Over the last few issues of TIPS, we have explored the history of fax, reasons to employ a fax server and factors to consider in selecting the solution to best meet your needs. In our final segment, let’s look at a few specific fax server applications.
By far, the most prevalent and universal use is Desktop Fax. Regardless of the size of your business or the industry you are in, the economics and convenience of desktop faxing make it a sensible investment. Desktop faxing gives you the ability to send and receive faxes from your PC, providing both privacy and efficiency. Faxes come directly to your e-mail in-box and you can archive, delete, print or forward the fax just as you do other documents you receive via e-mail. Sending a fax is as easy as sending an e-mail. Just address your e-mail “TO: the fax number of the recipient,” and the person will get it on the other end at their fax machine [if they are still using old technology]. The savings comes in reduced wait time and walk time to a fax machine; dramatically reduced cost of print and toner [only print what you want]; accurate date/time record of sent faxes; and the peace of mind that can only come from knowing that confidential information is not spewing forth in the copy room.
A second, less universal, but still heavily used application is Broadcast Fax. While e-mail newsletters have surged in popularity and reduced the need for Broadcast Fax across some industries, this tool is still heavily used in public relations and industries with similar needs to get information out across a broad distribution. PR professionals often send press releases to many journalists and publications at once. Real estate agents can fax listings to multiple clients. Regional managers for large real estate firms can fax reports to multiple property managers at once. Fax numbers are still generally more available than e-mail addresses in company listings and directories, so Broadcast Fax is often a tool used by airlines, travel agents and restaurants and other businesses to reach prospects. It is wise, however, to use caution in Fax Advertising as the U.S. federal government has passed laws that severely restrict the legality of unsolicited broadcast faxes. The net result of laws passed in 1994 and 2005 determined that unsolicited faxes can be sent to businesses with which the client has an “established business relationship.” So be sure you have received an inquiry, met at a tradeshow or are in the same member organization before you start blasting faxes to others.
Lastly, fax servers are a great tool for Signature Faxes—exchanging documents that require signatures. The use of electronic signatures remains very small at this time, and the best substitute for a document transferred in-person is a facsimile transmitted electronically that can be printed, signed and faxed back to the sender. The ability to then save the signed electronic document means the need for fax servers will remain strong for some time. Ultimately, your business needs the flexibility to communicate with your customers and vendors in multiple ways. Fax servers give you that flexibility while allowing you to reap the benefits of unified messaging so that your fax, e-mail [and in some cases voicemail] can be received and managed in the same mailbox.