There are two types of people in the business world: those who believe fax has gone the way of the dinosaur, and those who need it in some or all aspects of their work. More secure than most email services and faster than physical mail, fax is still a mainstay in many industries. As the new(er) kid on the block, VoIP offers businesses many different benefits: is fax capabilities one of them?
Is VoIP fax even possible?
The short answer is: sort of. The longer answer is: technically, yes. While there are some ways to make faxing over VoIP work, fax was designed for analog connections, and VoIP was designed for voice communication. This means that while VoIP is great for making phone or conference calls, the signals that fax machines use to transmit data don’t translate quite the same to a digital connection.
That doesn’t mean they don’t translate at all, however. It is possible to send a fax message over an unoptimized IP connection -- it just might not work how you expect. Fax transmissions require a steady, uninterrupted stream of data from the sender to the receiver, and the way that data is packaged and delivered digitally means that packets may arrive out of order or not at all. This causes the receiving machine to think that the transmission has failed, breaking off the connection. It may happen that everything arrives on time and in order, and in that case, you have succeeded at faxing over an unoptimized VoIP connection. Other times, the sender gets frustrated with initiating a failed fax over and over.
Does that mean I need to keep using an analog line?
Nope! Even if you still use fax regularly in your business, you can still reap all the benefits of a VoIP upgrade while maintaining use of your fax machine. Of course, using internet telephony for voice communications and a landline connection for faxing is possible, and some businesses still choose this method simply because it’s easier to understand. But paying two bills isn’t necessary, and with some creative technical work-arounds, you can be faxing over a digital connection like a pro.
What are some faxing work-arounds?
The first work-around, and the least reliable, is to change the settings on your fax machine to be more IP-friendly. While this can work as a stop-gap before you can implement a more permanent solution, all it does is decrease the rate of failure, not fix the problem. Slow down your transmission speed to a BAUD rate of 9600 or lower to give the data packets more time to get themselves in order, and disable error correction mode, which is a default setting on many fax machines.
The second is to use an additional piece of hardware to make transmission more smooth, namely a VoIP gateway or analog telephone adaptor (ATA) that supports T.38 protocol. T.38 was designed to fix the problem of unreliable VoIP fax by transmitting data directly over IP rather than first converting it into audio signals. The downside is that your network provider may have already implemented the protocol, which makes additional devices unnecessary, but the same may not hold true for the receiver, who also needs T.38 support to receive data transmitted this way.
Otherwise, options exist to send and receive fax via your computer. Cloud-based fax options are fast and convenient, and can eliminate the hassle of a dedicated machine altogether, giving a still-necessary technology a much needed upgrade to today’s world. Talk to your VoIP provider about your faxing options.