Fax in the News: A Global Glance at Faxing

Faxing, according to the Jerusalem Post, is used for very different reasons in two very different places: Japan and Israel.

As the author explains, “Japan still values handwriting, to the extent that greeting cards and resumes are still typically hand-written and calligraphy lessons are popular.” General preferences for hard copies, use of a complex writing system, and a significantly older-than-average population have also slowed the transition to newer media. By 2012, the article reports, an astonishing 59% of Japanese households still had their own fax machine—a rarity in most of the world, to be sure.

This is a night-and-day contrast with the US, for instance, where electronic communication is generally preferred by a wide margin. Handwritten resumés? Never. And calligraphy lessons? Unlikely. Consequently, just as our professional and personal documents are typed whenever possible, so faxing has shifted toward automation and wider use of paperless fax software/services.

However, the persistence of fax in Israel is more a product of economic maladaptation than of deep-seated preferences:

So why is Israel stuck in a fax rut, even as it manages to produce some of the most innovative technology in the world? “Perhaps it’s because we don’t have much of a culture of service, so companies don’t have to make an effort to get us as customers,” said Gili S. Drori, a professor of sociology and anthropology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Part of the reason for that culture, however, is lack of competition. The high-tech sector, which has above-average productivity, competes in a global market. Certain sectors of Israel’s economy, however, are shielded from competition or dominated by a few players who do not need to provide good customer service and innovative technology to stay afloat in a market of 8 million people.

We at Paperless Productivity® are workflow consultants, not economic analysts, so we’ll take Professor Drori’s word for it. But whatever the cause of Israel’s purported fax fixation, it highlights something important: modernizing communications is critical for companies that do rely on top-notch “customer service and innovative technology.”

Even though American companies are apparently subject to tougher competition that their Israeli counterparts—and dislike hard copies and prefer to automate data entry in the first place—the demand and opportunity for more advanced faxing continues to grow in the US market. As we recently discussed here, the reasons American companies still fax are typically more legal/regulatory in nature, as the health care industry continues to demonstrate. Paper is of little sentimental value, and outdated solutions are a competitive disadvantage, but fax’s inherent security means it will remain in the enterprise communications landscape for quite some time.

Critically, whereas fax machines are certainly outdated, faxing itself has become has modern as anything. Virtualization, IP networks, cloud services, automation…the list of 21st-century changes to enterprise faxing is lengthy. The topic of leveraging fax for competitive advantage in a modern business is one we’ll visit at greater length in the next few weeks.

To use the words of a Deloitte study quoted in the article, “It is hard to imagine a truly innovative country without a government that sets an example for the integration of innovation, both as a client of advanced tools and as a supplier of innovative services.” If we substitute “country” and “government” for “industry” and “company,” then we are left with a nice statement of the urgency of modern and cost-effective faxing. To learn more about making it a reality in your organization, feel free to contact us at your convenience.

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!

Announcement: ABBYY USA Receives HIPAA & SOC 2 Certifications

This week, we wanted to take a break from our ongoing discussion of matters related to RightFax support and share some exciting news from one of our key partners.

ABBYY USA has successfully undergone both HIPAA and SOC 2 audits, and is now officially certified with regard to both standards. The successful audits, conducted by an independent CPA firm, demonstrate ABBYY’s ongoing commitment to combining efficient OCR data capture methods with the highest levels of data security and privacy. These rigorous and industry-standard assessments demonstrate full compliance with applicable portions of the HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules. They also attest to ABBYY’s development of suitable controls as a service organization, to ensure available and confidential data with full integrity.

So, a hearty “congrats” to our partner for this accomplishment!

ABBYY USA is a Milpitas, CA-based division of Moscow’s ABBYY Software. The company has established itself as one of the most innovative companies in the data capture space. Key enterprise OCR products, such as FlexiCapture and Recognition Server, remain our first choice for business-critical projects in a range of industries—whether healthcare, transportation / logistics, or any number of others.