Some business operations require paper that is just easier to fax – documents that are signed in hard copy, or are filled out by hand, or are already printed out from different sources. Things like applications, contracts, and financial statements tend to get faxed rather than emailed. Many of us working in office settings are used to simply scanning documents and emailing them instead of faxing. However, some businesses receive documents from “regular” people who don’t have the access or savvy to scan and email, like financial institutions, insurance and healthcare companies.
Internet based fax services are a handy solution for companies that need to use faxes, but want the benefits of a web-based solution. By using a fax-to-email service like eFax or Premiere Global Services, small businesses (especially those with spread out workforces) can greatly increase productivity – faxes are received as email attachments so you can forward, comment, and remotely access them from anywhere without a fax machine or phone line. The faxes are stored online, so you don’t necessarily have to print them, saving on paper, toner, and electricity.
If you do need to print a faxed document from the road and have no access to a printer or computer, Premier Global has a neat feature where you can print from your mobile device to any fax machine by entering the fax number.
If you are shopping for an IP fax provider, you should consider a few things beyond pricing (courtesy of Frost & Sullivan white paper “Document Solutions: IP Faxing versus Conventional Faxing” ):
- Security and Regulatory Compliance: The fax service provider should ensure the security and privacy of all documents sent and received. The company should have internal checks in place in order to maintain compliance with all current standards, particularly in the sectors which use fax the most, such as finance, insurance and healthcare. For example, companies that use outsourced services that directly impact financial reporting controls are required to provide evidence that controls are in place both within the provider and between the organizations, per recent mandates from Sarbanes-Oxley Act Section 404. Features that are helpful for the client’s privacy, such as password protection, automatic archiving and transaction logs, should also be included. Following are two examples of specific standards of which companies should be aware when choosing a provider:
- Scalability: As a business grows, its fax service should be able to grow with it, without interruption. The service should be scalable for future integration or unification with other communications systems. It should also have the ability to integrate with current systems.
- Reliability and Support: The service should be reliable, of course. In the event of an incident or service interruption, or just for questions, high-quality technical support should be available via phone or email. The ability to speak with a live person when situations or questions arise is vital.
Laura Leites, Assistant Editor, Smallbiztechnology.com