I have been working in the fax space for almost 20 years, and I estimate that it was about 15 years ago that a colleague returning from a trade show told us that the most frequent question he was asked there was “What’s your exit strategy for fax?”.
The fact is, however, that fax has not exited, either stage left or stage right. As a technology, it remains firmly center stage for many of the Fortune 500 companies (FedEx, IBM, Cisco, CBS News, GE, etc.) that make up my company’s impressive customer base. While, initially, it seemed that the widespread use of email was going to push fax into early obsolescence, ironically, it turned out that, in many ways, email was the best thing that ever happened to fax – particularly in a business setting.
What email brought into the corporate world was not simply quick-and-easy communications, but also painful and costly computer viruses, worms, and Trojan horse programs. What email showed us is that it is primarily a casual, personal means of communication, and not appropriately secure for conducting business. Unlike an email attachment, a fax document is NOT AN EDITABLE FILE. It is true that you can forward a fax document, overlay it with a text comment/line drawing (“Please initial and return where indicated”), but you cannot alter the original itself or embed another program within it. For that reason, law offices have depended on fax for years to send legal briefs, individuals can fax their tax returns, and courts of law accept faxed documents as legal documents. For that reason, fax technology is basically a secure technology in a world that is increasingly unsecure.
Moreover, fax technology has moved well beyond simply sending and receiving faxes to support more and more sophisticated document routing and workflow capabilities. And companies that require such fax capabilities are spending serious money to implement them. What do they know that those who declared fax a dying technology may not know? Here are my Top Ten reasons why companies in the know are investing more and more in fax, and doing more and more with it:
10. Installing fax connectors on an organization’s MFPs makes sending a fax as easy as scanning/copying/printing. As long as an MFP can send an email, it can send a fax.
9. Faxes can be received as PDF files, in addition to the traditional TIFF format, so that the only application needed to view a fax is the omnipresent Adobe Reader.
8. Faxes can be sent/received from/to Web browsers, meaning faxes can be sent/received anywhere.
7. Because a signature on a fax is recognized by the courts as an executed document, judges can run a fax app on a mobile device to sign and return search warrant requests from law enforcement agencies.
6. Physicians can use their Electronic Medical Record software to fax prescription requests right from the patient examining room.
5. On-site fax servers can now be combined seamlessly with a cloud-based hosted fax service to ensure fault-tolerant always-on faxing.
4. Fax servers can now be software-only, without fax boards, enabling faxes to be routed over an IP network without any need to invest in costly new infrastructure.
3. Software-based fax servers can be installed in a virtual server farm, increasing server utilization and reducing software/hardware costs.
2. Organizations can create elaborate and sophisticated fax workflows, whereby individuals are assigned to workflow roles, and the faxes progress from role to role automatically, based on information the individuals specify in data entry fields.
1. Fax can be integrated with virtually any application and computing environment, including email, Active Directory, SharePoint, Oracle, SAP, Avaya, iSeries, Siebel, etc.