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January 2007
Volume 10 / Number 1

Benefits of Migrating Fax Communications to Converged IP Networks

By Greg Gies


As enterprise networks are evolving to support voice, video, and data applications on a single network infrastructure, one technology often overlooked is fax. By migrating fax communications to converged IP architectures, companies enjoy many advantages over legacy analog or Time Division Multiplexed (TDM) fax.

One of the major advantages of IP communications is that it enables companies to make phone and fax calls essentially free of Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) charges. For example, the cost of sending a long distance six-page fax at 5 cents per minute is approximately 30 cents. Routing that same fax over an IP network virtually eliminates the long distance fee. Multiply that by the thousands of faxes sent monthly and the savings add up quickly. As the market adoption of IP fax grows, savings will increase even more because a greater percentage of faxes will travel from start to finish via IP, bypassing the PSTN altogether.

Today, companies with multiple offices can leverage their WAN backbone to route all interLATA fax traffic and interoffice faxes free of PSTN charges. For interLATA, traffic gateways on the remote office network edge serve as POPs (Points of Presence) to provide access to the local calling area so companies can keep their local fax numbers.

In addition, by switching to an IP-based fax solution, companies can dramatically reduce the maintenance costs of PBX station ports, which are much higher than the maintenance costs of routers. As shown by comparing Figure 1 with Figure 2, the fax server no longer requires connectivity to the PBX and is instead connected to a gateway. This can save companies significant costs, as PBX maintenance contracts are significantly more expensive than those of data network gear.

Multiple network topologies and disparate network technologies increase the level of management complexity. As data networks have expanded throughout the enterprise, companies have been forced to manage a data network and a telephone network, each using radically different technologies and requiring different technical skill sets and knowledge. With IP communications technologies, companies can now eliminate the legacy telephone network and combine all communications modes, including fax, in a single network topology. This convergence of networks enables companies to gain network operational efficiencies, freeing IT resources to focus on other value added tasks.


Enhanced Disaster Preparedness

VoIP (define - news - alert) network architecture enables the location of the server to be independent of the user, allowing companies to consolidate fax servers down to one or two strategically located data centers. This greatly simplifies disaster planning and preparedness by reducing the number of sites that need rapid response capability, and enables companies to locate the fax server in the most secure and stable environments.

IP communications architecture, by its nature, is more fault tolerant to network outages than the traditional circuitswitched architecture. IP inherently has the ability to route traffic via fully functional network nodes even if part of the network is down. In the circuit-switched world, if the network connection between the fax server and the central office is down, then the fax server is not able to send or receive faxes. IP fax servers can take advantage of data networking best practices designed to ensure ‘five nines’ uptime, such as connecting the fax to multiple redundant load balanced nodes reducing the likelihood effectively down to zero that the fax server will ever be without access to a network.

This is particularly important for services that utilize fax to communicate with law enforcement and other government agencies in the event of a crisis, such as a tsunami warning or severe weather alert, and also for companies that rely on fax communication for business critical documents such as financial and legal transactions.


Additional Business Productivity Benefits of Fax over IP

The migration to IP communications is taking place at the same time that companies are focusing their efforts and investment on IT infrastructure to resolve thorny operational and compliance issues. As companies look to make the switch to IP communications, they will also consider how these purchases can assist their efforts in compliance, business process automation, and document management.

By implementing production fax systems on their IP networks, companies not only benefit from the savings achieved by automating fax document processing, but also by ensuring the integrity of internal control procedures and transactions that are sensitive to regulatory compliance, for example Sarbanes Oxley and Basel II. Production fax servers are used to automate business processes such as sending fax invoices, receipts, or receiving fax purchase orders directly to an ERP system.

With the new VoIP network architecture, companies will be able to bring remote office workers onto the fax server system as easily as adding an email account. Increased usage will increase ROI by capturing the automation and risk management benefits across the entire company.

Fax server technology sits squarely at the intersection of communications, document management, business process automation, and compliance. The shift to IP communications, combined with the increased focus on business process automation and document management, makes implementing a fax over IP server the smart solution as companies make the transition to converged IP networks.

Greg Gies is the Market Development Manager at Cantata Technology. (news - alert) For more information, visit the company online at


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