In a previous blog, we defined a cloud fax service and its benefits. As fax volumes continue to grow, more and more organizations are looking to the lower cost and convenience of this approach. So, what should you be looking for in the best cloud fax service?
Scrap your fax machine with its hardware, paper and toners, move to digital fax, and get someone else to take care of it for you. It’s easy to see why cloud fax services have become so popular. Research from Arizton suggests it will be $2.4 billion by 2022 – and it’s growing fast.
Techradar attributes this success to the ‘anytime, anywhere’ nature of cloud fax, saying: “You can now get internet-based fax services (also known as ‘cloud faxing’) which function totally online without the need for any hardware. In other words, you can toss that grimy fax machine to the curb. Also, most services include mobile apps, which enables the worker to send and receive faxes while out of the office – in fact from just about anywhere.”
However, it’s important to note that not all cloud fax services are created equal. The best fax service for you will depend on your specific requirements. And, that will also help clarify what you should look for in a cloud fax service provider.
What is a cloud fax service?
At a basic level, a cloud fax service is a mechanism to send and receive faxes via the internet. It allows you to completely remove your internal fax infrastructure and instead call on the capabilities of a fax service provider to deliver your fax communications.
We’re really talking about fax as a cloud service (or SaaS) and this is achieved in one of two ways. First, you can send and receive faxes via your email. This digital fax service lets you create the fax within your email application. How the message is addressed determines how the message is sent – meaning, that a message with the address of firstname.lastname@example.org will be sent from the email application as a secure fax – not an email! The subject of your email is the subject of the faxed document. The body of the message is the body of the faxed document – and so on. You can attach a file to the fax message just like you would an email – it’s that easy and fast! This example is the approach for OpenText™ Fax2Mail™. Alternatively, you can fax through a web-based portal. In this cloud fax service, you use forms and upload prompts within the online portal to handle incoming and outgoing messages.
From there, the cloud fax service you select is more about the capabilities that you require. At the entry level, there are free cloud fax services that allow for quick and cheap faxing. The service is very basic and unlikely to meet the needs the enterprise. Above this, there are a range of cloud-based digital fax services that feature a number of capabilities such as basic reporting and archiving. These services have benefits when dealing with a small, non-critical fax workloads.
However, the use of fax is strongest in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare, the public sector and financial services. This requires ‘enterprise grade’ cloud fax services that really mirror all the capabilities that you’d expect from an on-premises digital fax server. The best fax service will have a comprehensive feature set in terms of performance, security, business continuity and scalability.
How to select the best cloud fax service
For the purpose of this blog, I’m going to focus on enterprise cloud fax services and what a cloud fax service provider should deliver. Core component of a cloud fax service will include:
Scalability and performance
Page limits are a significant downside of some online fax services. The best fax provider should allow you to scale your volumes up and down according to business demand. The cloud fax service should offer virtually unlimited scalability with the performance and reliability that’s needed for the enterprise.
Faxing is often mission critical – especially in areas such as HIPAA-compliant cloud fax services in healthcare – so continuous availability can be a priority. The cloud service provider should have clear business continuity and disaster recovery strategies and enshrine these with an SLA. Some of the best fax providers have their own private cloud infrastructure – such as OpenText Cloud –to ensure full control of system performance and availability.
The use of a digital fax service like cloud fax provides the opportunity to move beyond the exchange of information. It enables the data within the fax to flow automatically into and out of key back-end applications, such as ERP, CRM, accounts or other line-of-business systems–to automate and optimize your business processes. The cloud fax service provider should be able to offer a wide range of native integrations and API tools as part of their solution.
Ensure that your cloud fax services supports the widest range of email and desktop packages to make data exchange as well as new user onboarding quick and simple.
This area is often overlooked but, for many organizations, the adoption of a cloud fax service is not their only fax capability. Many enterprises choose cloud fax for low-cost broadcast fax while retaining a digital fax capability on-premises for secure and business critical faxing. Others still have a legacy estate of on-premises fax servers combined with cloud fax services for fax transmissions. The best cloud fax services allow for a flexible hybrid approach where your cloud fax service integrates with your on-premises fax capabilities.
What are the benefits of a cloud-based fax service?
There are a number of key benefits from using a cloud fax service that can be categorized into three key areas:
Lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
The cloud fax service eliminates fax servers, fax machines, hardware, software, consumables and telecoms costs. It can eliminate many of your manual fax processes increasing business productivity while reducing the errors that can lead to costly re-work. In addition, the cloud fax service provider can deliver scalability, reliability and performance for a fraction of onsite fax infrastructure costs. Learn more about the cost-savings and ROI of a cloud fax service.
As well as increasing the productivity and efficiency of users, the best cloud fax services enable process automation. Enterprise application integration allows information to flow quickly and securely into your enterprise applications. The cloud fax service provider should deliver a scalable and robust cloud infrastructure to ensure that have the fax service you need at all times. The best fax providers allow you to meet all your fax and digital communications needs from a single trusted supplier.
Improved fax processes
By integrating with a wide range of enterprise applications as well as email, mobile and desktop packages, the cloud fax service shortens business cycles by automating and optimizing your business processes and workflows. The result is improved business productivity and collaboration that leads to enhanced customer experience.
How to select the best fax service provider
According to Business News Daily: “Good fax service providers will feature a combination of these three things: secure incoming and outgoing fax capabilities, an easy-to-use interface or integration with existing services, and stellar customer service.”
We can’t argue with any of that. We’d just like to add a few more things you might want from your cloud fax service provider.
A key element of enterprise Cloud fax services is the experience that the fax provider has within your specific industry. When dealing with heavily regulated industries such as healthcare or financial services the service has to be able to meet the unique needs and regulatory requirements for that sector. For example, HIPAA-compliant cloud fax services is a must when dealing with communications between physicians, hospitals and other healthcare providers.
Analytics and reporting
Because faxing remains such a vital and important method of daily business communications, the cloud fax service provider must be able to give you visibility into the key performance metrics to manage the seamless flow of information. For example, OpenText Fax2Mail Analytics provides a comprehensive view of transactions on the OpenText Cloud fax network, which enables companies to easily access, analyze, and identify system performance, volume statistics, and delivery information.
A complete, omnichannel communications solution
The best enterprise Cloud fax services providers can build an omnichannel infrastructure around Cloud fax, notifications, voice, email, web and instant messaging. A single supplier for all requirements reduces the cost and maximizes the effectiveness of your communications capabilities.
Read a new IDG report to learn why resilient companies are turning to cloud fax services to provide secure remote desktop faxing, improve efficiency and reduce costs.