Make Money With Secure Faxing for your Medical and Legal Clients
The words “internet fax” or FoIP (Fax Over IP) can bring up frustrating memories for IT integrators (or snickers from the uninformed), so when quoting and installing UC systems, it’s often forgotten about or avoided. Though 100% (or close to) reliable online faxing has been around for the better part of this decade, new patents in the last two years have changed the way online faxes are transmitted, solving one of the last remaining issues that has prevented FoIP from eliminating analog faxing: Security.
Read on to learn a brief overview of the history and how improvements in online faxing technology will help you gain an advantage when quoting and courting medical and legal customers, and any business entity that requires 100% secure faxing and reliable faxing.
An Art or a Science?
If poorly manufactured, defective ATAs, network packet loss, and remembering that the green TDM module was FXS, and red was FXO, weren’t enough to dissuade you from repeating, “let’s leave faxing off the ip network entirely” over and over again, then the post-sale support issues, and pre-sale integration requirements often left you with little choice and lots of frustration. Especially while the T.38 protocol was in its infancy, you either had to grin and bear it, dealing with missing faxes and fax pages, or only take the deal if they met your conditions about not touching the fax machine.
In either case, if you were brave enough and all else went well, your final and most difficult issues still lay ahead. When one single fax packet was lost on the network, all hell would break loose and the fax machine would basically freak out and stop transmitting entirely! This meant missing the last page(s) on a fax, or worse, missing the fax (unbeknownst to you) completely. Getting T.38 to work properly required lots of artwork.
I speak from experience here, involved in many of these types of projects, and one notably enormous project with Union Pacific Railroad, when they upgraded to FoIP back in the late part of last decade. Reliable faxing over IP on a large scale was possible, but it required a lot of resources and talented people like Jesse Knutsen to pull off!
Forget Fax, Follow the Money
While advancements in VoIP and UC came rapidly throughout the 2000’s, FoIP and integrating faxing into an IP network remained the same struggle that it had always been up until the past few years.
Who could blame IT providers for forgetting those painful memories, especially in light of these advancements which made communications and IP technology incrementally better, were in high demand, and were more lucrative. Fast forward into the 2010’s and with hosted phone systems and remotely managed IT systems gaining massive traction, no one cared about the little old fax machine.
Times have changed, online faxing has finally caught up. While T.38 is still the protocol of choice for FoIP, there is now a distinct difference in how the protocol handles fax packets across IP networks, an important point for any managed IT service provider who has customers that need 100% reliable and secure faxing.
Store and Forward versus Real Time Transmission
Store and Forward solved the issue of consistency. The massive headaches of real time fax transmission over the open internet became a thing of the past, and Fax over IP service providers began to advertise 100% reliability.
To overcome the issues of inconsistency and the frustrations that came along with faxing over IP, entrepreneurs and engineers began to use store-and-forward as a method to send fax packets. Though using T.38, the store-and-forward method was able to overcome the asynchronous behavior that resulted in faxing issues by routing them to an intermediate station, eliminating timing issues and thus delivering the fax across an IP network at (or nearly) a 100% success rate.
A common example of store and forward “push” technology is exhibited in email with SMTP. Store and forward faxing uses the same concept. The data is sent via HTTPS, is gathered by an intermediary server, and is then sent back out HTTPS to its destination. Doing this prevents fax packets from getting all jumbled up on the open internet and leads to 100% reliability.
Store and forward has been a great solution, and many businesses have freed themselves from analog faxing as a result, however the problem (and opportunity) with this lies in the definition of store and forward itself:
“Information is sent to an intermediate station where it is kept and sent at a later time to the final destination or to another intermediate station.”
…”kept” but not kept “secure.”
Encrypted Real Time Transmission solves both Security and Reliability. For businesses needing to follow HIPAA and SOX regulations, the expectations of privacy and requirements of security could not be met with a store-and-forward solution. This led many hospitals, law firms, investment institutions, and any business that required security, privacy, and reliability to remain on traditional, expensive, analog fax lines.
Overcoming the issues of security, while maintaining 100% reliability seemed impossible. Thankfully clever entrepreneurs and engineers have solved this riddle with encryption on both the real-time transport protocol (allowing for secure media transmission) and the T.38 signalling protocol (required for FoIP).
Amongst other things this is finally putting the PSTN to bed, but more importantly this has brought forth new opportunity not had in the UC space since last decade.
Why Fax over IP Will Help you Make Money Today
- Large Audience: The healthcare, legal and financial industries are all economically amongst the very top in terms of the both size of, and the sheer number of businesses that fit into these verticals. Many of them of all sizes are still using traditional faxing.
- Captive Audience: Companies like Verizon refuse to repair copper infrastructure any longer. For businesses that have been forced to use analog faxing (due to security or reliability concerns) this is a vulnerability that needs to be addressed quickly.
- Compete on Opportunities your Competitors Can’t: Encrypted real-time fax transmission is still relatively new. There is a huge window wide open for those companies who provide services, or seek to provide services to anyone of the industries that require secure faxing. You’ll be able to add projects to customer bids, and prevent your less savvy competitors (who may have quoted a lower bid price) from winning a contract.
- Start Up New Projects with Existing Clients: Being able to offer a secure, reliable fax solution shows them you are being innovative with your service offering. This gives you a good excuse to contact existing customers, and open up new opportunities across all of your services.
- Save Your Customers Money: With a little creativity, it’s very easy to demonstrate to customers who pay $30-$50 per month for a fax phone line to show them a massive return on investment. This is a really easy sell, similar to what was experienced when VoIP and SIP first matured.
Don’t think about faxing too late. Whether you’re installing new network equipment for an existing client, looking for new initiatives to launch next year, or just beginning to quote IT equipment, you’ll be sure to have a profitable, higher performing solution to talk about with your customers.
Arthur Miller is currently Director of Client Services, Cloud/Telecom at Pitch + Pivot, where he manages and consults IT clients consisting of VoIP manufacturers, service providers, and managed IT service companies on growing their business and marketing their products.