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Cloud Faxing Trends

Fax still remains a significant piece of the technology landscape

Cloud services will continue massive adoption in 2017 as enterprises recognize the limitations of scaling their own private cloud networks and the cost of operating their own data services.

Continued decline from one of the last remaining technology relics of the 20th century, analog fax service, has created an intersection that providers of, and businesses using, fax services need to recognize while evaluating their overall cloud service requirements. Fax still remains a significant piece of the technology landscape, as users of fax services today are very often high volume users in some of the largest industries in the world.

Trend 1: The Decline of Analog Faxing in the late 20th Century

 

In order to appreciate current and future demands for fax over IP service, a brief history of its evolution is required. Because a fax is an image, it cannot be altered, which is why it is considered a legal document.

In the mid 1980’s fax servers on local area networks gained popularity amongst businesses that needed to exchange unaltered information electronically. For over a decade this sufficed, and even with the advent of email, important documents that provided a paper trail were still part of modern business culture.

In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s hosted fax providers developed a solution that associated a fax DID (telephone number) with an email address and fax to email was born. This first iteration of fax over IP left a lot to be desired: although email based, there was virtually no transparency in sending and receiving confirmations and solutions required installation of a software application that provided more obstacles than benefits to users.

Trend 2: The Emergence of Store and Forward, Real-Time Transmission and Encryption

 

By the mid 2000’s fax over IP services began to look similar to what we think of them today: they eliminated the need for high priced equipment, and they provided an opportunity to leverage the savings of sending calls over the internet using Session Initiated Protocol (SIP), by sending faxes over it via the T.38 fax relay standard. The issue for at least the first half of the last decade was the unreliable nature of data calls (fax calls) due to IP network developments that focused on the compression needed for voice calls (phone calls). Missing pages and frequent sending and receiving failures prevented widespread adoption due to timing synchronization issues. Users of faxing, frustrated by these issues continued to go back to old faithful… the analog fax machine.

To combat reliability issues, over the past 5 years many fax providers began using HTTPS to relay the fax as an image, spurring many businesses to finally adopt a fax over IP solution. CFO’s concerned with reduction of capital costs and keeping IT budgets in check, uncovered huge savings by switching from analog to IP faxing. CIO’s concerned with security and maintaining a company’s digital assets were not sold.

The current state of cloud faxing services moves away from HTTPS due to the security concerns over storing personal information and back towards T.38 as real-time transmission with sophisticated encryption secures data sent via fax. Further enabling this trend are new ratifications to the T.38 protocol which advanced the reliability to the point that mirrors traditional analog fax service.

This means cloud faxing services that only provide 100% reliable fax over IP service, without encryption, will no longer be enough.

Trend 3: Continued Federal Security Requirements Impacting Large Industries

 

Integrators, providers, and users of cloud faxing service can opt for a Business Associate Agreement or (more likely,) a conduit exception in situations where personal health or banking information is exchanged. A signed BAA indicates that the cloud fax service provider is legally responsible for compliance with federal regulation, a conduit exception indicates that the user of the cloud fax service is responsible for compliance with federal regulation. Bear in mind though, as a practical matter, BAA’s are atypical for fax over IP carriers because there is almost never a reason a real-time T.38 transmission would need to be inspected.

It gets messy here especially in the case of fax-to-email-email-to-fax solutions, as you need to take extra measures to ensure your email meets these encryption standards. Businesses that are exchanging secure personal information with IP faxing need to tread carefully moving forward into 2017 by ensuring that their providers are using secure fax over IP technology.

Equally important, for both providers and users (bound by federal regulation or not) is recognition of the momentum happening with cloud technology. Avoiding larger market forces driving technological advancements is no longer an option, even for massive companies like McDonald’s, CTO Tom Gergets recently announced a shift Amazon Web Service Cloud Solution.

Though all Cloud Services are subject to Federal Regulations, these continue to present a unique obstacle for businesses using cloud faxing services, as they’re caught in between new technology and legacy infrastructure.

Trend 4: Opportunities for IT Integrators

 

Businesses looking for a cloud faxing solution require that hardware is minimized, the solution is reliable, the solution is secure, and that there is a low cost of entry with no fixed telco costs.

IT integrators selling cloud faxing services will benefit from the intersection of these trends as some of the largest enterprises in the world and especially those serving the financial or healthcare vertical recognize the need to reduce expenses while maintaining federally mandated requirements like HIPAA and SOX. Actively promoting and providing special services like cloud faxing allows MSPs and CLECs to distinguish themselves from the competition, and expand their customer base with customers like banks, hospitals, governments and providers of legal services (customers that have healthy budgets) and a need to comply with these regulatory requirements while not interrupting the progressive activities of business.

Trend 5: Continued Expectations from Consumers

 

As in all other industries, the trend toward digital and automation is progressing at a rapid pace. Fax Over IP providers need to continue to innovate their solutions and increase the value of their offering by partnering with and replacing rigid workflow with automation. It’s not unusual for many private healthcare practices to receive 40 faxes a day. Many erroneous, many that just require a simple signature. Governments require a barcode to scan in the information off of a faxed document! In both of those scenarios, and the many more that exist, progress requires a better process.

Identifying these manual issues, and finding solutions is a an ideal way to build relationships that increase the value that both the subscriber and the customer benefit from. Learning from the recent past, this means balancing the human element of routine work-flow, with API integration and software improvements to help fax over IP users increase productivity.The ability for fax over IP services, and IT integrators to develop applications that tie together traditional fax document flow is crucial to ensuring customer satisfaction.

The true costs of cloud faxing are the same as traditional faxing: return on investment. The price charged for service should be taken into account, but the automation that the service provides along with the savings on capital investments are what companies using faxing are looking for from a cloud fax solution in 2017.

Cloud Faxing providers that support enterprise application integration, security, and reliability will be the winners of 2017. Due to market forces driving massive technological advancements, businesses that don’t keep up will be left behind.

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