Q

What are the use cases for Fax over IP?

Do use cases for Fax over IP still exist or has communication by fax machine become obsolete? Expert Jon Arnold explains what fax's future holds.

Are there specific business uses for Fax over IP? What kind of businesses even rely on faxes anymore?

Fax is a legacy technology that survives because it has adapted. Fax today seems about as intuitive as a rotary dial phone, but both live on -- albeit in different forms. Think about form versus function. The rotary dial was replaced with the keypad when telephony shifted from analog to digital. The rotary dial and keypad perform the same function, but the keypad enables a richer experience.

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Fax is the same. Analog fax was time-consuming, error-prone, unsecure, low-resolution, fixed-format, centralized and used expensive consumables. Digital fax is the opposite of all these things. Because the need to send documents electronically hasn't gone away, fax persists. If fax had not adapted from analog to digital, it would have disappeared a long time ago.

I'm making this comparison because both will eventually meet the same fate. The need for voice is as vital as ever, but calls are increasingly shifting away from desk phones to PCs and mobile devices that do not require a keypad. Similarly, scanning has displaced much of what faxes address. In time, these newer technologies will completely supplant what came before, and like the telegraph, desk phones and fax systems will fall out of use.

Coming back to form and function, fax survives in digital form simply because it continues to provide value to businesses. There is still a need for a centralized solution to manage large volumes of documents that have requirements around content sharing, archiving, searching and regulatory compliance -- especially in a secure fashion that protects personal privacy.

In that regard, fax is much more than sending documents back and forth where signatures are needed. With big data peeking around the corner, it is becoming more about records management and knowledge management. For now, Fax over IP serves that need reasonably well. Better solutions are evolving, but their time hasn't come yet. We'll check back on this topic next year.

This was first published in March 2014

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