Archive for the 'FoIP' Category

Why Faxing is Still Relevant in the 21st Century

By Darin McGinnes

Why would a communication technology that was conceived in the 19th Century and perfected in the 20th Century, still be important today in the 21st Century? The simple answer: faxing is a guaranteed delivery technology that email has yet to achieve. For those of us who work in the industry, this might be stating the obvious. But for the uninitiated, most believe faxing is practically dead, after all aren’t we in the Information Age? My answer: not so fast, as faxing is still alive and well!

Don’t get me wrong, email is a wonderful, convenient, and easy to use technology that for many businesses that relied on faxing in the past, do not need to use it as much anymore. But if you’re in an industry such as medical, finance, legal, or construction, you know that email isn’t good enough when it comes to delivering or receiving important, time sensitive or legal documents. In this respect, one may wonder why faxing is superior to email. It all comes down to the fact that a fax is considered a legal document because the transaction can be confirmed while email cannot.

Let’s look at how a fax is transmitted vs. email.  Email is built upon technology from the internet. It uses packet switch technology, which means it’s unreliable. Not that it’s ineffective, but the sender never knows for sure if the other side received the email as it is sent best effort only. Worse yet, it also could be easily intercepted by unscrupulous types. Faxing, on the other hand, is built upon technology from the tried and true public switched telephone network, the oldest communications network in the world. It uses circuit switch technology, which means that it’s reliable; both parties will know if the fax was sent successfully or not. Also, intercepting a fax transmission is much more difficult. And for those of you who are thinking: what about VOIP? Well, all that’s about is emulating a point-to-point circuit switched phone conversation over the packet switched internet. Circuit switched reliability is still intact.

One may ask if there is a better way to fax. After all, using traditional fax machines can be an unwieldy, inefficient process. Not to mention the difficult, time consuming process of integrating with business applications such as ERP, CRM, or document management systems. My answer to you is the fax server.

Either with an enterprise software solution like Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition or an appliance solution like Open Text Fax Appliance, FaxPress Edition, a fax server shields the inefficiency of sending or receiving faxes from the end user. It allows users to conveniently send and receive faxes from the desktop or leverage existing multifunction printers or scanners to send hard copy faxes. Furthermore fax servers seamlessly integrate with back office business applications that allow customers to realize a true paperless office, bringing the clunky fax into the 21st century of technology and convenience.

To learn more, download one of our free whitepapers:

Implementing Fax over IP in your Organization

Network Faxing with Open Text Fax Appliance, FaxPress Edition 

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Fax Server Redundancy – Protecting Your Document Communications

Wikipedia defines redundancy as, “the duplication of critical components of a system with the intention of increasing reliability of the system, usually in the case of a backup or fail-safe.”

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redundancy_(engineering).  Makes sense so far, right?  We all know however, that redundant systems can increase overall system availability too, meaning users or processes can run more efficiently. Still for being such a broad topic with many variables, we do see all kinds of monikers used when it comes to this subject:   High-availability; load-balancing; fault-tolerant, disaster recovery, and so on.  From an abstract perspective all of them are in some way descriptive of redundancy, with the end result real easy to understand: No loss of data and interruptions to your business.

A business interruption can be anything; telephone or internet failures; a corrupt database; a computer virus, a bad disk drive, a failed CPU in the datacenter, or any unplanned system downtime. They can even be as far reaching as a full scale disaster; floods, power outages, hurricanes, or even terror attacks. It goes without saying, but measures must be made to ensure that all mission critical applications are in some way redundant.  This could mean anything from a simple backup to a full-blown high available, redundant system. The choice is yours, and the options are plentiful.

Yet, the biggest challenge when considering redundancy for a software application like an enterprise fax server is exactly how much redundancy do you want? After all, Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition has a multi-layered architecture in which various components, databases, or processes can be placed into redundant scenarios that can ensure high uptimes while preserving faxes and data from being lost. This is good. Preserving lost faxes means preserving your business after all.

Getting down to some specifics:  When architecting your fax solution to provide maximum uptime it is helpful to understand the difference between fault-tolerance and system redundancy, as both can be addressed differently and have different ramifications to a business that relies on fax. A fault-tolerant system will continue to work if a single fax server component fails. Redundancy on the other hand, allows the entire fax enterprise to continue operating if one major component of that system fails. In a redundant scenario each component of the fax server must be duplicated. Typically it is common to have two fax servers operating in tandem, so that if one server fails the other server will continue to operate.

