At first glance faxing may appear to be an old-fashioned business practice but many organizations depend on it, or at the very least use it occasionally for sending across paperwork.
Although much of the usual business communication takes place over phone or email, sometimes it is still necessary to fax papers whether for regulatory compliance or because other means are not suitable.
Which brings us to the question facing most business organizations when they switch over to VoIP (or ideally, when they are considering the move to VoIP the first place) – can I fax with my VoIP service?
Unfortunately the answer is not a simple yes or no and whether or not faxing works depends on a number of factors.
Just as there are a number of ways to place a VoIP call – from a computer, smartphone, dedicated IP headset etc. – there are many ways of sending a fax even after adopting a business VoIP system.
Retain One Landline Exclusively for Faxing
This alternative works very well for organizations that do not depend on faxing for most of their business workflows.
Maybe they need to fax a couple of papers every six months or so to a particular supplier or do not use faxes more than a couple of times a year. Retaining one traditional landline and dedicating it exclusively to faxing works for a lot of businesses.
Nevertheless companies should think long and hard before settling for this option because they will miss out on a lot of advanced features that can be enabled by implementing true digital faxing.
Use Analog Fax Machines with an ATA
Just as it is possible to use regular desk phones with an adapter for VoIP calls, it is possible to send faxes with a regular fax machine by using a VoIP gateway and an Analog Telephony Adapter (ATA).
These adapters use the T38 protocol that allows faxes to travel over the VoIP line. This option is generally used as a stopgap before the company migrates over to computer based fax, since sooner or later the analog fax machines will have to be upgraded or replaced.
The most important requirement before using fax over IP is to ensure that the line uses audio codecs that do not compress the data. Usually this means the G711 codec which offers high quality voice but utilizes more bandwidth. Generally many companies offer the G729 codec that utilizes compression to reduce bandwidth overhead.
While audio compression works perfectly fine for normal voice calls, it does not provide for reliable faxing. Sometimes providers offer a setting on the online dashboard that switches between compressed/uncompressed modes. If not, the provider may have to enable it at their end.
Switch to Computer-Based Faxing or FoIP
This is probably the best option for most organizations for the long-term since VoIP is here to stay. Quite a few VoIP vendors like VoIPStudio have integrated the T38 protocol into their services and offer a faxing gateway through which computer based faxes can be sent and received.
Depending on the particular subscription plan and the provider, faxing may or may not be included. Organizations that rely heavily on fax may want to purchase a plan that includes faxing by default while those that use it only occasionally can add it as an extra feature when it is required.
Advantages of FoIP or Fax over IP
Services like VoIPStudio that offer fax gateways integrate faxing with the rest of the VoIP network. This means that incoming and outgoing faxes can be manipulated in a variety of ways that were not possible in a purely analog environment.
One of the biggest advantages is that faxes can be sent by simply browsing for the file and entering the phone number to which it should be sent. There is no need to mess around with paper or fax machines.
This works in the other direction as well. Incoming faxes can easily be converted into emails that are sent directly to a particular inbox – single user inbox, team inbox or even multiple addresses simultaneously.
Faxing over IP can take advantage of the fact that it can straddle the electronic and physical worlds at the same time. Users can easily view a history of their most recent faxes, re-send them, and managers can easily export the logs for analysis and long-term storage.
Sending and receiving IP faxes is generally cheaper than faxing over PSTN networks and can sometimes be free. Additionally the documents are more likely to be of a higher quality since they are digital until they are printed at some point.
The company can easily get rid of fax machines since the faxes can be printed to any ordinary printer attached to a computer. It will reduce the number of machines that have to be maintained, repaired or upgraded every so often.
Organizations are also able to better control who is able to send and receive fax messages, the number of faxes that are sent as well as blacklisting or blocking certain numbers. This helps with security, spam and junk mail management.
Since faxes can be sent directly from a computer, there is no need for employees to waste time in going to the fax machine which may be located in a different office or floor.
Hosted Fax over IP
VoIPStudio offers an integrated fax gateway that allows an organization to benefit from the advantages of using faxes without having to invest substantially in hardware and software.
These benefits should not be underestimated and hosted fax over IP offers many of the same gains that are derived by switching over to hosted VoIP services. Companies do not have to worry about purchasing hardware, regular maintenance, and updating software at periodic intervals.
Faxing will just work and managers can utilize additional controls such as fax history, monthly fax quotas or filters etc.
Larger corporations can benefit by tailoring faxing software to fit their own unique needs. On the other hand, smaller companies that only send the occasional fax can rely on the vendor to provide support. In both situations, the business ends up saving quite a lot of money in switching over to fax over IP.