Can you have Fax Service with Cloud Based or VoIP Phone Systems

Cloud based phone systems are quickly transforming the way small, medium and even large enterprises handle their telecommunicaltion and information movement and management. Businesses are moving away from traditional phone service. But how about faxing? How about my fax machine? Can I fax using a cloud based or VoIP phone system? We have noticed, with the emergence of VoIP, new challenges faced by VoIP telecom providers with the simple issue of connecting a fax machine.

When you discuss this with many cloud based phone system providers, they admit that their choices for reliable fax have not been ideal: leave a POTS line installed, send the customer one of the current T.38 ATA’s and hope there aren’t too many problems, or try to convince the customer to convert to a virtual system which uses a fax to e-mail and e-mail to fax requiring users to scan all hard copies.

Each option suggested by these cloud based phone system providers has significant drawbacks.
Leaving the POTS line eliminates the opportunity to capitalize on a full telephony revenue stream, and using the latter two options ultimately risks losing business due to poor customer satisfaction.

The fax problem for cloud based phone system providers is a common, everyday occurrence in the VoIP industry that no one tends to talk about. The crux of the whole unreliability issue surrounding VoIP fax lies with T.38 protocol for real- time fax communications over IP networks. The need for this protocol evolved because VoIP networks are optimized for the sound of the human voice. In essence, the fax tones do not fit into the protocols designed for voice over IP, so T.38 defines how these should be packetized and transmitted. T.38 is very reliable when transmitted over a QOS network like an MPLS circuit or WAN. Unfortunately, T.38 is not designed for transmission on a medium like the Internet where packet loss is very common.

Think of it this way, packet loss of just 1 percent will result in unreliable fax transmission. The failure rate increases exponentially the more pages that are transmitted. So, where one or two pages may be OK most of the time, a 10-page document will fail nearly all of the time. This is not acceptable in any business model where fax is a crucial part of business communications. This especially needs to be addressed with the cloud based or VoIP phone systems provider.

So, what’s the solution from a cloud based phone system provider? We believe that the solution is in HTTPS, by use of an ATA HTTPS device, which allows a fax machine to transmit over the open Internet reliably and securely. By using TCP rather than UDP, all packets are sent, and this solution will work over nearly all data connections. Over the past several years, companies like FaxSIPit, along with our partners Faxback and AudioCodes, has developed such hardware, and firmware technology, along with an extremely reliable delivery network that eliminates all the issues surrounding the “dirty little VoIP fax secret.” Cloud based phone system providers like ConnectMe use this type of faxing extensively.

This exciting new marriage of HTTPS and fax technology will now allow cloud based phone system or VoIP telecom providers, or anyone for that fact, to utilize VoIP fax with the utmost of confidence knowing that the faxes are going to be delivered reliably and securely.

There are a few options when using this technology for cloud based phone systems. One is putting a special ATA on your fax machine. You will need power and an ethernet connection to plug into the ATA. Then you can use the fax for inbound and outbound faxing. But what happens to your existing fax number? Simple. Your cloud based phone service provider can port over your number just like the do with the voice lines. It is the same process. They send you the forms. You fill them out with a copy of your bill and fax them back to your cloud based phone service provider. They will handle the rest. There are backup options that your cloud based phone service provider can discuss.

When considering a cloud based phone system, make sure that you discuss and understand the options with your provider.