A “fax server” is a computer with one or more fax-capable modems that runs a software application for the purpose of managing the fax requirements of an individual or organization. These requirements can be as varied as one person working from home, to large organizations with thousands of employees and a multitude of fax lines.
In its simplest form, a fax server can allow an individual to construct a fax for transmission to another fax machine or server. This fax would be sent directly form their PC to the fax server which is connected to a telephone line via a modem.
A fax server would also offer the ability to receive a fax transmission from an outside sender. Once received the fax could be stored, forwarded as a fax, viewed, or printed. As the faxing solution becomes more robust, additional capabilities would also exist.
An organization may use a dedicated server for running the fax solution. Options exist to allow multiple fax lines to connect to a single server or even (via the T-38 protocol standard) to allow faxing via a VOIP network. Doing so means traditional phone lines may or may not be involved.
Utilizing a fax server provides many benefits.
A user can send and receive faxes directly at their PC. This increases productivity as the user does not need to print the document, walk to the fax machine, wait for his or her turn to use it, wait for the document to feed thru the fax machine, retrieve the document, return to his or her desk and then decide what to do with the document (usually trash-can it, as they probably have the original on a PC or file server) and finally, verify that the fax machine did indeed sent the fax out successfully.
Receiving a fax also offers dramatic benefits. With a traditional fax machine, someone must retrieve the faxes from the fax machine, determine to whom it belongs, and follow an established procedure to allow that individual to retrieve the fax. If more than one fax has printed between retrievals, the faxes must be successfully separated, which does not always occur. This can result in the wrong person receiving the fax document, which presents the possibility of not only lost productivity, but scenarios of poor customer service or sensitive data being misplaced or lost. With modern fax servers, inbound faxes can be routed directly to a user’s desktop in-basket or even delivered via email as a PDF or TIFF image attachment. This also means that with modern PDAs and/or phones, which have email capabilities, the fax can be retrieved from virtually anywhere.
Fax servers provide a digital copy of the fax. This provides the where-with-all to organize these faxes in numerous ways. Folders may be created to group faxes by client, project, date or other hierarchal method, for easy retrieval.
Faxes can be integrated directly into other applications such as accounting, order entry, customer management systems, document imaging, and invoicing/billing. This integration can provide tremendous benefits. For example, a manufacturing company can print invoices during the day allowing the fax server to capture these invoices, store them and fax them out automatically overnight. This not only speeds up the collections process, but can also reduce phone charges by allowing the call to be made during a lower rate period. An audit log can be created to verify the status of the fax delivery. This can all occur without an operator leaving his or her desk. It also eliminates printing the invoices, folding, stuffing and applying postage. This not only means increased productivity, but it also eliminates the capital expenditure for printers, folders/inserters, and postage equipment.
Another advantage is that by using a fax server, documents you send and receive are now digital. This means they can be secured, backed up, and archived. This can be extremely important for organizations subject to HIPPA, Sarbanes Oxley or other laws. Abiding by these laws with paper documents would be laborious, time consuming, expensive and filled with opportunities for failure. The penalties associated with failure may not only result in fines, but also be a public relations nightmare.
While email is widely accepted and has reduced the fax workload, not all organizations accept emailed documents for all purposes. Some organizations are also required by law to provide faxing capabilities. For these organizations, implementation of a fax server can be easily justified.
Depending on your organization’s needs, solutions range from less than $1,000 to as high as $30,000. The key is to not concentrate on the cost. Instead start by evaluating your needs and the benefits received from implementing a “Fax Solution.” Once you know your needs, you can then find the right solution, its’ associated cost, and the ROI. Armed with this information, the decision to implement a solution or not, and if so which solution to implement, is an easy one.