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August 28, 2009

Sagem-Interstar to Present Session on 'Tailoring Fax over IP Survivability' During ITEXPO West 2009

By Patrick Barnard, Group Managing Editor, TMCnet

In today’s competitive and dynamic global business world, communication speed is critical to success. Organizations must cost-efficiently process contracts, invoices, purchase orders, and other legally binding, mission-critical documents.

In order to reach this goal, organizations are increasingly migrating from traditional fax systems to IP fax. Many of them are finding that IP fax not only helps speed the transmission of important documents, it also helps boost employee productivity, reduce telecommunications costs, improve security and reduce energy consumption.

Considering its inherent benefits, it’s no wonder that once companies make the transition they become even more reliant on fax communications to carry out mission-critical operations. As such, any downtime associated with IP fax communications can potentially adversely impact employee productivity, revenue, customer service, compliance processes, even corporate reputation. For this reason, companies today need IP fax solutions that offer full redundancy in the event of a network outage or some other disruption.

During TMC’s (News - Alert) Internet Telephony Conference & Expo West 2009, to be held Sept. 1-3, in Los Angeles, John Nikolopoulos, director, marketing and product management, for IP fax solutions provider Sagem-Interstar, will be presenting a session entitled “Tailoring Fax over IP Survivability.”

Nikolopoulos’ session, to be held from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m., PT, Thursday, Sept. 3, will cover how Sagem-Interstar’s (News - Alert) “boardless” SIP-based IP fax solutions deliver several key capabilities for protecting enterprise fax communications. As attendees will learn, the adoption of a specific survivability strategy should not compromise the overall fax server solution’s scalability features and security attributes. This technical presentation will reveal the parameters of IP-optimized, fax “survivability” solutions for accelerating the ROI case for UC, bearing in mind today’s economic challenges.

To find out more about what Nikolopoulos will be covering during the session, I recently asked him a few questions via email. Our full exchange is below:

PB: I understand you are going to be presenting a session entitled “Tailoring Fax over IP Survivability” on Thursday, Sept. 3, from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. (PT). Can you tell me what “Fax over IP Survivability” is? Is this something more than just simple IP fax redundancy?
JN: There seems to be quite a bit of confusion in the industry associated with terms survivability, redundancy, reliability, etc. So before addressing what Fax over IP Survivability is, one must, from the outset define: what is survivability? In general terms, survivability is the capability of a solution or system to withstand partial or total failures resulting from (hardware, software, or both) or even a catastrophic disaster without significantly impairing its normal operations. Clearly, survivability of a specific critical application like fax must be integrated within an overall corporate business continuity plan (BCP) that includes an assessment of the total cost of application downtime. Two fundamental performance metrics that drive the selection of a deployed survivability solution are recovery time objective (RTO) – how much downtime can be tolerated, and recovery point objective (RPO) – how much data loss can be tolerated. For business critical fax applications, RPO/RTO will typically range from a few seconds/minutes to perhaps a few hours.
The implementation of a cost-optimized and tailored fax server survivability strategy must take into account diverse key emerging fax solution drivers including the accelerating TDM to VoIP migration – hence, the term Fax over IP Survivability.

PB: Typically, how do companies back-up their IP fax systems? Is there more than one approach for doing this?
JN: Typical IP fax solutions, including Sagem-Interstar’s XMediusFAX, can be easily integrated within a corporate backup strategy using any standard backup software such as Veritas. In a virtualized environment (e.g., installed in VMware), the entire guest can be saved using existing techniques available through the specific virtualization technology. Beyond these application agnostic back-up strategies, Sagem-Interstar offers a complementary full range of survivability solutions reducing the downtime in case of failure of an IP faxing node. These solutions range from LAN optimized High Availability to WAN optimized Disaster Recovery and Branch Survivability.

PB: How can companies with multiple branch offices ensure that their IP fax service continues to operate in the event of a network outage or disconnect from the central fax server?
JN: Companies can ensure service continuity by deploying a “branch survivable” solution; Sagem-Interstar’s XMediusFAX AXP offering is optimized for exactly this challenging task. Locally deployed in the branch, the XMediusFA AXP solution automatically assumes control over branch faxing when the connection to the central fax solution has been lost. As user data is replicated between the central and local solution, users maintain access to their faxes and with integrated “auto-healing” capabilities and reversion to the centralized fax solution is transparent and seamless. This “auto” operation is, to our knowledge, unique in the industry.

PB: Does it cost more to build “survivability” into an IP fax system – in other words, is there a need to invest in additional equipment or architecture to facilitate replication of the data in the event of an outage? (Is it proper to refer to this as a “self-healing” system?)
JN: Leveraging technologies including virtualization, SIP, FOIP transport, the Cisco (News - Alert) ISR/AXP branch solution, and XMediusFAX “auto healing” capabilities, incremental costs linked to IP Fax server survivability can be significantly reduced.  It is clear that these expenses must be weighed against the losses/costs incurred during an outage as faxing is increasingly associated with business critical processes. Many industry vertical segments fundamentally depend on fax as a means of doing business and any downtime is a direct hit to their productivity, revenue, customer service, compliance processes, and even corporate reputation!

PB: You mention that there are certain tradeoffs associated with different Fax over IP (FoIP) survivability solutions. Can you give just a couple of examples of what those are?
JN: Tradeoffs exist across a number of fronts including: overall economics vs. performance (i.e., cost vs. RPO/RTO metrics), operations simplicity level (e.g., auto vs. manual failover), and architectural level (WAN vs. LAN optimization, active-active vs. active-passive deployment configurations).
PB: Who is your session geared for? Will it be highly technical or will it be more geared for managers and execs in charge of making business technology decisions?
JN: Survivability is a critical yet often misunderstood topic of discussion involving business decision makers and IT administrators/architects alike. Hence, a concerted effort has been made to introduce fundamentals, both at the technology and business level. Some advanced technology topics are also reviewed focusing on various networking tradeoffs. In essence, this talk is geared to both technical and business leaders who wish to gain a better appreciation of the emerging survivability solutions now available in the rapidly growing FOIP market.

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Patrick Barnard is a contributing writer for TMCnet. To read more of Patrick’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Patrick Barnard

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