Any business that deals heavily with communication and information transfers knows the importance of having a secure, reliable system. Technology for companies is always expanding, growing and improving, and it has become essential to keep up with the latest trends. Staying up to date means more streamlined operations for your employees and better security for your customers.
Thankfully, the prevalence and quality of high-speed internet services have facilitated expansion through software. The more you can consolidate to online services, the smoother your workflow will be. One of the ways you can shift your processes to internet-based services is through FoIP solutions. This guide will explain what business fax over IP is, how it benefits you and why more companies are choosing to use it.
What Are FoIP Solutions?
As a basic working definition, Fax over Internet Protocol (FoIP) is a method of sending faxes via the internet. FoIP is also often referred to as virtual fax or IP faxing. It works similarly to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which uses the internet and a software provider for communications as a replacement for standard telephone providers. The most significant change in both cases is the shift from an independent service provider to integrated software, changing the medium of data transmission.
You may be familiar with the ins and outs of Internet Protocol if you have begun integrating these types of services into your company’s workflow. If you aren’t, it’s an important concept to understand. Internet Protocol is the process and standards of transferring data via the internet and ensuring it reaches the correct recipient or address. It uses IP packets to transmit your information.
IP packets are groupings of information. By dividing the whole into chunks of data, IP services make it possible for routers and software to receive, decode and comprehend the full transmission. Ultimately, the faxes are sent as images or PDF files, which the recipient can download and save or choose to print if necessary.
Softlinx’s ReplixFax Server offers a variety of solutions to tailor-fit FoIP to the needs of your industry and company. From security compliance to faxing capabilities, our systems will upgrade your communication workflow. With ReplixFax, you can set up cloud faxing as an independent network service or deploy it through your existing VoIP channel. In either case, your internal IP network and media gateway must support a T.38 FoIP protocol or G.711 protocol. You can also use our secure, compliant cloud fax services, which is provisioned and managed by Softlinx and requires only an internet connection to use.
The T.38 FoIP protocol is also referred to as real-time faxing. With this protocol, fax transmissions go straight through to the recipient without waiting for storage. It’s fast, simple and allows employees to fax straight from their computers. The G.711 protocol is even more simplified and often used as a backup if a T.38 call can’t process properly. With the right software, it’s a useful fallback. Both are easy to implement for any company and provide an effective faxing solution.
Who Uses FoIP Solutions?
Cloud faxing is growing in popularity across a variety of industries. In a 2017 survey conducted by the International Data Corporation, in which 200 firms with over 500 employees each participated, 82% of respondents said they had seen the same amount or an increase in overall fax usage as compared to 2016. Of these participants, the survey data saw a shift towards internet fax for business, as more companies began using the computer-based services.
The upward trend is reflective of the idea that many industries can benefit from migrating to FoIP. Beyond some of the general benefits, cloud faxing can also fulfill the specific requirements of companies in several sectors. Some of the biggest industries that use FoIP solutions include:
Organizations centered around healthcare and medical services need to enforce high level of data security. From streamlining their communication channels to providing ample protection during information transmission, these companies rely on cloud-based faxing.
For those in the healthcare industry, compliance with government and practice regulations is essential. One of the most pertinent is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). HIPAA directly affects the way healthcare and medical organizations can communicate data, transmit documents and store patient information. These regulations can make it challenging to find a compliant method of sending and receiving sensitive materials.
Thankfully, many FoIP alternatives understand the need for consistent security and meet or exceed the HIPAA standards. They allow medical institutions to fax documents and information while encrypting the data and keeping it safe from security risks and potential threats.
From auditing and independent practices to banks and other large businesses, financial institutions deal with large quantities of private information daily. Their clients trust them to store and transfer their data safely. Breaches can have major consequences for the affected customers and reflect negatively on the company. Many financial documents are also time-sensitive, meaning there’s no time to wait for service availability to open up.
FoIP solutions cover all these areas and more. Online faxing can provide multiple levels of data security during storage and transmission stages. With encryption and secure data centers that can handle large amounts of information, businesses can be sure their clients aren’t exposed to risks like data theft or loss due to outages.
In addition to information safety, time is a significant factor in financial operations. From signing legally binding documents to performing and delivering tax audits on time, FoIP solutions will help ensure data reaches its recipient before deadlines. Online services allow senders to put multiple files through at once and receive them at the same time. Additionally, if an auditor has to respond to important faxes, they can access the document, download it and send reply faxes from anywhere — in the office, from home or on the road.
In the manufacturing industry, time is a valuable asset. These companies need to stay in constant communication with their partners, suppliers and clients, and any delay in response time could greatly affect a manufacturing company’s top-line revenue or cause a backup in their projects, pushing deadlines and extending work periods.
