Despite technological advances, many offices still depend on their fax machines, but as those same business are shifting to Voice over IP (VoIP) phone systems, they are finding there can be some difficulty in combining a traditional fax machine and VoIP.
A common mistake is trying to fax using a satellite or even a wireless connection, as these particular connections are very unpredictable and add more latency than desired. While fax VoIP can address these problems with a technology standard, the proper infrastructure must first be in place.
The biggest problem, according to this CBC News report, is syncing multiple fax machines when fax VoIP is not in place. Such was the case of a hospital that for nearly six years sent faxes to a local small business owner.
The documents from Western Memorial Regional Hospital included more than 200 confidential documents like personnel files, workers compensation, and other private matters that never should have been sent to an outside party.
The problem arose because the small business owner simply had a fax number that was only one digit off from that of the hospital's main fax number, making him the intended recipient of all those private documents. The faxes began nearly five years ago, and despite repeated attempts to notify the hospital, continued until only six months ago.
Because fax technology was intended for analog networks, it tends to travel poorly on a VoIP network. It's merely a signal issue, and using a VoIP Gateway or device to support T38 could have solved the hospital's internal issue. Another way to deal with a fax system was to connect the machine directly to the existing phone line to bypass a VoIP system when making the switch.
In the case of the hospital – and what may be worst of all – is that the small business owner made multiple efforts to notify them of the mistake, but was never taken seriously. As many as four faxes would come in each day, with each detailing confidential topics ranging from workers compensation to even vacation requests and denials for internal employees.
While none of the information was on patients, staff probably wouldn't have appreciated their personnel files being out there for anyone to view. And, if the hospital had implemented a fax VoIP platform, this problem could have been avoided as all numbers are programmed in to an online system where they can be verified for accuracy.
It would be even more upsetting to learn that hospital officials simply shrugged off the thought that confidential information had been sent out so recklessly. Despite his persistence, the gentleman business owner was always passed along no matter his urgency. At one point, he had thought the faxes had stopped.
For nearly eight months the hospital hadn't sent a fax and he assumed a resolution had finally been implemented. When they started up again, the business owner contact the hospital again, and when he recited information from one file, hospital staff were actually angry at him.
Fortunately for the hospital, these personal documents were sent to someone with morals. The man was simply returning the faxes and later shredding them.
This kind of vulnerability, however, is unacceptable for companies throughout the global marketplace. To address any latency and privacy issues, fax VoIP that leverages HTTPS should be put in place. To that end, the SIP Forum has developed standards and guidelines that should be in place for fax VoIP use to protect communications and ensure the accuracy of destinations.
While fax VoIP is only as secure as the methods put in place for users within an organization, the technology standards go a long way to ensure human error is quick replaced with interoperability and protected processes.
FaxSIPit Services (News - Alert) Inc. will be exhibiting at the ITEXPO West 2012. To be held Oct. 2-5 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations.
Edited by Allison Boccamazzo