Posts Tagged 'Virtualization'

Open Text Partner Avanquest Solutions Discusses the Value of FoIP

This article originally appeared on the Enterprise Fax over IP channel on TMCnet.
As more companies are building or expanding their IP infrastructures, the benefits of consolidation with enterprise fax over IP are becoming evident as many organizations have already invested in VoIP technology as an alternative to traditional phone communications. In a recent interview with Avanquest Solutions, Mike Rae, sales director of the U.K.-based firm, discusses some of the advantages of adopting fax over IP.
 
“Using this existing IP resource to also transmit all your fax communications delivers an even greater return on this investment. Many of the costs associated with traditional fax machines such as hardware maintenance, consumables and phone line rental disappear,” Rae said. “Analog routers that are required in order to connect fax machines to your VoIP environment can also be removed creating even greater savings. Customers with multiple sites have the greatest opportunity to save money due to the fact that a centralised fax server can now manage faxing across the whole enterprise without the need for additional telephony provision at local sites.”
 
Avanquest Solutions has been the U.K. distributor and support and training center for Open Text Fax Server, RightFax Edition since 1992.
 
With fax over IP, the entire solution is software-based which means it can be implemented in a virtual environment which reduced the number of physical servers required and provides high-availability and disaster recovery, Rae explained.
 
There are several efficiencies that are achieved with Open Text Fax Server, Right Fax Edition. According to Rae, fax is still the most reliable and secure point to point document delivery solution there is. 
 
“Electronic faxing dramatically reduces costs, reduces paper and speeds up business processes by allowing users to send faxes from any application in under a minute. Staff no longer has to print out documents they want to fax, wait by the fax machine while it transmits and rely on a paper-based delivery report. The whole process is replicated electronically,” Rae said. “Fax servers enhance your unified communications infrastructure by delivering inbound faxes directly into the user’s personal inbox which means faxes can be retrieved from any location, with any device, improving response times to customers and saving time.”
 
The process of sending paper documents through OpenText Fax Server is easy, too, he said. By integrating with multi-functional devices, users can login to the device, select the fax option and enter recipient’s number just as they have always done. The document is transmitted by Open Text Fax Server through their personal account, delivery notification is sent to their email address and the fax and transmission history are stored electronically.
 
“This is all achieved over your IP network. There is no need to install a fax modem on the multi-function device or connect it to an analogue phone line,” Rae added.
 
OpenText Fax Server can also act as a fax gateway allowing almost any application to automate outbound faxing and e-mail delivery replacing the manual process of printing and posting batches of documents. Thousands of customers rely on the system to deliver trade confirmations, monetary payment confirmations, purchase orders, remittances and many more critical business documents, Rae said.
 
Since inbound faxes often trigger business processes, Open Text Fax Server can act as the on-ramp into your organization. Documents such as purchase orders and transfer requests can be handed to an intelligent capture application where they can be classified so that the relevant data can be extracted and verified before being automatically uploaded into a line of business application saving time and money and reducing data-entry errors.
 
In addition, enterprise fax over IP helps companies in terms of regulatory compliance by providing a degree of visibility and control over your fax traffic, which is difficult to ascertain with traditional methods of faxing. Open Text Fax Server stores a full electronic audit trail for each document which can be passed to billing systems and document management applications for cost-tracking and compliance purposes.
 
“Many industry regulators such as the Financial Services Authority deem fax machines insecure and non-compliant because they automatically print out received documents with no way of determining the recipient or what they did with that document next,” Rae said. “A fax server allows you to see exactly who printed, annotated or viewed the document and at what date and time.”
 
According to Rae, moving to FOIP greatly improves the business case for VoIP.
 
“The consolidation of data and communications to a single IP resource reduces the total cost of ownership – one bandwidth for all voice, data and fax communications,” he said. “Switching from traditional fax to FoIP allows you to centrally host faxing for multiple locations. Fax can be integrated with other applications throughout the organization as part of automated business processes and workflow.”
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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.


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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