Fax in the News: Examining Why We Still Fax

Fax won’t die, as a recent article from Fast Company suggests. And while some folks are relieved, and others a bit dismayed, the cleverest are parlaying the persistence of faxing into the foundation of more modern solutions.

But why is this necessary in the first place? In other words, why does fax still exist? The fact of the matter is that fax offers an essentially universal and foolproof means of handling sensitive information:

To some, faxes might seem safer than digital communications. Phone lines are vulnerable to surveillance, but cyber-threats tend to draw more attention and thus seem more likely. After the hack at Sony, employees reportedly resorted to using phone calls and fax machines again in order to avoid hackers.

Companies know encrypted and verified email services and other secure document transfer systems exist, but they also know that many of the companies they do business with won’t have the necessary software installed, says Watts.

A medical lab, for instance, can’t insist doctors’ offices install any particular data-transfer software, but it can reliably assume they have fax machines. Or a law firm needs a way to send someone a signed copy of a contract, and while it could potentially use some sort of digital signature, decades of legal precedent have made it clear that a faxed copy is every bit as good as a mailed document.

The article also describes a group of new messaging/notification services that have incorporated the age-old medium of faxing into their smartphone-era solutions. They generally use online fax services to send documents automatically and without ever touching a sheet of paper (for those with an in-house server, note that RightFax APIs facilitate the same process). This ingenuity helps bridge the gap between the slow, irritating fax machines of yore and today’s expectations of real-time paperless communication.

As we’ve often mentioned, health care faxing constitutes a very large share of our work. For those clients, the technical and legal developments of the last several years have been uniquely conducive to the adoption of fax servers and even cloud-based faxing solutions:

  • Providers and insurers communicate with a large and ever-growing list of organizations, whose adoption of more recent technology may vary wildly
  • Laws such as HIPAA have spelled out requirements for secure document transmission—and penalities for the lack thereof
  • Growing adoption of electronic medical records (as both a business decision and a response to legislation like the HITECH Act) is exponentially increasing the volume and rate of health data transmission

This all adds up to an environment in which fax alone is both universally available and secure. And given the sheer amount of information to send/receive, and a laundry list systems with which to integrate, an enterprise fax server like RightFax becomes the only cost-effective option. Remember that the same technology is also available as a hybrid or solely cloud-based fax environment, depending on the customer’s needs and preferences.

Old-school faxing: standalone machines
Old-school faxing: standalone machines

(Source: http://www.aroffice.com/fax_ma17.jpg)

Modern faxing: paperless, electronic fax server technology
Modern faxing: paperless, electronic fax server technology

(Source: http://www.automation-drive.com/EX/05-14-05/dell-2408wfp-ultrasharp-widescreen-flat-panel-monitor.jpg)

This blog has talked at length about security for both inbound and outbound faxing, but its importance cannot be overstated. Even though health care may be the most dynamic and salient context for fax security right now, everyone from manufacturers to law firms (naturally!) has their share of legal requirements for faxing.

And let’s not forget the fax server ROI proposition that motivates many clients’ projects even when privacy needs are less pressing.

Our experience, our vendors’ and customers’ experiences, and the broader trends outlined in articles like this one all point to a single conclusion: fax is and will remain a fundamental means of business communication, but will continue to evolve and take advantage of advances in cloud computing, mobile-friendly design, and so forth.

And if you’re curious whether or how your own fax workflow could be improved, simply drop us a line at your convenience. We’re always happy to chat.

Fax in the News: Back to the Future (of Fax)

Film fans out there might remember the fax scene in Back to the Future Part II. In that 1985 vision of 2015, the protagonist is notified through a flood of faxed pages that he has been fired. As this Gizmodo article explains, that use of fax now seems (charmingly) antiquated in light of the internet revolution.

With the advent of the Web, fax promptly gave way to email for much daily communication. On the one hand, today’s younger fax users may not even realize that fax was once a rather novel technology, and far more widely used than it is today. But on the other hand, today’s users may also view fax in much the same way as it’s presented in the film—with clunky, dedicated machines spewing out paper around the office.

Sometimes, especially when planning a new fax server deployment or major RightFax upgrade/virtualization project, customers are taken aback by just how much fax has changed. Thankfully, the enterprise fax solution of 2015 barely even resembles what Hollywood depicted back in 1985! These days, it’s both possible and cost-effective to:

But one thing hasn’t changed: the legal viability of faxed documents. And that’s for the better. In health care and financial firms, for instance, faxed hard copies are often legally mandated. But thanks to changes like those listed above, legal compliance in 2015 can be had for just a fraction of the cost of managing high-volume faxing in 1985.

To see whether a fax server could help bring your organization into the 21st century, or to learn more about RightFax support and fax consulting services, feel free to contact us at your convenience.

Common RightFax Support Questions: What Is RightFax Express?

Readers who have come across the new RightFax Express solution may be curious to learn a bit more about the what, why, and how of this new offering from OpenText.

