Alternatives to Fax Machines for Greater Office Productivity

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Just the Fax

The fax machine isn’t dead, unfortunately. If you need a document that has to be signed you need a fax machine. If you have made changes or corrections to a print out then you either need to scan or fax it back. While scanners are still not a part of many offices, the fax machine is still around and kicking, and David Kelleher offers some tips on why this machine should be on the way out.

Bright Hub: The fax machine doesn’t seem to want to go the way of the eight-track. Why is this and what d o you think about applications such as fax servers? Are these more productive than the traditional fax machine?

DK: Although nearly every company in the world uses email, many still have a trusted fax machine from which they send and receive documentation. At the same time, however, there are a number of cost issues that companies may want to look into if they are heavy fax users.

One of the biggest problems with manual faxing is the time it takes to send a fax - time that could be put to better use elsewhere. It can take anything from five to 10 minutes to send a fax, assuming that other factors do not come into play - the employee is distracted, there is no paper in the fax machine, it jams, machine errors pop up or the employee stops for a chat or a cup of coffee with co-workers.

Apart from ‘wasting’ 10 minutes and depending on the quality of fax machine the recipient is using, the documents just faxed are likely to be received in poor quality (90% of all faxes are sent in standard mode), with gray scales reduced to black and the document probably tilted slightly (or worse). At the recipient’s and, there is an increased risk that it could be lost or misplaced if the document is not immediately collected from the communal fax area. There is also a risk that the contents of that fax could be read by other employees.

In a working environment with hundreds of employees regularly sending faxes, rising communication costs, wasted resources, productivity losses and concerns that confidential material may end up in the wrong person’s hands, manual faxing starts to lose its shine. But companies still need to use a fax machine.

The question is: How can you cut costs and make fax communications be more secure? What is the solution? The most popular solution has been to replace standalone fax machines with integrated network fax servers that allow users to quickly and easily send, receive and manage fax communication right at their desktop using the speed and easy-of-use that email clients offer while making the most of the secure transmission that manual faxing guarantees.

In this type of a solution, users can compose faxes using word processing software (or another application) or create a new message in their email client (e.g. Outlook or Lotus Notes). Numbers can be selected from the mail clients address list or entered manually. Traffic is managed through the Exchange/SMTP mail server, which can receive and route faxes.

Network Fax Servers

BH: Where do network fax servers fit in?

DK: Top of the line integrated network fax servers also allow users to send and receive faxes via their handhelds or mobile devices such as Blackberrys and PDAs. As more and more employees check their email while on the road, the ability to send a receive faxes on their mobile device ensures they have access to documentation even if they are not in the office.

BH: And what are some of the benefits of network fax servers?

DK: Two of the key benefits to integrated network faxing are that you save time and money. The simple and relatively painless process of setting up an integrated network faxing solution can significantly increase a company’s efficiency and productivity. With a network faxing solution thousands of dollars can be saved in labor costs alone. In addition, faxes can be more secure, readily prepared and add an appearance of professionalism to the company’s business communications.

By leveraging existing technologies (such as word processing and messaging applications), enterprises can derive greater benefit from existing applications with no additional cost in terms of software or additional training expenses. The only expense is that to purchase the software. Yet even then the savings made will be considerable. The integrated network faxing solution is one of the most elegant and beneficial on the market. The return on investment is high and the benefits of executing the solution can be realized in minutes.

David Kelleher is Communications and Research Analyst at GFI. We spoke with him about common IT mistakes made by small and medium sized business.

This post is part of the series: Office Productivity Concerns and Security

David Kelleher, communications and research analyst at GFI’s GFISecurityLabs tells you can have a safe, secure office without compromising productivity.

  1. Office Productivity Concerns and Security: Part 1
  2. Office Productivity Concerns and Security: Part 2
  3. Office Productivity Concerns and Security: Part 3