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June 04, 2010

Demystifying IP Fax: FoIP Maintenance, Upgrades and Troubleshooting

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor


The ideal solution to integrate fax technology in an all-IP environment is to incorporate fax over IP into the network design. While this technology is gaining fast traction, problems and issues can arise when implementation does not go as planned. To help overcome this challenge, Sagemcom offers a Webinar series: 'Demystifying Fax over IP.'
 
On May 26, 'Webcast 5 of 5: FoIP Maintenance Upgrades Troubleshooting' presented by Rime Rerhaye from Sagemcom and David Hanes from Cisco (News - Alert), provided an in-depth look at the best methods for addressing FoIP issues in the enterprise. Here, we'll take a look at a few key points from this presentation. To benefit from the Webcast in full, download the file here.

Rerhaye began the presentation by examining maintenance and upgrade troubleshooting, highlighting that an upgrade should include the FoIP Server, infrastructure and gateway. This is important as the enterprise may want new features, the old system may have bugs or there are applicable fixes that should be addressed.

There may also be compatibility (other third party) issues, chain of events, corporate policy initiatives or there is no longer support available for a specific version of the FoIP hardware or software.
 
When addressing issues, hotfixes come into play and address bugs, which can be major or critical; application maintenance in user management, configuration changes/provisioning/expansion; and/or migration to new hardware or expanded capabilities.
 
When staging systems, this process is identical to production configurations though it may have less capacity. The process is generally driven by the business/mission criticality of fax application and is typically smaller scale than production.

The system must be up to date, when used, pre-upgrade or hotfixes may be necessary, as well as a change in validation; in the process, all touchpoints should be replicated and regression tests completed to ensure full functionality is delivered in the FoIP solution.
 
When upgrading the system, this process must include planning, backup and upgrade and implementation of a change log. The planning process includes the staging system and functionality tests. Backup and upgrade includes new license.

Specific application configurations include Web Client, Web Services, etc. change log, configuration documentation updates and user and administrative training. When all of these elements are considered in the process, the change is a productive process.
 
Common FoIP issues can include high failure rates, unable to send or receive any faxes, unable to send to a particular fax number, bleeding faxes, partial faxes or long transmission times.
 
An analysis of the FoIP solution to determine how best to approach issues will include Network Traces such as WinPCAP in Sagemcom's XMediusFAX!, which requires a viewer.

It is also important to understand that outbound/inbound fax calls differ in the way the technology can interpret issues. Application log files provide information on error logs and call analysis. The FoIP gateway provides info on Cisco DEBUG and SHOW commands.
 
Service and support is essential to an optimized FoIP experience for the enterprise and should include each manufacturer is responsible for their solution, support during installation and maintenance stages and friendly hand-off in case of issues.
 
An interoperability and certification program (ICP) includes formal, focused and rigorous testing, certification and interoperability; it increases reliability and customer satisfaction; and successful vendor ICP is linked to key in-house investments in capital equipment and knowledge transfer.

Cisco's David Hanes provided a quick Cisco overview, including the company's positioning in the market in providing voice and data communications equipment and solutions; the fact Cisco has supported FoIP since the earliest standards; and that Cisco voice products such as ISR gateways and Cisco Unified Communications (News - Alert) Manager fully support FoIP.

Hanes explored FoIP troubleshooting stages: 1) voice call setup; 2) switchover; 3) T.38 Media and provided key technological approaches to streamlining processes to prevent failures. For more on his insight, download the Webinar here.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Erin Harrison



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