It used to be that document management meant filing and keeping track of physical pieces of paper. While this wasn’t necessarily all that efficient a means of keeping track of information, there wasn’t really an alternative. Then, desktop computers entered the scene and shook things up. For many years there has been the promise of the “paperless office;” an office that uses no physical paper but stores and uses all its files in electronic format on a computer.
Unfortunately, the paperless office has yet to completely materialize, although some progress has been made. Scanners and optical characters recognition (OCR) software, e-mail, voice recognition and speech-to-text solutions, laptop computers and smartphones/PDAs, and the World Wide Web have all helped reduce how much physical paper needs to be stored and then retrieved.
One of the last remaining technology holdouts that necessitates using actual paper is fax. Although it’s probably fair to say that the majority of document exchanges now occur using e-mail, some companies — for various reasons — find it necessary to keep their fax machines around, and this inevitably creates physical pieces of paper that need to be filed.
Fax is most prevalent in vertical industries that rely heavily on signed documents and forms that can’t easily be filled out electronically. Examples include real estate agencies, insurance companies, law firms, healthcare organizations and mortgage brokers. Although PDFs and other document formats are making it easier to handle forms and signatures electronically, this technology doesn’t quite bridge the divide yet.
So, what’s a company to do that wants to cut down on the paper generated by faxing? The solution is to use an Internet fax service, which enables that company to receive faxes electronically by e-mail rather than printing them using a fax machine.
Since document management — the storage and retrieval of documents — has largely gone digital, being able to receive and store faxes on a computer can really boost efficiency. Most people already have some system in place for storing electronic documents on a computer and organizing them for quick retrieval later. When a fax comes in to an employee’s e-mail box in PDF or TIFF format (as is the case with Packetel’s (News
) incoming Internet fax service, for example), that person can then save the document on his/her computer and find it easily later.
Of course, there will be times when an electronically-received fax needs to be printed. But this doesn’t always happen, and the result is that paper usage is greatly reduced. For those who have electronic filing systems set up, it’s much easier to put a fax saved as PDF or TIFF in the right place than it is to scan and save a paper document.
In addition to being more efficient, Internet fax is also more secure; it is possible to send a fax to a particular recipient and not risk having it be intercepted a the fax machine by the wrong person.
Saving money, saving time, protecting privacy… there are many benefits of electronic faxing. To learn more, please visit the Internet Fax
channel on TMCnet.com, brought to you by Packetel.
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Mae Kowalke is senior editor for TMCnet, covering VoIP, CRM, call center and wireless technologies. To read more of Mae's articles, please visit her columnist page. She also blogs for TMCnet here.
Edited by Mae Kowalke