The number of organisations choosing to replace their fax server with an outsourced Internet fax service is on the rise. Companies are realising that the ongoing costs associated with fax servers are too high.
Reliability headaches like lost faxes and busy signals add to the mix. Capacity issues requiring that considerable attention be paid to managing fax volume and provisioning are also a factor. Moreover, the fact that fax servers require dedicated IT personnel that detract from other mission critical systems drives organisations to explore outsourced Internet fax services. Outsourced Internet fax enables users to send and receive faxes using e-mail and the Internet. It requires no additional hardware or software allowing a rapid deployment throughout the enterprise. While some companies have initially struggled with the decision to replace their fax server because of the initial and ongoing investment made, those that have introduced Internet fax have realised significant productivity and financial gains.
The use of fax servers often forces organisations to schedule the delivery of higher volumes of faxes at specified times to reduce long-distance charges or to balance the quantity of faxes being delivered to ensure successful receipt. Internet fax providers typically provide flat rates for fax pages sent within a geographic region, such as UK. This reduces costs associated with long distance charges and provides a fixed cost per transaction. This cost savings is further enhanced as many Internet fax providers provide a set number of free inbound and/or outbound fax pages per month.
Fax servers fail for a number of reasons. Delivery times for faxes often take hours due to poor planning or provisioning of telco resources and/or fax volumes have scaled more quickly than expected. Fax servers experience downtime during system re-boots because of hardware or software failures, poor maintenance or lack of upgrades. To make matters worse, many businesses do not provision an extra fax server for redundancy purposes, so if the system goes down, fax service stops entirely. Internet fax services have unlimited capacity and fully redundant systems. Daily maintenance and monitoring is undertaken on the organisation’s behalf.
Fax servers require ongoing maintenance and upgrades that pull resources away from other, more mission-critical systems and applications in your IT environment. When fax servers are integrated with other applications, such as a document management system, a customer relationship management system or even Microsoft’s Office, then custom integration work must be repeated each time these complementary systems require upgrades. An organisation’s IT infrastructure is already overly complicated. By deploying outsourced Internet fax services, the IT staff can shrink their IT footprint and focus on the more important components that directly impact the company’s bottom line.
Each time a new fax number is assigned to a new employee, your IT department must ensure the fax server has enough lines to bear the added fax volume the employee will generate. Outsourced Internet fax services require no line provisioning. Adding a new user to the system can be done quickly using online administration tools. The service provider manages all line provisioning on your behalf and with guaranteed service availability, you'll no longer have to worry about exceeding maximum capacity.
The administration tools available with fax servers are often complicated and include more features than what is truly required of the fax server. Internet-based fax services provide online administration tools that are simple and straightforward to use and allow you to easily provision new fax numbers, manage user accounts and access fax history and billing reports. When the fax server is integrated with other systems or applications, additional programming resources are required. As more components are added to the system, training is required to advise users of new functionality. Fax server API’s are often complex, proprietary and difficult to implement. Internet fax providers offer industry standard Web services to download and no DLLs are required for updating the system.
Managing one fax server in an organisation can be onerous enough. But if you’re responsible for managing multiple fax servers whether situated at a single corporate office or distributed throughout regional offices, then it can be taxing from a human resource, productivity and cost perspective. Existing multi-fax server implementations are not easily consolidated. Data centre amalgamation is complicated and requires the consolidation of phone lines. Organisations must have their carrier route existing fax numbers back to the main data centre. In these cases, it is more productive to investigate outsourced Internet fax services that support local and toll free numbers from one main account easily across geographies.
If an organisation is facing geographical expansion, it must be emphasised that one fax server cannot easily support multi-locations with different area codes. An Internet fax solution can easily support, from one central location, an environment where the user base is located across disparate area codes. Organisations can choose between a local fax number in the area code of their choice or a toll-free fax number. Toll-free fax numbers are of further benefit as those people faxing into the organisation do not incur the long-distance charges.
Most fax servers provide tools that automatically track inbound and outbound fax activity. However, if your organisation does not have enough lines provisioned or if your system is prone to failure, then employees may be spending time manually tracking whether a fax has been sent or received successfully. Outsourced Internet fax services offer on-demand service and in most cases, almost 100% uptime, ensuring that incoming faxes will not fail due to busy signals and outgoing faxes will not be blocked from being sent. For many companies, particularly SMBs, fax continues to be a very important mode of communication. Organisations that do switch to Internet fax in lieu of a fax server will realise notable monetary and productivity gains and improved communications. If your organisation is experiencing capacity, scalability, and reliability issues with your fax server, it may be time to switch to Internet fax.
This article was written for ITreviewed by Steve Adams, Protus
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