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If there was one piece of equipment you could chuck in the rubbish bin, what would it be?

Ask 100 IT folks, and I bet you 90 of them will say the fax machine. To email admins and instant messaging systems, FTP servers and secure upload websites, the fax machine seems a relic of a bygone age; yet the ability to send and receive faxes is still a business critical function in many industry sectors.

Why are faxes still necessary?

In some cases, it is simply because the recipient has a legacy process and/or legacy equipment. Many government agencies, for example, would need certain paperwork to be submitted only by fax. Another reason is that it may be more reliable than email as you can get a delivery confirmation from the sending machine.

While faxing is still hip, it doesn’t mean that you should be burdened with one or more fax machines. There is a modern alternative that allows you to make full use of technology. All you have to do is replace your machine with a fax server.

Fax servers are much like print servers; they are a system that provides a central way for an office to send and receive faxes, but without having to feed documents into a tray, or wait for the call to go through, or clear a jam, or any of the other things that make faxing a tedious exercise. Most systems can integrate with a client’s email application, or install as a print device that can be used as easily as printing to any other printer on the network. Not only does this make things easier for the individual, but it also saves time and boosts productivity. Consider what it takes to send a fax:

1. You create a document.

2. You print the document.

3. You find the cover page and either print it or fill it out by hand.

4. You go to the fax machine.

5. You feed it into the document feeder.

6. You dial the number (on certain occasions remembering you don’t have to dial 9 first, so you cancel it and try it again).

7. You stand there waiting for the fax to go through. You probably glance over all the incoming faxes that were left on the counter because no one has come to pick them up yet. Anything good there?

8. You take the confirmation page, and more likely than not, place all that paper in the recycle bin.

Think about how much time that takes. Now compare that to using a fax server:

1. You create the document.

2. You print the document to the fax server.

3. You select the contact from the list and hit send.

And that takes seconds compared to the old-fashioned way. But this is really less than half the picture. Consider what a fax server can do for your incoming faxes.

1. Filter out junk faxes.

2. Deliver them to your inbox.

3. Automatically print them if required.

4. Distribute them to a list.

5. Archive them.

6. Deliver them in a format you can view on your mobile phone.

Fax servers offer other advantages to your IT group as well. As a server, they can be kept in the data center where the analog phone lines terminate, or even using IP telephony; meaning no more running analog lines out to the floor. Fax servers also don’t require any more upkeep than any other server, so you don’t have to keep track of toner, clean rollers, and scanning platforms, and all the other fun stuff fax machines require to run optimally. And for the security minded, there are no more unclaimed faxes sitting around for prying eyes to read.

With all the advantages offered by a fax server, you owe it to yourself to check out the technology. You’ll be glad you did, and so will your users.

This guest post was provided by Ed Fisher on behalf of GFI Software Ltd. GFI is a leading software developer that provides a single source for network administrators to address their network security, content security, and messaging needs. More information: GFI fax server solution.

All product and company names herein may be trademarks of their respective owners.