By using FoIP services, companies in the manufacturing industry can ensure their documents reach their recipients quickly and without fail. Online faxing sends everything virtually, meaning a fast delivery and response time. For documents that require signatures or work clearances and plan approvals, having a direct and quick method of communication is incredibly important. Cloud faxing also allows the sender to process and receive multiple documents simultaneously, meaning no wait time.
On top of speed, FoIP can also help bring expenses down, allowing companies to price their services more competitively. By moving faxing capabilities and storage off-site to a cloud-hosted system, manufacturers can cut down on their service and IT costs significantly.
How Does FoIP Differ From Email?
At first, it’s easy to think that FoIP has similar functionality as an email system. However, it’s far more secure and allows you to send information directly to a fax number. It’s essential software for businesses that rely on faxing for information communication. It’s also a necessary form of transmission for businesses that deal with particularly sensitive customer information, such as healthcare and pharmaceutical companies.
For those who do need to send and receive confidential or personal data, there are often security regulations and acts in place that require you to have a reliable transmission system. For example, compliance with HIPAA requires you to have a form of secure messaging for sensitive information and data sent outside your internal email network or firewall. And encryption isn’t enough to fulfill the requirements described in the act.
There’s also the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which reforms business practices by requiring higher levels of security and reliability from corporate organizations, accounting teams and independent auditing firms. As with HIPAA, it restricts companies from sending emails containing sensitive information or private data, as it is an unreliable means of transmission.
To make emails compliant with these acts — if your company can in the first place — you’d have to resort to some complex solutions. However, FoIP faxing has better security, meaning you don’t have to use email to transfer sensitive data at all. Online business fax uses servers with improved protections intended for sending and receiving data of any nature.
The Benefits of FoIP
With the improved capabilities and integration of cloud-based services, FoIP is becoming more and more popular with companies of every size and industry. The software that drives the system is always growing and improving, meaning you can continually upgrade to stay as productive as possible.
Business fax over IP services have no shortage of advantages, including:
Many FoIP service providers and software options can help streamline your company’s workflow by connecting your faxing capabilities to your internet services. Having this setup also allows you to integrate and automate processes. For example, for companies that handle health records, their workers frequently have to move documents from their system to other software and back.
By connecting their software to FoIP, they can automate document delivery processes. Additionally, FoIP allows your business to streamline your communication by using internet services as a single channel, rather than having a separate telephone line, which also helps to decrease costs.
Two of the most common deterrents that make many companies hesitate when it comes to integrating new software or hardware are the potential for installation downtime and slowing productivity with the learning curve. With FoIP, you won’t have to worry about either.
The installation process is easy and fast, and there’s a good chance your current IP infrastructure already supports it. If it does, then you already have everything you need, which keeps costs and time to a minimum. Also, there is virtually no learning curve for your employees to hurdle — FoIP integrates well with any workflow and allows individuals to access everything they need on a single dashboard.
Improved Security and Compliance
For many industries and companies, security is a major issue. Their reputation and the safety of their clients’ information relies upon the compliance of their communication systems. Any potential threats or risks can be damaging, especially for those in the financial or healthcare sectors.
Sending information through FoIP services is a reliable and safe form of communication and document transmission. You send data through a virtual fax number, which transfers your documents directly to your recipient’s email address with full encryption.
Computers and email inboxes are password-protected, making the transmitted information much harder to steal or lose. It also reduces risk by allowing the recipient to save the document directly to their computer, rather than printing and filing it. It keeps your sensitive data safe and keeps your company compliant with data regulations.
In the modern era, larger companies typically need to work harder to promote connectivity between their departments and workers. Many businesses have hundreds of employees, and in most cases, some or a significant portion work remotely. Remote work has been on an upward trend for years and continues to grow — as of 2016, 60% of national organizations offer partial or full-time telecommuting opportunities.
By taking your communication to an online platform, you streamline your services and allow your workers access to the same functionality. Those outside the office can use the software with ease, keeping them on the same page as your internal workforce. Cloud services make collaboration much more straightforward, especially when it comes to data communication.
Pairing With VoIP
Whether you’ve invested in VoIP services or not, it pairs well with FoIP. If you have made the switch from traditional telephone lines to VoIP, then you have a comparable idea of how it will work for faxing as well. But if you haven’t, the two go hand in hand, replacing telephone services with cloud-based internet servers. With both, you can bring your legacy telephone network service costs down to zero and focus solely on communication through the same server.
