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Home >Workshop Wisdom > Full Story

Faxing made easy and cheap with Internet

Fax also known as Facsimile, has emerged as the most popular communication media, both for business communication and personal requirements. Fax has become a proven standard media through which written messages, important documents, diagrams, letters, etc, can be communicated. Probably there would be no office or business place without a fax machine. It is a vital media of identity in an office or an individual's contact address.

For its reliability and security features, Fax has become a legally accepted document worldwide. People insist on communicating through faxes for all the benefits, convenience and safety it offers.

What is Internet Faxing?
Internet Faxing or IP Faxing is basically the convergence of the Internet, computer and fax. Though faxing has been the most popular medium for transmission of documents, the high cost of telephone calls has always been a matter of concern. Telecom companies charging high rates on long distance, domestic and international calls have made some people to look for alternatives, but at the same time, not sacrificing the convenience of sending faxes.

Internet Faxing has emerged as the most appropriate solution addressing concerns of ease, speed and cost. The advantages of faxing are complemented with those of the Internet to offer value and convenience to users.

Internet integration has given a Midas touch to faxing not only by addressing cost issues, but also offering a host of other benefits and value adds, which conventional faxing could not offer.

Internet Faxing or IP faxing has been successfully deployed worldwide and is growing at a rapid pace replacing conventional faxing through telephones. A new market with great potential has emerged offering a new horizon of opportunities.

Internet Faxing--How does it work?
One of the issues in traditional faxing is the high telecom cost for domestic long distance calls and international calls. In Internet Faxing, the system bypasses the PSTN telephone network (DOT, MTNL, VSNL, etc, in case of India) and sends it through the Internet, thereby saving costs on making STD or ISD calls.

The sender of the fax does not have to change his dialing habits. He just has to dial the destination fax number as in the case of traditional faxing. The Auto Dialer device connected to the sender's fax machine would sense the dialed number for domestic long distance (STD) and international (ISD) calls and routes them to the nearest Internet Fax Server (IFS) node by making a call through the PSTN network. Usually this will be a local call and sometimes a short distance STD. This depends on the location of IFS node and the end customer. Autodialer will not route local or short distance calls to IFS and instead send it through PSTN as in the case of conventional faxing.

The Receiving Internet Fax Server node (RIFS) verifies with the client's account, password and authenticates the incoming fax. The fax received would be encrypted and compressed to a secured electronic file. Proprietary encryption techniques are adopted to ensure highest security standards. This file would automatically be routed via Internet to the Terminating Internet Fax Server (TIFS) node that is best suited to deliver the fax to the final destination. The entire routing table is based on Least Cost Routing mechanism.

The TIFS node, to which the fax is routed, receives the fax and decodes the fax file back to the original format. This TIFS node makes a PSTN telephone call to the destination fax number and delivers the fax message in the usual way. The whole process though is not real time, will have a very minimal time delay which is negligible.

Least Cost Routing (LCR) is a concept where the faxes are routed not based on the distance but on the cost. A hypothetical example for this could be a fax from London, UK to Dhaka, Bangladesh. Let us say there is an IFS node at Kolkata, India and none at Bangladesh. The international call rate from London to Dhaka is 80 cents/min.

The ISD rate from Kolkata to Dhaka is around 70 cents/min. The call rate from US to Dhaka is found to be 50 cents/min, which happens to be the cheapest in the world.

As per Least Cost Routing Mechanism, the system is programmed to terminate the call through the IFS node from which the telephone rate to the final destination is the last. In this case, the fax is transmitted from London IFS node to US IFS node via Internet based network. The US IFS node would make a telephone call to Dhaka and terminate the fax. In spite of Kolkata being geographically closer to Dhaka, it is more economical to route it through US.

The reason for this is that telecom rates worldwide are not fixed based on distances. There are innumerable telecom operators worldwide. They have tie-ups and understanding with other telecom companies for different countries. Pricing for international calls would be more based on volumes, capacities and other criteria and not purely on distances.

Range of Services
The wide range of services include:

Fax to Fax
Here, both the sender and the receiver need to have fax machines. Autodialer is connected to the sender's fax machine for routing the faxes. Fax is transmitted through IFS nodes of the service provider and is delivered to the destination number.

Fax Broadcasting
Here, a single fax message can be sent to multiple fax numbers at one shot. In conventional faxing, if the same fax message were to be sent to let us say around 500 numbers, probably it would be one person's job for the whole day. Individually dialing each and every number is not only a repetitive and laborious process, but leads to human errors. Monotonous working would result in dialing wrong numbers and fatigue. Above all, the time taken in retrying for engage tones is so great that the fax machine is kept busy for the whole day.

Fax broadcasting services not only address the issue of time and physical efforts, but also the total cost of doing so.

PC to Fax (P2F)
It is observed that most of the documents and messages faxed, are generated by computers using DTP software. Conventionally one needs to take a print out from a printer, go near a fax machine, dial the destination number and send it across.

Here the benefits of P2F are that one can directly fax a computer-generated document without taking a hard print paper copy.

Email to Fax (E2F)
Here the sender doesn't need to have a fax machine. A client software would be installed in the user's PC. This software would convert the fax message to an email and send it to the 'Email to Fax' server. This would further be terminated as a fax message at the receiver's end.

Information Courtesy: Grand Infotech

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