In brief, it’s a very convenient way for would-be RightFax customers to balance the control and sophistication of an all-out enterprise solution with something scaled and priced closer to the needs of a small or medium-sized business. It’s truly an SMB fax server, if you will.

The inner workings of RightFax Express are very similar to the existing RightFax software with which you may be accustomed.

  • Both are fax servers, as opposed to fax services (that point may sound a little pedantic, but it simply means administrative and technical control can remain with the customer, not with a third party)
  • Both offer all the security and reporting protocols you would expect, including an audit trail
  • Both are available in on-site, hosted, and hybrid configurations

However, unlike standard RightFax editions, a plug-and-play RightFax Express appliance is available directly from OpenText. This is a great compromise between local and hosted solutions; it’s generally best for SMBs that want/need full local control of faxing but lack the IT resources to deploy and manage new server software. Furthermore, since few SMBs need RighFax’s more sophisticated features or custom integrations, all of these configurations come at a very competitive price point

All in all, RightFax Express is an exciting option for a whole lot of smaller organizations. There’s some more thorough information on a new page we’ve assembled, and needless to say, we’re here to field your product question, RightFax support inquiry, and everything else. Just drop us a line via the Web or at 877 MY FAXING
(877 693-2946). Happy faxing!

Common RightFax Support Questions: Can You Give Me Some Actual Numbers?

We’re all out to maximize profits. That may or may not be the ultimate purpose of your organization, but it’s more or less necessary for its survival. And we are keenly aware that all fax server projects, RightFax support decisions, and even minor workflow changes are a means to this end. With that in mind, let’s look at some figures to see how that works in practice.

(For the record, some of these numbers come from our vendors’ research, and others come from our firsthand experience with clients. This is less about statistical precision than about presenting the financial role of fax servers in a more direct and tangible way. Still, every case is different, so please understand that your mileage may vary.)

One figure we often cite in our blog and websites (and to which our RightFax support clients can often attest) is that a typical ROI timeframe is under a year—and frequently under six months. That might sound a little audacious, so let’s break it down:

An average Fortune 500 company spends around $16 million per year on fax-specific phone service.

Much of this expense reflects dedicated fax lines for traditional fax machines and/or MFDs. Conservatively, let’s say 25% of these devices (a lower share than we often observe) are either a) in place for convenience rather than capacity or b) are MFDs used for faxing.

By replacing fax machines with desktop faxing, and facilitating network faxing from MFDs, a fax server obviates the need for these extra lines.

Thus, fax-related phone costs fall by roughly 25%, or $4 million per year in this hypothetical scenario.

It’s a pretty compelling number, even before accounting for improved workflow efficiency, the prevention of lost documents, and scheduling faxes to exploit off-peak rates. And let’s not forget industry-specific benefits, such as avoiding damages and penalties from stolen or mis-sent medical records.

Long story short, the data all add up to one fact: fax servers save money. If you’re ready to explore how RightFax can do the same for your organization, or would just like a casual chat with an expert, then feel free to drop us a line at your convenience. Happy holidays!

Common RightFax Support Questions: What’s the Big Deal about Outbound Fax Security?

After last week’s discussion of inbound faxing and HIPAA, it’s time to turn our attention to the outbound side of things. Besides the usual precautions about keeping fax machines physically locked away to guard PHI, HIPAA has special requirements for the security of outbound transmissions.

More specifically, the law requires reasonable safeguards to ensure the correct information is sent to the correct recipient. For instance, the American Medical Association recommends that offices “verify the recipient’s fax number and use a cover sheet that does not include protected health information.” Unfortunately, this is hard to enforce, and verification of new or seldom-used fax numbers poses a particular challenge.

In recent years, it was found that a California hospital had faxed records to several wrong locations. In an even more egregious instance, one practice sent patient info to an out-of-state businessman for three years before realizing its error! Clearly, conventional faxing is woefully inadequate. And by compounding the growing problem of health information theft, it makes security far harder than it has to be!

What Can We Do?

One underlying need in outbound security is the ability to automate the confirmation of all fax numbers before sending. No reliance on human workers matching numbers at a glance, and no possibility of circumventing the ‘rules.’

There’s a straightforward solution to this high-stakes problem. An electronic fax server can incorporate all the above safeguards into a paperless workflow with full EMR-fax integration, both in- and outbound. In accordance with predefined custom business rules, all destination fax numbers can be check against another source (such as a providers / insurers database) to confirm accuracy. More than just avoiding delays due to typos, this approach can mitigate legal risk in a big way. And if / when audit time comes, RightFax users are well prepared with a granular ‘audit trail’ automatically prepared by the fax server. Needless to say, fax encryption options ensure all electronic copies of sent faxes are kept under uncompromising security as well.

The opportunities and requirements around outbound fax security vary from office to office, but one thing is consistent: for every one of our clients, a RightFax deployment has created powerful and cost-effective opportunities to maximize fax-related HIPAA compliance. To learn more about fax project architecture and RightFax support, we invite you to contact a representative at your convenience.