In practical terms specific to Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition, there are three typical redundant scenarios used:

  1. Load-balancing and Shared Services: This is a scenario in which a fax server shares its database of users, groups, printers, etc. amongst an enterprise of multiple fax servers. Typical with any company having more than one physical location, combined with the advancements made in Fax Server architecture, less fax server resources are now needed at the remote locations, making it easier to build in redundancy while leveraging your company LAN/WAN. In the end, a proper load balancing and shared services scenario will allow Fax Server to literally share its various server services and fax images across a network. In fact, many will say that this is very similar to an active-active cluster, in which shared resources not only ensure backup, but provides processing optimization and single location to administer.  Furthermore, Fax Server is optimized for high-availability, in which the database resources are shared such that the application is providing a centralized location for all company users, groups, and other data object, it does not have to be replicated anywhere else.  Here’s an example:  A fax server in Los Angeles will be “aware” of users located in the New York office because the database is shared. There is no need to have user data replicated across the enterprise. That shared database in L.A. can obviously be placed into a database cluster for redundancy purposes. All in all, taking advantage of Open Text Fax Server’s shared service architecture will boost your system reliability and your business’s ability to run without failure.
  2. A “Cold Spare” Scenario: A cold spare configuration is intended for use in the event of a long-term system shut down, a failure, or any other system interruption that may take more time to repair. Typically this is implemented as two fax servers on two hardware servers (or virtualized) as a primary server and a secondary server. It is important to note that a cold spare is not used in production but is available so that it will expedite recovery. A cold spare system is typically stored in an isolated or remote location and is considered to be “offline”. Its purpose is to be activated in the event of a primary system failure. This is a straightforward approach and offers an affordable way to have a level of redundancy if you can tolerate some manual intervention.
  3. Active-Passive Clustering: Typically, cluster environments protect against an application/service failure, system/hardware failure, site failure and even downtimes due to planned maintenance. In the case of Open Text Fax Server where a primary fax server had a failure, the business would revert to a secondary server to continue fax processing. That is of course, if a second fax server system has been setup to function as a passive “node”. What’s nice about Fax Server’s approach to this is the “node” doesn’t have to be the entire server application. Since Fax Server connects to the telephone system, there is a way to leverage the architecture to realize the benefits of clustering. Using remote Doctransports will allow you to divide up your fax channels between one active node (a.k.a a Open Text Fax Server) and a passive node (a.k.a. a backup copy of Fax Server). You still get the same channel capacity 100% of the time, but in the event of a node failure, those fax channels simply “see” the other node and keep on processing your critical fax documents. Combine this with the shared database and services and you’re now starting to build a high available redundant system unparalleled in efficiency and effectiveness.

Lots of choices and options are available to build a redundant Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition system and keep your business up and running. As stated before, the options are plentiful, no matter what size your company.  Be sure to work with a Open Text Fax Server VAR or Partner who can help design a plan that meets your needs.

To learn more about Fax Server, RightFax Edition and devising redundant scenarios to protect your business, download our eBook jointly published with Windows IT Pro.

We have just published this brief overview video on the Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition Shared Services Module which helps with redundancy.

The Reality of Fax Virtualization

What’s all the fuss about virtualization anyway?  Well for starters, it’s a hot topic in IT consolidation today because it saves money and helps the environment too. Virtualization is the ability to run multiple instances of applications, operating systems or CPUs on a “virtual” or “alien” platform. The obvious benefits are easy to see: Less computer hardware to maintain, less space in the datacenter, and even less energy consumption.

At first pass it sounds straightforward, but if you dig deep enough, virtualization can be thought of at multiple layers within the topology of an Enterprise to such a degree that it can be downright confusing. Popular definitions of virtualization will usually lump it into two main categories however: Platform virtualization and Application virtualization. If you want more, then it starts to get a little too deep.  As a matter of fact, Wiki lists about ten distinct categories of virtualization. But fear not, with respect to Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition (Formerly Captaris RightFax) and its role in your virtual reality, it is well, “virtually” a no brainer. Simply put, the new version Fax Server, RightFax Edition is an application that can run on a virtual machine using VMWare.   This means that your fax solution can now play nicely with whatever virtual strategies you have in place today and for the future. 

But wait, what about the fax boards that interconnect the server to the phone system? After all they are physical pieces of hardware that require occupancy in a machine. How do you turn that into a virtual solution too? The first answer is easy: Consider migrating to a software-only solution that eliminates the need for the fax boards altogether. That’s right; we’re talking about strengthening your virtualization strategy by adopting a fax over IP (FoIP) solution. Now, you’ve created a truly replicable environment.  

Okay, so what if that is not possible? Since we are on the topic of “reality”, it is well understood that many organizations are just starting to implement their plans to migrate to FoIP and that there are in fact a lot of installed fax boards already in place and working fine just as they are. That brings us to the second answer and it’s just as easy: Using Fax Server’s modern architecture, it’s simple to setup the fax boards in a dedicated CPU machine (with a remote DocTransport service running for example) and placing the rest of the application on an “alien” or “virtual” machine. You’re still going to recognize tangible benefits while leveraging your current fax board investments. Over time, you can migrate your fax hardware to FoIP and gain even more return as you virtualize the rest of the solution. 

