Traditional fax machines that transmit data over phone lines have been in use for decades, but the advancement of VOIP technology has revolutionized how people can send faxes. VOIP stands for voice over internet protocol, which is essentially a technical term for the ability to send voice line transmissions over an internet connection. Individuals have the ability to use web-based fax services that allow them to upload their documents and send them to a fax number. However, organizations typically have proprietary data that needs to be kept secure and may send multiple faxes a day.
Higher volumes and the need for more security mean many organizations may start looking for a VOIP fax adapter to send faxes. An adapter is a separate device that connects to the company’s network and serves as a bridge. Some vendors provide these devices to companies already pre-configured with a unique fax number. While internal information technology departments may need to work with vendors regarding security, encryption, and network settings, for the most part these devices have plug and play capabilities.
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Advantages of Internet Fax Adapters
Since a fax adapter uses an organization’s existing internet or data lines, this eliminates the need to install and maintain separate phone lines for faxes. This translates to fewer costs for companies and not as many phone numbers to maintain. Besides saving on monthly phone line charges, organizations will not have to worry about including these lines, wiring, and equipment in annual maintenance costs.
Another benefit of using a VOIP fax solution is the reduction of paper and the need to shred physical documents. Although evidence of sent and received digital faxes are stored in electronic files or records, not having to use space to store paper records can increase efficiency. Employees will not have to sift through hundreds of stored documents to find what they need. In addition, paper documents can be destroyed, damaged, or lost more easily than electronic records.
Cloud storage plans can help keep evidence of faxes secure and different permission levels can be set for varying degrees of proprietary documents. Records and confirmations of sent and received faxes are also sent to specified email addresses, allowing employees to keep track with email clients like Microsoft Outlook. File organization structures within these types of email clients make it easy to sort and store digital copies of faxed documentation.
Certain industries like health care need to adhere to stricter security guidelines regarding exchanged and stored information. Regulations like HIPAA can require restrictions related to personal patient information as well as added security layers in terms of who can access the documentation and when. Technical protocols like secure socket layer (SSL) ensure any data transmissions are encrypted. The use of single sign on (SSO) measures with web-based applications can make sure the right employees have access to the correct features and levels of data.
Other organizations that often need extra layers of security include government agencies, public and private school districts, and medical and legal practices. Besides SSL and SSO, two-factor authentication can be enabled with VOIP fax applications to ensure the person signing in matches the credentials being put into the application. Without two-factor authentication, a person would normally enter a username and password to gain access.
Two-factor authentication requires more than just a username and password for access. Once someone enters his or her credentials, another means of verification is needed. In some cases, this means a random code is sent to the person’s mobile phone. Other means of two-factor authentication include biometrics, such as fingerprint or face recognition.
Since the decision to eliminate traditional fax machines across an organization can disrupt employees’ routines and ways of thinking, training on VOIP fax applications is usually necessary. Whether the company is small, medium-sized, or has multiple locations, employees who are unfamiliar with how digital faxes work will need to become acclimated to a new way of doing things. Even if some workers have used digital faxing before, the application the organization uses may look very different than the system they’ve used in the past.
Other items that will need to be addressed with employees include best practices. This means learning the optimal ways of storing and organizing digital copies of faxes, file management techniques, any Sarbanes-Oxley or HIPAA requirements that impact digital documents and sensitive information, and who to contact if they run into problems. For some organizations, this means reaching out to an internal IT department while, for others, it means directly contacting a vendor’s support line.
Companies that have internal IT departments will also need to conduct separate training and implementation strategy meetings with these employees separately. Although these workers may be more technically astute as to how VOIP faxing works, they may be directly involved in supporting other internal users and implementing the applications. Some VOIP fax bridges may be installed and deployed by internal IT staff, and they may also be the ones showing internal users how to send and receive faxes within the application.
Furthermore, some companies choose to forego cloud hosting or storage options and have the application and the fax data hosted on an internal server. This is often done for increased control of the data assets and to reduce reliance on an external vendor. However, this means there will be additional strain on an IT department’s resources, including staff that must directly troubleshoot and solve any problems that occur. Training with an internal IT staff may need to be conducted in partnership with the chosen application vendor prior to full deployment.
VOIP fax bridges and converting to digital fax applications can help organizations eliminate waste, increase cost efficiency and productivity, and remain compliant with data security regulations. The transition from traditional fax machines has already occurred in many companies as leadership realizes leveraging digitization is the way to go. Depending upon an organization’s resources, partnerships with external application vendors may be robust or minimal. Communicating why the organization is moving away from old school means of sending documents to a digital method is as critical as getting them familiar with the details of how it’s done.