Outdated Technology? Let the Fax Speak for Itself

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Fax is old technology, right? Been around for a while, doesn’t quite measure up in this new world of e-mail and Web browsing, right? Wrong! Fax is not only alive and well, but thriving, because fax application developers are pushing the boundaries of how it can be used.

At one end of the faxing spectrum are products that aren’t fax-specific, but include faxing as one of a set of features. The most useful are the so-called “unified messaging devices.”

In a nutshell, a unified messaging device is a time-saving application that can manage and integrate voice mail, e-mail, faxes, and pages, providing users with one convenient place to receive, view, and organize their messages.

One of the best is Mississauga, Ont.-based 01 Communique’s Communicate! i2000 (www.01com.com). Resembling a desktop speakerphone (though a very sleek one), Communicate! i2000 has a large screen that shows a date/timestamp, caller ID information, and smaller displays pointing towards fax, e-mail, voice, and data mailboxes.

The product’s fax capabilities include the ability to schedule, modify, or delete outbound faxes, broadcast faxing, fax back and fax on demand, and re-send and re-queue capabilities. (01 Communique also offers its Communicate! and Communicate! Pro fax-technology products, which are similar but have fewer features.)

Surprisingly, the system requirements for using Communicate! i2000 aren’t that onerous, making it ideal for small- to medium-sized businesses. i2000 runs on a Windows 95/98/2000 PC, or an NT 4.0 workstation, with a Pentium 100 or higher, at least 32Mb of RAM, a double-speed CD-ROM drive, speakers, a microphone, and Creative Labs-compatible soundcard to do the basics. You’ll need 45 mB of hard drive space for a full install. A compatible modem is a must: check the company’s Web site for a list. The suggested price for Communicate! i2000 is $189 US.

A step up on the complexity scale are the faxing needs of corporate network users-not only LANs (Local Area Networks) and WANs (Wide Area Networks), but also the Internet.

That means the fax technology you use needs to have fax-over-IP (Internet Protocol) capability. Products in this market allow users to create commercial IP-based fax services as extended network service offerings and as an integrated part of their Internet messaging products. The widespread use of Internet has created an efficient and cost-effective way to send and receive documents. Using the Net as the transport medium, users can send and receive documents from PC to PC, PC to fax machine, or vice versa.

A comprehensive solution set for this market is offered by CompuFax Solutions (www.compufax.com), a Markham, Ont., company that focuses on voice, fax, and data integration.

CompuFax’s RightFAX 7.0 can best be understood as a suite of products, with various parts of the RightFAX solution set aiming at differing users, and different markets. Running on the Windows NT (now called Windows 2000) platform, RightFAX can incorporate such modules as Fax Sentry, Broadcast Assistant, and AutoPoll Server. That modular approach, claims CompuFax, allows scalability for growing the solution to meet changing business needs.

For large corporate enterprises, that might mean a choice of server solutions. The RightFAX Enterprise Server allows users to combine multiple RightFAX servers on LANs, WANs, a corporate intranet, or the Internet.

The RightFAX Enterprise Suite bundles the Enterprise server with eight RightFAX modules, while the RightFAX Satellite Server is a specially licensed fax server and e-mail gateway (working with either Microsoft Exchange or Lotus Notes) combined with a RightFAX Enterprise server.

What we’re talking about is a long way from the standalone desktop fax machine of a few years ago. But, whether the new century’s fax solution involves software, networks, or the power of the Internet, the bottom line remains the same.

If it’s functionality, efficiency, and accuracy you need, it’s time to take a new look at the world of faxing.

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