Zen and the Art Fax Machines

Easily the most forgotten piece of equipment in an office; and the one most likely to be messed up when installing a new telephone system or connectivity circuit is the lowly facsimile machine.

Some of your offices may not even have one anymore. But for those of you who still need signed documents transmitted between offices, here are some things to keep in mind:

First, if you like to have the machine in your office, they’re cheaper and simpler than ever. Just remember that they must connect to something. Faxes aren’t new, they’re…um…mature and they really prefer technology of a certain maturity level to be at their best.

It’s hard to go wrong with a Plain Old Telephone (POTS) line. Two wires from the local telephone carrier that travel all the way to the machine and break out as a line item on your monthly bill. It’s simple, it’s easy, it works like a champ, but all those POTS lines can add up. And when you start to look at other options, it’s easy to forget where they go.

We’ve scrambled several times when fax lines were moved to another circuit accidentally.

The second best option is to connect via PRI through your phone system. That usually works almost as well and consistently as POTS. Faxing over SIP either works or it doesn’t. This has changed some over time, but some fax machines like some SIP connectivity and some don’t like any, and if they don’t right out of the box, they likely never will.

From there, things get interesting. There are fax servers, they let everyone share those couple of lines and convert the incoming (and in some cases outbound) faxes to a pdf or other document to deliver them via email.

Recently, we’ve seen a lot of companies providing this as a service from the cloud and that appears to be really successful—and cost effective. Just make sure that if you sign your fax number over to them that you can get it back if you decide to do something else.

Some companies have gone all electronic, and they bypass faxing altogether. There are secure document programs that allow your customers to sign online, and you can always do the print, scan, and email routine, if your industry allows it.

There are a lot of ways to get there, and choosing one is primarily about what your business needs. Just stay mindful of faxing, it is far and away the thing most often forgotten or marginalized as new technology comes in to a business, and sometimes that can lead to some lengthy outages.

As always, we’re happy to discuss different options with you and help you find a good one.