The fax, a technology that never really went away

Could fax over IP potentially be the biggest change for many organisations?
Could fax over IP potentially be the biggest change for many organisations

The fax machine – a piece of technology which heritage traces back to well over 150 years to 1842 – in many offices, is placed in a corner and not really thought of twice; until, of course, it makes an alarming noise and people have, by accident, called a fax line instead of the phone. Though our relationship with these machines today may be unapologetically indifferent, there is more to the fax that meets the eye.

As BT, like telco operators across Europe, continues to implement its plans to switch off the analogue, PSTN/ISDN telephone networks, it is actually the large number of fax users rather than voice customers that are likely to feel the most impact. While awareness of the switch off was pegged at a lowly 25% of UK businesses in a TalkTalk Business survey last year, what discussion there has been has often focused around the migration to Voice over IP. In reality, it is arguably the move from the traditional fax machine or multifunction devices equipped with fax cards that presents the prime opportunity or threat for many organisations.

“Any organisation still using fax extensively in 2018, probably has it deeply ingrained in its communications culture and business processes,” says Stéphane Vidal, vice president of marketing and communications at XMedius. “Until now such entities have had two options ahead of the BT analogue switch-off scheduled for 2025. The first and simplest was to move, sooner rather than later, to a Fax over IP solution, that offers significant and immediate cost and efficiency savings. The alternative was to invest in reengineering the culture and redesigning the processes to incorporate new ways of working and communication. Now customers can implement both options in parallel.”

He continues, “The NHS, in particular, along with other public-sector organisations and industries such as banking, insurance and legal, are still heavy users of fax. Indeed, it has been widely reported, following research released from DeepMind Health, that the NHS is the largest buyer of traditional fax machines in the world. Fax has maintained a stronghold in these areas as a result of familiarity, convenience, ubiquity and the legal standing of the audit trail it provides. While seven years may seem a long time, BT will stop selling new lines in 2020, so any organisation relying on fax should be planning its next move now.”

Independent industry analyst Rob Bamforth also identifies that fax is a potentially a forgotten player in the transition and that the deadlines demand attention, he addresses this saying, “As the analogue telco network switchover is looming, it would be wise to take another look at the fax sooner rather than later. Identify what use cases are required. Then consider a move to virtualise fax and shift from fax hardware and phone lines to fax software, networks and cloud services.”

Whichever route is chosen, multiple IP-based solutions are available that combine the ease of use and familiarity of fax, with best practice security and data protection principles.

By moving quickly to a Fax over IP (FoIP) solution such as XMediusFAX, Stéphane acknowledges that users can maintain established working practices, become more environmentally sustainable, comply with ever-increasing security requirements and also benefit from a rapid financial return through savings from reduced telco charges, paper and toner costs.

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