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What is a Cloud Fax Service?

Fax has been around for a century and is still going strong. However, the standalone fax machine­-with its manual processes, analog lines, expensive ink, paper and consumables–is becoming a thing of the past. Today, organizations are moving towards a digital fax service. Cloud fax offers the best deployment to enable fast and easy paperless faxing across the entire organization. So what exactly is cloud fax and what should you look for in the best cloud fax service?

According to IDG, we’re passed the tipping point for cloud fax adoption. The firm’s research shows that cloud faxing will grow in 3 years from 35% to 56% of organizations utilizing cloud fax services.

So, what is cloud fax?

Cloud fax service definition

Let’s be honest. No one enjoys the standalone, paper-based fax experience. It’s slow and inefficient, and frustrating to take paper to the machine and wait to be sure it’s sent. There’s someone on the other end doing the same thing in reverse. You really wonder how it survived so long. Cloud fax gets rid of all this wasted time and inefficiency. It gets rid of the equipment and running costs associated with not only standalone fax machines but also on-premises fax servers.

Cloud fax services deliver faxes over the internet, without on-premises hardware or software to manage. It reduces costs by avoiding telephony related to phone lines and the IT burden of supporting an on-premises fax infrastructure. Cloud based fax solutions are fast, efficient, secure and easy to use. The best fax service provider will have a network of globally diverse data centers to add resilience, availability and business continuity into their cloud fax service offering.

What are the different types of cloud-based fax services?

There are essentially three levels when delivering fax as a cloud service depending on how often fax is used (rarely or occasionally to hundreds of times per day) and if faxing needs to be integrated to back-end systems or applications. These are split into cloud fax for individuals and home office, small and mid-sized business and large organizations. The three levels are:

Free cloud fax service

This is an entry-level cloud fax service, typically for single users, when fax is rarely required. It allows the user to send and receive faxes, often through an online portal. It’s quick and easy enabling the individual to gain fax capabilities without a fax machine or any cost. It is not designed for those that send faxes on a regular basis.

Cloud fax service

The next level up provides a basic cloud fax service, and pricing is available as pay-as-you-go or a low, flat monthly rate for a limited number of faxes per month. The user can send and receive faxes from their email account. The cloud service provider usually provides a limited number of cloud fax numbers and may offer some additional services, such as inbound toll-free fax numbers.

Enterprise cloud fax

For many organizations, fax is a mission-critical part of their everyday business. They require the same level of security, performance and enterprise integration that they have with other enterprise systems. Enterprise cloud fax services are the most advanced with a range of enterprise capabilities embedded within the fax service and can integrate seamless with back-end systems that rely on fax communications, such as SAP, Oracle and industry-specific ones such as financial applications and EHR systems in healthcare. Where security is key, these services offer best of breed security protocols with advanced encryption. For example, there are a number of HIPAA compliant cloud fax services that allow for the secure exchange of medical information from provider to provider.

What are the benefits of cloud fax services?

It’s at this point that we have to admit we’ve made an error. We said that it’s a wonder fax has survived so long. It isn’t. Fax is one of the very few ubiquitous technologies ever created. Wherever you go in the world, fax is fax. In addition, even today fax is still one of the most secure methods of transferring information, which is why it’s still at the heart of document-based workflows in a whole range of regulated industries.

We just need a faster, more efficient and easier way to fax–and that’s cloud fax. The benefits of using a cloud fax service include:

Simplify and gain performance

As fax volumes continue to grow for many companies, moving away from legacy fax machines or complex fax server infrastructures to a cloud fax service becomes more attractive. Organizations can dramatically simplify their environment with cloud fax by eliminating the onsite complexity of hardware, software and fax telephony connections. An enterprise cloud fax service includes all the capabilities you’d expect from an on-premises fax server so it comes down to ensuring the performance of your fax solution over time. The best cloud fax service automatically scales to meet even your highest fax volume requirements with no busy signals or bottlenecks in throughput.

Reduce cost

Using a cloud fax service means that you don’t invest the hardware, software and fax telephony networking needed for on-premises faxing. You no longer require dedicated resources to manage and maintain a complex onsite system, or a budget to upgrade the capabilities as new features appear. CapEx is replaced by OpEx.

Enhanced security

By protecting information at rest and in transit, cloud fax services have security capabilities to achieve data protection and reduce compliance risk, especially in highly regulated industries. The massive security infrastructure of global cloud fax service providers enables them to deliver a secure solution with multiple security protocols in place to protect the most sensitive of data.

Increased collaboration

A cloud fax service modernizes faxing to bring it into the agile, digital age. It can extend to applications, such as email, and accessed from devices, bringing fax to an increasingly mobile workforce. In addition, enterprise cloud fax services integrate directly into ERP and other back-end applications to facilitate and automate end-to-end business processes between you and your customers and suppliers.

Selecting enterprise cloud fax services

It’s important to distinguish between vendors that provide basic fax capabilities and those that offer truly enterprise-grade cloud fax solutions. The truth is that not all vendors meet the mission-critical messaging requirements of the enterprise.

This goes beyond simply sending and receiving faxes in a cost effective and easy manner. Enterprise cloud fax means delivering robust, enterprise-strength services around the core fax capabilities. Enterprise cloud fax solution providers must be able to deliver capabilities in areas such as:

  • Sophisticated cloud architecture, scalability, reliability and performance
  • Business continuity/disaster recovery (BCDR)
  • Enterprise application integration capabilities
  • Best-of-breed security
  • Process automation
  • Robust administrative features

What to look for in the best fax service provider

As enterprise cloud fax services vary, you must select the best fax service provider for you. There are any number of cloud fax service reviews to check out but key capabilities to look for include:

Global cloud infrastructure

The best cloud fax service providers have a robust, geographically dispersed cloud network. This means they can offer performance, scalability and business continuity that’s backed by stringent Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

Industry experience

Faxing is faxing, right? Not really when it comes to enterprise cloud fax services. Especially when you’re dealing with heavily regulated industries such as healthcare or financial services, there are a wide range of ever-changing communications standards and global regulations that need to be complied. The enterprise cloud fax service provider should have in-depth experience of your industry and be able to facilitate compliance and minimize risk within your fax communications.

A complete, omni-channel communications solution

Enterprise cloud fax is very unlikely to be a standalone discipline. It is more often part of an omni-channel communications strategy that looks to enhance customer satisfaction by ensure the same experience across channels. The best enterprise cloud fax services providers can build an omni-channel infrastructure around cloud fax, voice, email, and SMS 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 these and other frustrations lead many organizations to cloud fax services to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The report discusses the benefits businesses can expect the efaxing cloud model to bring, including:

  • Cost savings (e.g., overhead, maintenance)
  • Improved fax security/compliance
  • Simplified and modernized faxing
  • Scalability to support company growth
  • Built-in business continuity for disaster recovery
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Amy Perry

Amy Perry is the Director of Product Marketing for fax and secure messaging solutions with OpenText Business Network. Her 20 year career has crossed between Product Management and Product Marketing in the CPG and software industries.

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