At one time the fax machine was ubiquitous. You could find at least one in each business and several in larger enterprises. However, these machines are now a rarity, being replaced by the newer Fax over IP (FoIP). Fax machine sales may have reduced but IDC reports that fax usage is increasing with a growth rate of 27 percent. It is secure, reliable, an “eyes only” communication, and paper prints are required for healthcare and legal purposes. However, businesses need not rely on fax machines. FoIP solutions are fast becoming the norm. So what is fax over internet protocol and how can you use it to the max? Find out.
The traditional fax
The traditional fax machine was analog. The fax machine has a built-in optical scanner that converts text and images to analog sound signals transmitted over PSTN lines and the machine at the receiving end converts sound data to data that can be printed. The signal travels over the dedicated pair and if there is interruption the fax does not go through. Fax over the internet works differently. PSTN normally makes use of the T.30 protocol for analog data.
Fax over IP
Fax over the internet makes use of the T.38 protocol to send a fax over the VoIP network. It needs a FoIP server or gateway. The protocol converts analog data to digital data for onward transmission and back to analog data at the receiving end of the signal goes into a PSTN connected fax machine. T.38, in turn, relies on UDP but it also can make use of TCP and RTP protocols with the former being the preferred protocol for speedy transmission and to minimize packet loss.
The fax server
The Fax server or software plays a crucial role in FoIP solutions. The server comprises software for fax over internet protocol, a fax modem, and an internet connection. The server also is part of a local area network. A scanner may be used to scan paper documents. You could use soft copies of word documents, jpg images, or PDF as the source and the fax software converts it into fax format. Fax so transmitted through the server may be received by a fax machine or another FoIP software where it may be received as an email PDF attachment. The signal may go to an IP enabled fax machine connected to the router. The important thing is that only one fax number will suffice and the fax is stored on the server to be retried by the authorized person. One thing to note in IP-based fax is that the users may make use of a fax machine number but, in fact, it is the fax machine’s IP address that uniquely identifies it. When you have a fax server you can also use the older G3 fax machines connected to the server to send internet fax.
The process of faxing is simple, especially on fax machines. You simply dial the target fax number, insert the document face down and push the button to start transmission. This is why many people still use it. It is as easy as using a phone. On FoIP, the procedure could be different. If you use IP enabled fax machine the process is simple. You simply dial country code, local state code, or city code and number. For electronic fax, you may use the fax software, select a stored document or capture through a scanner or camera, choose a fax number to transmit to or email address, and send the fax as an email attachment.
Optimizing your FoIP
The fax server and software for use of fax over internet protocol may already be set to optimal settings. However, you can make sure you will get the best results by specifically selecting the FoIP connection to use G711 non-compressed codec. If G729 is used it will compress faxes and fax transmission may fail. If the server has a bandwidth saving setting then it needs to be disabled.
You can achieve optimal transmission by reducing transmission speed on the machine. The preferred setting is 9600 bps. You should also disable error correction mode or ECM. ECM is used by receiving fax machine to check for corrupted data and if there is then packets may be resent which leads to longer call duration or simply failure of the recipient to receive a fax.
FoIP costs much less compared to traditional PSTN, especially where you have a large number of faxes going out. Just pick the right fax service provider or FoIP solution so that you have built-in reliability along with speed, convenience, security, and assured delivery of the fax.