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January 25, 2013

Not All Fax-over-IP Solutions Are Created Equal

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

Just like voice communication, fax-over-IP has been evolving as the world embraces innovations such as smartphones, and perhaps more importantly, how these innovations factor into the cloud and virtualization.

In the fax world, the biggest change has been the emergence of fax-over-IP (FoIP), similar to services such as Vonage (News - Alert) and Skype that are known as voice-over-IP (VoIP).

FoIP offers reduced maintenance costs and a bevy of new features, such as virtualization by centralizing fax servers and enabling organizations to implement a single network that supports voice, data and fax. FoIP also can significantly reduce fax transmission costs.

Not all FoIP offerings are the same, however.

“Most FoIP servers can send and receive faxes and can manage documents directly from desktop applications and email,” according to a whitepaper on the topic from Davidson Consulting. “But differences do exist with enterprise-level servers, many of which are mission-critical to business processes.”

There are six areas where enterprise-level FoIP servers differ, according to Davidson. These areas are virtualization, advanced document processing, APIs, production fax, total cost-of-ownership, SharePoint support and whether the vendor offers these solutions in both fax servers and hosted fax services.

The answers to these and other questions can make a huge difference when selecting the right FoIP solution.

“Not all FoIP servers can be virtualized,” for instance, noted Davidson in the whitepaper, “and having a virtualized FoIP server means organizations can reap significant benefits from increased efficiency, reduced hardware costs, data center resource management, energy consumption, streamlined administration, and disaster recovery.”

Other key features, such as the ability to support advanced document processing, can make a world of difference in terms of productivity gains.

“To support complex and mission-critical business processes, it is important for enterprises to have the capability to easily search, retrieve and archive document images,” according to Davidson.

A good FoIP solution should be able to redirect faxes when a recipient is out-of-office, deliver faxes to different locations based on the date-and-time, and deliver fax images along with additional extracted data in Comma Separated Variables (CSV) or Extensible Markup Language (XML) format, the resource stressed. Additionally, all information should be stored in a searchable database so that images can be retrieved quickly and easily.

Further, the FoIP solution should be able to distribute document image processing across a workgroup.

“The FoIP server should support the capability for multiple users to select from a list of available unprocessed document images, with assurance that no other user can work on the same image. If a document image does not provide all required information, users should be able to easily fax or email the document’s originator to request the needed input. And enterprises absolutely must be able to eliminate lost document images.”

Businesses investigating FoIP can download the whitepaper from Davidson Consulting here.

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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