. There are a lot of high-quality, inexpensive publishers available. These are typically easy to set up and you can start publishing discs immediately. The draw-back, however, is that they can slow and cumbersome. If your job requires you to do other tasks while creating your discs, this situation may not be ideal.
4. How many discs do you need to produce?
If creating 50 CDs or DVDs a week, a disc publisher is a piece of cake. Organizations that need to produce 500 or more a week, would need a Microboards' PF-3 with multiple towers, or a high-volume publisher like those made by Microtech. (Polyline does carry both Microboards and Microtech equipment, call 1-800-701-5865 for more information.)
One question we ask churches is "are you creating discs for a bookstore or are you creating recordings of sermons, which will be available 10 minutes after service?" When you are printing and burning discs, the burn process tends to be the bottleneck, especially with DVDs. If you need to produce several discs in a relatively short amount of time, having a high-output printer with one or more duplicating towers may be the way to go.
5. What type of information will be printed on your disc?
If you are printing text and standard graphics, you're in the world of inkjet printers. If you need to print photos on the surface of your disc, particularly photos of people, you'll receive a higher quality print from a thermal transfer printer.
Also look at what colors you'll be using on your disc. If your logo and disc design uses a large amount of one color (like a lot of blues), you'll want to look for a printer that has separate cartridges for each color, this will save you money over time.
6. What is the cost of ink cartridges/ribbons?
Ink cartridges or ribbons will be your heaviest cost. It's important that you have a clear understanding of how much your refills will cost and how many discs you can expect to print with your refill. If there are generic equivalents available, ask whether using the generic brand of inkjet cartridge or thermal ribbon will affect your warranty.
If there's room to negotiate on price, use your cartridge or ribbon purchase as a bargaining point. You may be able to reduce the cost of your equipment purchase by agreeing to purchase all your ink refills from the same source.
7. Who will receive the discs? How will you be distributing them?
If your disc is a marketing piece that will go out en masse, speed may be more important than print quality. If you are sending a disc that will go to investors or CFOs, the disc's durability and general appearance is more important. Corporate training videos burned to DVD would probably not require exceptional speeds or photo-realistic graphics.
Your means of distribution and packaging will also play a role in what equipment you select. Sending your discs through the mail in a paper envelope and cardboard mailer may require a disc image that is more resistant to scratches and water than you would require if using a poly jewel case.
8. Can you see a sample disc?
At the end of the day, the most important factor is what the end product will look like. Send your disc art to your sales rep and ask them to produce discs on each of the different machines you are considering. In general, the pricier machines produce a higher quality print. When you're holding the discs in your hand, however, you may decide the cost savings is worth the trade-off with quality.