Multifunction printers (MFPs) are increasingly being deployed to replace traditional copying, printing, faxing and scanning devices with a single peripheral. Growth of sales of these devices in the US alone is reported to be moving ahead at more than 15% a year.
Alongside this, fax continues to be a critical business medium: more than 5 billion faxes were sent last year, and as compliance requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley and locally, the NCA, bite, fax is set to remain a dominant medium of communication for critical documents until 2020 due to its traceability and auditability.
Organisations can select two alternate methods of integrating faxing with MFPs - they can install fax modems into MFPs or choose to integrate MFPs with a centralised fax server. By selecting a centralised fax server, organisations can overcome the limitations of MFP fax modems and reap operational benefits from high-performance, centrally managed fax solutions.
In addition to providing fax capability at the MFP, fax servers can enable business applications and users' desktop computers to send and receive faxes. Fax servers also allow users to choose from cover pages, specify transmission instructions, integrate contact information from directories, fax to group lists, receive delivery notifications and receive faxes directly in their e-mail inbox.
Limitations of MFP fax modems
Installing a fax modem in every MFP can be expensive, and it limits the ability to scale the deployment of multiple MFPs across the enterprise. It perpetuates the deployment and cost of analogue phone lines, creates unnecessary security risks, lacks key fax functionality and obstructs an organisation's ability to migrate to converged IP networking.
It also increases the complexity of the overall infrastructure, while creating unnecessary security risks.
MFP fax modems also lack key fax functionality, and they lack the ability to retain fax images or data about these images. Critically, they fall outside the scope of corporate governance.
By integrating MFPs with fax servers, organisations can improve productivity and streamline operations. Inbound faxes can be automatically directed to a user's e-mail inbox, and users can generate outbound faxes using fax software deployed on the desktop.
Fax servers also allow businesses to implement production faxing so enterprise applications can automatically generate faxes without manual intervention. Businesses can integrate existing file and mail servers, hosts, ERP or CRM systems with fax software to automate the electronic delivery of standard documents, such as purchase orders, invoices and order confirmations.
Organisations can also centrally archive inbound and outbound faxes, and implement OCR to enable easier searches to find and retrieve fax documents.
Best of both worlds
By integrating multiple MFPs with a fax server, organisations enjoy the best of both worlds. An MFP not only acts like a standalone fax machine allowing users to fax hard-copy documents, but the fax server also provides advanced faxing services to the MFP user while at the same time supporting desktop faxing and production faxing from enterprise applications.
Integrating MFPs with a fax server also allows organisations to enforce standard processes for all fax traffic, and it allows companies to implement and automate formalised frameworks for fax workflows, document management and document retention.
Migrating to the world of IP
Many companies which have MFPs already have a fax server. Invariably, the fax servers are connected to the IP network, while the MFPs are connected to analogue lines. This despite the fact that the companies have already invested in the fax servers.
The logical step is to integrate the MFPs with the fax server via the IP network. This allows companies in effect to centralise their faxes; have full auditability and traceability, critical for corporate governance; to shut down their analogue lines and cut costs significantly; to boost return on investment on their fax servers and MFPs; and to begin enjoying the benefits of fax over IP (FoIP). For most companies, this is a no-brainer, as they have already invested in the two devices, without necessarily deriving the full benefit of either.
By centralising all fax communication on a fax server, organisations can capitalise on the space-savings and efficiency advantages of MFPs while benefiting from the economic, productivity and compliance advantages of fax servers. Companies can implement a cost-effective migration path to converged IP networks, simplify infrastructure cabling and enhance IT optimisation while benefiting from production fax to allow ERP and CRM applications to automatically transmit faxes as part of a defined business process.
Boudje Giljam, sales and marketing director of AmVia
For more information contact Boudje Giljam, AmVia, +27 (0)11 806 6600, email@example.com