The VAR Guy Blog
Don’t Let VoIP Break the Fax Line

Don’t Let VoIP Break the Fax Line

Chances are your customers are either unifying their voice and data communications into a newer platform like VoIP, or they’ve done so already. Here’s one key issue they might not have considered in an enterprise-wide IP migration: Fax doesn’t always come along for the ride, at least not smoothly. Their IP providers might have promised that fax would be “covered” in the IP upgrade, but fax simply isn’t always compatible with a VoIP solution.

So here’s a great opportunity for you: As an eFax Corporate Partner, you can provide your customers a fully cloud-based fax solution, saving them time, money, bandwidth and headaches—while creating a new revenue stream for yourself.

Why Fax Often Doesn’t Work Well in an IP Environment

In an enterprise’s migration of voice and data services into an IP-based environment, why would fax be so stubborn? Why wouldn’t it join the party? Are there really problems in such an upgrade that are unique to fax technology? Yes, several:

  • Protocol interoperability: Fax operates on several protocols—primarily T.30 (which does not support faxing over IP) and T.38 (which does). With hundreds of millions of fax machines in use today that can read only T.30 data, a FoIP solution contacting such a fax number would need to convert the data from T.30 to T.38 for transmission, and then back to T.30 for the receiving fax machine. Although possible, this extra series of steps can create delays, which can ultimately cause the transmission to fail.
  • Timing delays: Moving the fax function from the highly standardized timing of the PSTN to an IP network can introduce three types of delays, any of which can end a fax transmission in failure:
  1. Jitter delays: Because FoIP is packet-based, the technology tries to maintain the correct sequence of packets into which the full fax is split for transmission. If a fax’s lower-number packets are delayed in transit, a FoIP system might try to delay higher-number packets until the sequence can right itself.
  2. Network delays: Because it travels over an IP network, packets of a FoIP fax might traverse many nodes on the Internet before arriving at the recipient’s fax number. If any of these nodes experience technical issues or higher-than-normal traffic during transmission, those packets can take longer to arrive—sometimes resulting in a corrupted fax.
  3. Protocol-Conversion delays: The work a FoIP fax must often do to convert its data into a protocol suitable for IP-network travel (T.38) and then back into a protocol readable by the receiver’s fax machine (T.30) takes time. If the delay is long enough, the fax transmission can fail.
  • Packet loss: In communications over IP networks, “dropping packets” is still common. Here is where we see a stark contrast between voice and fax communications over IP—underscoring why an IP platform can work well for voice and other types of communication, but not nearly as well for fax. If a packet drops during an IP-based voice call, the participants will hear dead air, or a “cutout,” for a fraction of a second. The VoIP call will continue, and perhaps the speaker will be asked to repeat a few words. A packet loss during a fax transmission, however—even just a 1 percent loss—can end the entire transmission in failure.

Another Reason to Vet Your IP Platform Before Migrating Fax to It

When unifying voice and data into a single unified communications platform, an enterprise might be tempted to simply “throw fax in,” especially when the vendor points out that fax is part of the package.

But after the migration, for the reasons described above (and others), many businesses discover an inordinate amount of IT resources are being tied up trying to establish the new IP-based fax system.

This is another reason it is so important for a business to fully investigate the fax functionality in the UC platform it plans to deploy—on the new IP platform, the business will often discover it lacks fax capabilities that it needs.

Here’s another great opportunity for you to help your customers. Work with your customers to review the robust feature set in the eFax Corporate online fax solution against their needs—and against their current fax infrastructure or the one promised in their new IP platform. We’re confident you’ll find eFax Corporate’s solution far superior.

Fax Features Your Customers Will Likely Need or Want

  • The ability to digitally sign, edit, annotate and send a fax from a WiFi device (without printing)
  • The ability to eliminate fax machines, fax servers, and related hardware and supplies
  • Unique fax numbers for each employee—without using any analog fax lines
  • The ability to send and receive faxes as email
  • Compatibility with SAP or other back-end data systems
  • Highly secure faxing that protects sensitive data and also aids with regulatory compliance
  • Online storage and retrieval of all faxed documents
  • Online fax functionality optimized specifically for mobile devices
  • The ability to scale up and add fax numbers quickly—without any additional hardware

Your customers need to keep in mind as they migrate to an IP platform that that each communication service must still be at least as useful to the organization in the new IP environment as it was prior to the migration. In the case of fax, that means an IP-based fax infrastructure should give an enterprise at least the same functionality as it had before, without introducing new technological challenges. In that respect, FoIP still generally fails on both counts.

So, yes, your customers should unify their communications protocols under a more streamlined and cost-effective system like VoIP. But you can still help them ensure that the one communications technology most enterprises neglect in an upgrade—fax—can also emerge from the migration intact or even superior to its prior, analog incarnation. All your customers need is your guiding them to an eFax Corporate online fax solution.

Peter Ely is Leader, Enterprise Partner Programs at eFax. Guest blogs such as this one are published monthly and are part of The VAR Guy's annual platinum sponsorship.


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.