6 Reasons Why Businesses Use FoIP Solutions
There are many reasons why businesses are turning towards FoIP services. With so many benefits, including a distinct move towards greener, more streamlined practices and the future growth and reliability of software, online fax for businesses is expected to continue on an upward trend. Some of the top reasons companies switch to business fax over IP systems include:
1. Reducing Expenses
For companies that rely on faxing often, it’s important to reduce communication expenses as much as possible. Depending on how often your employees use fax to send or receive information, you can easily save money by adopting FoIP services. FoIP works to reduce your expenses in several ways:
- Less hardware: Most companies have an infrastructure that will support FoIP right away, meaning you likely won’t have to invest in any new devices. As long as you have high-speed internet capabilities, you’ll be ready for the switch.
- Fewer supplies: With FoIP, you can decrease your supply order costs significantly and put the money towards your software or service costs instead. Since the entire process of online faxing is virtualized, you’ll lower your toner and paper use.
- Lower maintenance needs: With FoIP, you can give your on-site IT team a break. Software providers have support teams to help you in the event of a connection error or other similar issues. They’ll handle any problems and your technicians can focus on other maintenance needs around the office.
- Fewer services: If you don’t use landlines or are trying to move towards VoIP communication, FoIP allows you to lump in faxing with your internet provider or VoIP lines. Overall, it decreases your need for a separate telephone plan and streamlines your system into a cloud-based server, meaning one bill and one provider.
2. Streamlining Workflow
In basic terms, FoIP solutions make communication simpler. There’s no need to scan printed faxes into your system to save them as computer files and barely even a reason to look away from your computer. You can pull up faxes instantaneously, group files together and collect information quickly. By consolidating all this functionality to a single online dashboard, your team will be able to work without unnecessary interruptions.
3. Increasing Flexibility
Flexibility is an essential quality for any company to have. It ensures you can do things like jump from one project to another with ease, communicate through multiple channels simultaneously and accommodate clients’ needs. FoIP solutions provide the kind of flexibility that allows your employees to complete their tasks faster and worry less about deadlines.
With FoIP, your team sends and receives faxes virtually, meaning a few things. For one, they can accept and respond to multiple faxes simultaneously. Two, they can receive faxes and check to make sure they went through accurately without being in the office, whether they’re on a business trip or out of the building for the day. Three, FoIP allows you to locate servers anywhere, improving the reliability and security of your faxes.
Since there’s no physical device necessary, your team can take their faxing jobs anywhere. As long as they can access their dashboard online, they’ll be ready for anything. Whether they’re on their phone, tablet or home computer, they can send and receive faxes without waiting.
4. Upgrading Quality
For data such as tables and graphs with small print or numbers, low-res settings can be a problem.
FoIP systems mean better quality images every time. Since the internet servers can relay information in clear, high-resolution attachments, you won’t have to worry about readability. It can also save time for those receiving faxes, as they won’t have to ask the sender to try for a clearer copy. When your data is easier to read, there’s a slimmer chance the recipient will make any reading errors.
5. Improving Security
One of the biggest reasons companies make a move to FoIP services is security. As previously mentioned, various regulations surround the sending and receiving of sensitive data, and email doesn’t make the cut. Healthcare companies, auditing firms, legal teams and many other industries need a service that’s reliable and decreases the risk of information falling into the wrong hands.
FoIP fits these requirements in several ways. First, any data sent through the software is encrypted to protect it through the transmission process. Since you use a direct virtual fax number, there’s also a slimmer chance of your fax ending up in the wrong hands, as it goes straight to your recipient’s password-protected email inbox. Using business FoIP will also help your company’s compliance with federal regulations, as many regard it as one of the safest methods of sending and receiving information.
6. Environmental Benefits
Beyond your company benefitting directly, you’ll also be helping the movement towards greener business practices. For those looking to decrease their waste and carbon footprint, FoIP services contribute significantly.
For one, they decrease your company’s contribution to landfills. With less need to print, you can use far less ink, saving you money and slowing your use. It can also bring down your daily paper use, as FoIP allows your employees to save faxed files directly to their computers. If employees sent 5% of faxes through online business faxing, it would save about 10 billion pieces of paper per year, which equates to about one million trees.
FoIP also helps bring down energy use. By integrating your information sending with internet services and using off-premises centers, you can significantly decrease the amount of power your company uses yearly.
Upgrade Your Company to FoIP Solutions With Softlinx
Investing in FoIP solutions will help you take on projects with improved communication speed and productivity. But you need to make sure you partner with the right provider for your business. Softlinx provides secure cloud-based faxing solutions for companies in healthcare and other industries that need to protect their data. We help improve your faxing workflow, creating a better environment for productivity and reducing HIPAA compliance risks.