To sum it all up, if going “virtual” is in your company’s plans, then Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition now offers flexible ways to make it… real.

Download a Fax over IP Toolkit and information on fax server virtualization in VoIP environments.  

Open Text has also published The Essential Guide to Fax Server Software and you can download it for free.  Jointly published with Windows IT Pro, this comprehensive guide details all considerations when developing a secure and cost effective fax enabled document delivery strategy.

Microsoft Publishes Case Study on Open Text Fax Server Integration with Exchange Server 2010

Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition has a long history of integration with Microsoft Exchange. We continue this market proven tradition by developing integration for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. This is an important faxing solution because Microsoft Exchange 2010 will no longer offer faxing capability.

Open Text worked with Microsoft to develop rich enterprise fax functionality that would integrate with Exchange Server 2010. The company followed a set of technical and business requirements developed by Microsoft for Exchange Server 2010 to ensure that fax capabilities integrate seamlessly and are easy to use and manage.

These features support two kinds of users. First are employees who are accustomed to using unified messaging systems that include fax functions and who have phone numbers set up to receive faxes. The other users are IT administrators who have established policies and procedures for dial plans that work in conjunction with Exchange Server.

Microsoft published a case study on this collaboration and it’s available from their web site. You can find it by visiting this link!

Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition on YOUTUBE

Check out the new channel we have on YouTube.  We have a new video fax addressing with SMTP integration.

View it on YouTube HERE!

Check Out Our New Channel on TMCnet.com!! Fax Server, RightFax Edition – Enterprise Fax over IP

We have launched a channel on TMCnet.com dedicated to presenting high value content and articles on Enterprise Fax over IP.  We have webinars, case studies, and interview articles posted.  Check it out!

http://www.tmcnet.com/channels/enterprise-fax-over-ip

Open Text Fax Connector for Xerox EIP MFPs

On Monday August 17, Open Text’s fax and document distribution group released the Open Text Fax Connector for Xerox EIP MFPs. This connector allows customers to free the information which is trapped in paper documents by utilizing Xerox Multifunction Products equipped with Xerox’s Extensible Integration Platform (http://www.office.xerox.com/eip/enus.html) to scan documents into the Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition for distribution.

Open Text customers have tens of thousands of MFPs currently connected to their Open Text Fax Servers. We have helped these customers achieve significant cost control through resource consolidation by eliminating multiple stand-alone fax machines, modems, phone lines and supplies, and MFP fax kits. We have also helped customers to enhanced security and compliance by providing tamper-resistant document delivery and auditing of fax documents.

Customers IT departments have enjoyed simplified, centralized document distribution management and have optimized their IT infrastructure investments by integrating their Open Text Fax Servers with EIP Enabled MFPs, email, document management, ERP, workflow systems, making a more efficient and connected work environment.

We have also integrated the Fax Connector with Xerox’ Secure Access Unified ID System (http://www.office.xerox.com/software-solutions/xerox-secure-access/enus.html) which allows someone to swipe their badge on the Xerox MFP in order to authenticate themselves to the Fax Connector. By authenticating themselves either via the embedded MFP keyboard or using Secure Access, you receive a more personalized experience at the MFP front panel. For instance, when addressing a fax, you can select entries from your phonebook rather than just a shared phonebook. Also, faxes are sent from your account rather than from a guest account which helps with auditing for compliance purposes.

For more information please visit:

http://faxsolutions.opentext.com/mfp-solutions.aspx


RSS Open Text Fax & Document Distribution Group

  • SIP Trunking: Part 2 May 14, 2010
    In part 2 of the 3-part SIP Trunking series, we go beyond the simple implementation approach of just providing an IP address and explain the additional work required to get any fax server to interoperate with the SIP Trunk.
  • SIP Trunking: Part 1 May 3, 2010
    Senior Technical Trainer Adam Friedmann discusses Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and the benefits of SIP Trunks.
  • European Distributor Automates Order Processing with Enterprise Fax and Content Management Solution April 28, 2010
    Cito Benelux replaced manual fax and order processing with an integrated fax and content management solution to automate and optimize order processing resulting in faster, error-free processing, enhanced service and compliance, and the elimination of fax machines.
  • Open Text at Interop, Las Vegas 2010 April 25, 2010
    The Open Text Fax and Document Distribution Group participated in the InterOp 2010 show held in Las Vegas during the last week in April. The event was IT focused with companies representing areas such as computer and network monitoring, VoIP, virtualization, cloud computing, hosting, and security. We had a steady stream of traffic and discussions […]
  • Three Minutes to Install an Open Text Fax Gateway March 31, 2010
    International Technical Instructor Matt Williams, is surprised at how quickly and easily he got an Open Text Fax Gateway up and running after opening the box.
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