A little less than 50 years ago in 1964, American musician and singer-songwriter Bob Dylan put out what would turn out to be one of his most well-known albums, “The Times They Are A-Changing.” And only a few years later in 1971, Kansas University installed its first-ever fax machine, or what it called the “facsimile transmission,” in the campus library.
Reading between the lines of Dylan’s title track, one can tell that Dylan, as an influential cultural figure, was on target in his proclamation that eventually change would come. While the song went on to become an anthem for frustrated youth, fax machines themselves have undergone their own transformation, serving as the heart of modern office technology to evolving into multi-function machines and integrating with today’s Internet capabilities.
The first days of the fax machine concept go all the way back to the 1800s when electricity and the concept of the telegraph was introduced. The telegraph, which revolutionized communications at that time, would give way to the chemical telegraph, which then would later be modified to become the first fax machine, which only sent “long” and “short” lines in its infancy. A bunch of revisions, research, tests and technological advances later, we came to know the traditional fax machine, which processes document contents as a single fixed graphic image and transmits the information as electrical signals through a telephone system.
While traditional fax machines have their advantages, particularly in the transmission of sensitive material, they have become quite antiquated as Internet-based alternatives come to the forefront. Many of today’s businesses and enterprises have become increasingly dependent on faxing over VoIP, or the process of sending and receiving faxes over an IP network rather than the public telephone network. However, when implemented as a fax over IP service, faxing has known limitations often due to the T.38 standard, which sometimes produces public Internet burst packet loss and latency, and inconsistencies in performance and connectivity.
These issues often observed in fax VoIP have sparked the onset of a new era in faxing, as what’s really needed is a way to connect physical fax machines to services from fax server providers. No such system has existed – until now.
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), a VoIP fax technology equivalent to TDM faxing but requires only one-fifth the bandwidth of T.38, is quickly replacing T.38 and is being developed by a number of companies, including FaxSIPit and partners AudioCodes and FaxBack (News - Alert). HTTPS enables real-time fax transmission, utilizes relatively inexpensive hardware (drivers and gateways rather than T.38 boards), uses commodity equipment for easier load balancing and testing, and prevents any firewall issues.
“T.38 is very reliable when transmitted over a QOS network like an MPLS circuit or WAN,” explained FaxSIPit, a provider of a VoIP replacement technology for fax, in a white paper. “T.38 is not designed for transmission on a medium like the Internet where packet loss is very common… HTTPS provides a level of reliability which is equivalent to TDM, while offering high level security. With HTTPS, FoIP can be as reliable as TDM faxing. Enterprises, governments and consumers alike can enjoy the cost savings and convenience of IP communications for both voice and faxing.”
Now, AudioCodes (News - Alert) and FaxSIPit have put together a package that uses AudioCodes Fax ATA, and FaxSIPit’s FaxCONNECTit service as a bridge between the fax machine and a cloud fax server. This solution eliminates the need for dedicated, non-integrated fax machines lines -- allowing companies to finally go all-IP without losing the benefits of fax. It also allows fax to be truly consolidated through a single account, and provides security without packet loss by using the HTTPS protocol.
Boy, was Dylan right.
Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet web editor. She covers a wide range of topics, including IP communications and information technology. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin