Single-column chromatography is widely used in the biopharmaceutical industries, although multi-column alternatives in the form of simulated moving bed (SMB) processes are now emerging. It may be difficult, however, to determine which column alternative will be best suited for a given application, and this work sets out to address this issue. A systematic approach is presented that is based on a full economic appraisal of each process alternative based on an optimization of the net annual profit. Single-column processes with and without recycling are considered, as are both the SMB and the Varicol process. The cyclic steady state for the SMB and Varicol processes is determined directly by complete discretization. The approach is applied to a case study based on a linear isotherm where it is found that for this particular system, a recycling policy is not necessary for the single column. When comparing the single-column process with the multi-column alternatives, the single column is the most economical provided the life time of the project is short; however, the economic benefits of the more capital-intensive multi-column processes are greater if the life time of the project is over 5 years. The SMB process is found to perform marginally better than the Varicol process over 15 years; however, this may be because not all extra degrees of freedom for the Varicol process were considered.