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What Role Does Fax Play in 2014?

August 27, 2014

 By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

The office has undergone massive changes in the past few years.

For starters, a lot less of us are actually in an office; Internet communications and the cloud have made it easier than ever for us to work from outside the office, reducing the role of the cubicle and allowing what some experts say is 40 percent of us to telecommute some or all of the time.

This has changed what happens inside the office, too; with more workers doing their business from the road, a coffee shop or home office, collaboration and communication has necessarily moved to the Internet; video chat, collaboration platforms and asynchronous communications such as email have become the way that we interact with colleagues, partners and even customers.

The pace of business also has changed, with businesses needing to adjust more quickly, change directions and adapt at speeds that were not heard of even 10 years ago.

Within this environment, is there a role for fax in 2014? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

Faxing still represents an easy way to send and receive documents. While paper documents can be scanned, be it from a flatbed scanner or from a smartphone, it is hard to argue with the speed and ease of use that comes from loading paper in a fax machine, typing in a number and pressing send.

Further, fax still carries legal clout; courts the world over long ago acknowledged that faxed signatures are legally binding. While digital signatures are making headway, it still is safer to send signed documents via fax.

There is a legacy need for the fax as well. Many business processes, both internally and with suppliers, still rely on the fax. While many of these processes could be updated to work around the fax, in practice it is easier to keep systems that are still working well.

This is not to say that the fax has stayed still; faxing has evolved to meet the needs of the digital revolution, moving from analog transmission to digital. Fax-over-IP (FoIP) allows faxes to be transmitted via the Internet, reducing cost and improving areas like security. Providers such as FaxSIPit are helping businesses retrofit their existing fax equipment to work over FoIP, and they enable things like HTTPS encryption of fax traffic.

FoIP also enables new functionality that is useful as business changes. FoIP faxes can be sent and received from mobile devices, supporting telecommuting work. Digital faxes also can be searched, and automated processes can enable automatic fax routing.

Business is changing. But there is still a role for fax in 2014.

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