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Caution: Moving To VoIP May Interfere With Fax

Many finance professionals at credit unions are looking at moving to Voice over IP (VoIP) phone service as a way of adding capabilities while reducing costs. What credit union leaders may not realize, though, is that a gain in one area could cause a serious issue in another. In this case, adding VoIP means you could lose your ability to send and receive faxes.

If you've been using a fax machine, you probably had a dedicated phone line for it. When you make the move to VoIP, the "additional" phone line will be removed along with the others.

Sure, you can always keep a phone line strictly for the fax machine. But that defeats the purpose of moving to VoIP — especially if you're sending faxes to area codes outside your own. You'll need to pay both a local and long-distance carrier just to maintain the ability to fax. And you'll still be stuck having to go to the office to send and receive faxes, even though one of the purposes of moving to a VoIP system is to improve mobility.

There Is An Alternative
There is an alternative, however, that fits your intentions much better: an Internet fax service. As VoIP does for voice, an Internet fax service allows you to send and receive faxes anywhere you can get an Internet connection — your office, your home, a customer's location, a truck stop, the airport or even your favorite fast food restaurant or purveyor of fine coffee.

When you receive an Internet fax, it appears as an attachment in your e-mail — no phone connection required. Better services also have an online component that allows you to send and receive faxes when you can't access your e-mail. Everything is handled electronically, making faxes easy to store, carry with you, search and even back up so you don't lose an important document as can happen with a paper fax. With the right Internet fax solution, you can save faxes online for up to one year.

Faxes sent and received through an Internet fax service are also greener. You can send documents electronically from your laptop or other device rather than having to print them and run them through a machine. With received faxes, you only print the pages you choose to print (if any), greatly reducing your monthly expenditures for paper and toner. Since there's no separate machine, you don't have to worry about how to recycle it when it gives out, and you don't have to pay to keep it powered up in case a fax comes in. It all piggybacks on technology you're already using for other purposes, helping you save money as well as the planet.

Problematic Protocols
Is there a way to connect your current fax machine directly to a VoIP system so you can keep using it? Yes. The problem is, the protocols used for VoIP and faxing don't play well together. It takes a lot of work by expensive experts to make it happen, and more work to keep it running.

Contrast that with an Internet fax service, where as part of your few dollars per month fee, the service takes care of all the technology for you without ever touching your own network. You can even find an Internet fax service that doesn't require software downloads. Consider the mobility and other advantages, and it's easy to see why an Internet fax service is the best option for faxing in a VoIP environment.

If you're thinking of upgrading your phone service to VoIP, it's the perfect time to reconsider your fax options as well. An Internet fax service will allow you to not only maintain your faxing capabilities but improve on them. 

Luc Vezina is the director of MyFax product marketing for Protus (www.protus.com), a provider of communications tools for small-to-medium businesses. He can be reached at lvezina@protus.com.

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