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Network Faxing – Save Time and Money

Network Faxing - Save Time and Money
 Technology with Integrity

By Tim Torian, Torian Group, Inc.

 

Faxing manually is out of date. Research shows that a fax server solution can save your organization substantial costs, while also improving your customer service and image. If you fax 100 documents per week, and you save about 4 minutes per fax at $30/Hr, by being able to fax directly from your computer the savings would be $200 per week.

LAN faxing has many benefits over cumbersome manual faxing. For example, with a fax server you can:

  • Send faxes at the click of a button instead of having to print out every fax, carry it to the fax machine, wait for your turn, and possibly wait for it to retry when the number is busy.
  • Store fax numbers centrally in one phonebook, eliminating the need to search for a fax number. Use your existing Contacts list.
  • Send faxes that are more legible and of better quality, since they are sent directly from your PC, using high-resolution techniques.
  • Only check one mailbox for emails and faxes.
  • Easily send faxes to groups of people.
  • Schedule faxes to be sent during cheaper off-peak times.
  • Keep sent and received faxes in electronic format, and organize them as part of your computer document management.

A personal modem with fax capability is commonplace in home offices. A network fax solution makes sense if your business computers are networked, and you do outbound faxing of documents that are computer generated. Inbound faxing is a little more complex, but can work well if you have your own email system, such as Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes.

There are many different fax server products on the market. Broadly, they can be divided into 2 categories:

  1. "Proprietary fax servers" - Fax servers that include their own client software & no or limited email integration.
  2. "Email integrated fax servers" - Fax servers which are completely integrated with an email system and act as email to fax gateways.

The first type of FAX server is applicable to companies that do not use email within the organization or do not wish to integrate fax with their email system.
The second type of Fax server integrates with a particular type of email system, for example, Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes. This kind of fax server leverages the email system to allow fax clients to send and receive faxes. User administration and total cost of ownership are low due to elimination of training and integration with existing email/user accounts. This is the preferred approach if you manage your own email.

Outgoing faxes can be generated from almost any application using a “Fax” printer instead of your usual printer. Many packages also allow you to fax directly from your email program as well. You can select the outgoing fax number after you send the document to the Fax printer. Some software will automatically search the document for a fax number and send it. You can also do the equivalent of mail merge – fax to a list of contacts.

Inbound faxing is a little harder to implement. There are several ways to automatically route incoming faxes, but they are either expensive or unreliable. Typically you need a separate incoming phone number for each fax destination. Unless you are a large business, it is probably going to be more practical to have all faxes come in to a designated person, who routes the incoming faxes via email.

Now that you have decided to implement network faxing, what products should you buy?

Which Fax products are best? If you have Microsoft Exchange, take a look at GFI Faxmaker http://www.gfi.com). if you have Lotus Notes, consider VSI-FAX for Notes (www.esker.com).

For standalone fax solutions, Rightfax (http://www.rightfax.com) and Zetafax (http://www.equisys.com) are good choices. For anything larger than a home office, stay away from WinFax Pro.

The fax hardware you choose will depend on your software. There are big differences in quality between fax cards. The quality of your fax modem will determine transmission speed, amount of failures, ability to deal with bad international lines etc. If faxing is important to you or your business, invest in a quality fax modem.

There is more to know about fax hardware and software than will fit in this article. For more details on selecting hardware and software, go to http://www.toriangroup.com/resources/faxserver.htm

Faxing has not been replaced by email. It still has a critical place in most businesses. Network faxing saves time and money, and improves the quality of your faxes. You can implement a network fax system for a few thousand dollars – the payback will likely be in less than a year.


Tim Torian has taught computer networking at the College of Sequoias and Cal Poly Extension. He has a BS in Computer Science, and has been consulting on computer networking for the past 30 Years. His industry certifications include: Cisco CCNA and CCNI, Microsoft MCSE. He was recognized as Entrepreneur of the year for 2008 by the Tulare County EDC. He is president of Torian Group, Inc. which provides a full range of Technology Consulting services to local business, including computer services, networking, web and custom software development. www.toriangroup.com

     
 

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