Just the Fax, Ma'am

Many of us get tired of printing out a document and waiting for it to print, just to walk over to the fax machine to send it out. Usually the printout is just thrown out afterwards, too. Fortunately there is a better way to handle faxing for your company, and save resources at the same time.

Using fax software, users can send faxes directly from any Windows program. The software behaves just like a printer driver. Users simply select the fax "printer" when they go to print. They will then see a pop up dialog asking for the cover sheet and recipient information. The software then dials the recipient using a modem, connecting directly to the recipient's fax machine. This completely eliminates the step of printing the fax out on paper first. If the user has pages from multiple documents to print, the more advanced software will allow the users to combine and rearrange pages before transmission. Additionally, one fax can easily be sent to multiple recipients. Names and phone numbers can be stored in an address book to simplify future faxes, and some software provides for custom mail merges for broadcast faxes.

Most fax software supports modern scanner standards such as TWAIN, allowing users to scan in documents directly to the fax software for transmission. Combined with a scanner, fax software can completely eliminate the need for a separate fax machine.

Where To Start

Most modems in use today include some type of fax software. Windows 95 included basic fax software as part of its Exchange "universal" mailbox, but in Windows 98 and Windows Me Microsoft has removed Exchange from the default installation in favor of their Outlook Express Internet e-mail client. In fact the software is still present on the Windows 98 CD-ROM, but you have to find it in the Tools folder and install it manually. However Microsoft does include fax software as part of Windows 2000 Professional, as well as a "lite" version of Symantec's WinFax Pro software with Office 2000 and Outlook 98.

Many third party fax software programs are available, designed both for single users or for integration with the company network and e-mail.

Fax Sharing

If your company does a lot of faxing, or would like to minimize the number of modems and phone lines required, you can set up fax sharing software to allow all users to fax through one modem. This is a great solution for networks with shared Internet access, where the PCs do not usually have modems or extra phone lines wired to each desk. The software is not much more expensive than adding a modem to each PC. Plus, users gain the ability to schedule faxes for transmission at night to take advantage of lower phone charges, and easily do broadcast faxing to a list of recipients. Users can also share phone book or contact information on the network. Some software allows faxes to be scanned in and sent out from remote locations over the Internet.

In a shared faxing scenario an employee uses the fax software to "print" to the fax server across the network, and that computer dutifully sends out the faxes using its modem. For higher usage situations the fax server can even be a dedicated PC, perhaps even an older PC that has been replaced. Since the fax server processes all the faxes, workstations are free to perform other tasks sooner.

Incoming Faxes

If your fax server is set to receive faxes, the software can route faxes to individual users automatically if your phone system and modem supports certain standards, such as CSID (Call Sender Identification), DID (direct inward dialing) or DTMF (touch tone). If not, then a fax "receptionist" can manually distribute faxes to users electronically. Individual users can then decide whether or not to print out all or part of a fax or just view it online. The fax server can also be set to simply print out all incoming faxes, too. Some programs will automatically send faxes to an Internet e-mail box as an attachment. And if you are tired of junk faxes, you can set the software to automatically delete all faxes from certain numbers.

Internet Faxing

If your company does plenty of long distance faxing, newer software can integrate with Internet faxing services. This allows you to send your fax over the Internet to a service, which then calls your destination from the nearest phone connection they have to your recipient. This can reduce your long distance phone charges, especially if they have a connection in the same city as your recipient, making the fax a local call. Other services provide "blast" faxing which will send a fax to all recipients at once using their large pool of modems.

Some software allows faxing by e-mail, where the software sends your documents to the recipient's e-mail address instead of a fax number. The recipient can open the fax as an attachment, with no viewer necessary, and print it out if desired.

January 2001

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