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December 23, 2011

The Benefits and Challenges of IP Fax

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

When you think of cutting-edge technologies, let's face it...fax isn't the first thing that comes to mind. You may think of mobile apps, speech-enabled personal assistants, motion-sensing gaming equipment and others...but not fax.

However, fax is still widely used – and widely useful – in the enterprise today. More than 100 billion pages of faxes are still transmitted worldwide today. According to document management and communications company Sagemcom, it's still the easiest way to exchange legal documents such as contracts, purchase order, bills, invoices, forms and confidential medical information. It can convey signatures, official stamps and classified information, and it's a real-time communications media with the added bonus of confirmed delivery with absolute certainty. 

While for many companies, fax has fallen out of favor and has been replaced by e-mail and PDF documents, several industries still use fax widely: healthcare, government and the legal industry, for starters, as well as insurance and real-estate.

But fax has come a long way from its earliest days: today, more and more fax traffic is carried over Internet protocol (IP). Even further, fax technology has benefited greatly from the cloud. In a recent talk given at the 2011 National Bell CSE Conference, Sagemcom's Director of Technology and Development Sebastien Boire-Lavigne spoke about the challenges and benefits of faxing in the cloud (you can find the video at here).

As for benefits, we're now all familiar with what cloud-based solutions bring to the enterprise: there's the fact that cloud-based faxing requires no upfront capital and can be deployed quickly. Companies pay for only what they use, and can scale up and down according to their needs.

In terms of challenges, as with any other technology stored in the cloud, there is a perception that security isn't as robust as with other media. For an industry that not only relies on security but is mandated by federal law to keep information secure – such as healthcare or financial services – this is a significant challenge. With the right fax over IP solutions provider that can offer the best routing for fax data, however, these security issues can be minimalized to the point where companies can feel safe with their confidential data. This “virtualization” of fax means companies can provide the data with the same robust security as their other mission-critical data while still reaping the benefits of software-as-a-service (SaaS (News - Alert)).

After all, while we might think fondly of the days of yore when faxes would drop into a basket and all eyes would pass over it before it finally found its way to its intended recipient – after being handled by no less than five people – we don't work in the same world anymore. Data security and data integrity are of paramount importance if a technology is to remain germane to a business. With the cloud, businesses get to keep a tried-and-true technology...the trusty fax...but package it in modern delivery and security standards.

For more information about Sagemcom and its products, visit

Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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