The Fax Server Retirement Plan
Five self-assessment criteria for deciding if it’s time to move to the cloud
There is always a critical tipping point when it comes to technology—a point when you have to forget about that large investment your firm made several years ago and face the reality that it has outlived its usefulness. Since attorneys are now practicing wherever and whenever they choose, the traditional fax machine is an example of a diminishing asset worthy of retirement consideration: They are expensive, require energy, maintenance fees and constant support. Yet faxing hasn’t gone away…not by a long shot.
Faxed documents still maintain a legal stature not ascribed to email and as the legal industry continues along its digital path, security will remain a top concern, especially with the explosion of mobile office workers.
What technology replaces the traditional fax machine? Hosted fax services, also known as cloud fax services. No hardware, software, telephone lines or paper needed. And no upfront investment or ongoing support and maintenance costs. You only pay for the fax volume that you actually use, so if you see fax volume decline, you aren’t married to a technology investment that overwhelms its present value.
Hosted fax services supplant the fax machine for law firms with varying fax volumes, multiple office locations and mobile staff. Employees are assigned their own secure fax number linked to their email address, allowing them to send or receive faxes as email attachments. Hosted services also provide secure transmissions, usually via encrypted Transport Layer Security (TLS) between users and the hosted servers.
As we operate in an increasingly mobile work environment, here are five important questions to answer to determine if it’s time for your firm to move to a cloud-based fax solution:
- How many faxes do you send each day? Fax volume often goes unmeasured because once the infrastructure is in place the actual document flow goes unnoticed until the fax traffic strains capacity of the server. Fax machines require constant monitoring of system capacity to ensure the solution is right for your firm. While scaling up (adding telephone-lines and/or servers) can be slow and time-consuming, scaling back is usually not an option.
- Is your fax volume consistent or do you have peaks and valleys? Owning the equipment and infrastructure for faxing means you need to purchase hardware and bandwidth that can accommodate your highest usage level. This isn’t so much an issue if you have a little daily fluctuation in the number of faxes sent and received. More likely however, you may have peak usage periods where contracts, pleadings or motions are sent, or incoming reports are due. In this situation, you have faxing overhead that may be capable of a much higher volume yet is severely underutilized.
- Is your organization distributed? The golden age of fax machines occurred in the 1990s as companies looked to centralize core services for easier management and cost savings. Since then, most law firms have seen that a distributed model better serves their needs. If you have work-from-home associates or multiple offices, then having a fax mahcine in one location may not be the most efficient—or most reliable—system.
- Is your telephony environment digital? Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has changed telecommunications. With sound quality equaling public switched telephone networks (PSTN), over 80 percent of companies have adopted VoIP. Yet many law firms maintain analog telephony service just to support fax machines. If you have already made the switch to VoIP—or are in the process of doing so—continuing to support an in-house fax machine will mean maintaining unnecessary telephony costs.
- What is your cost for each page faxed? How much does it cost your firm for each page that you send or receive? Tracking page volume is often unknown and the costs can be even more convoluted considering hardware and software maintenance, electricity, telephone lines, and employee time for maintenance and management. If you run an analysis of all these numbers you might be surprised to find that your actual cost per transmission is higher than you would suspect. With hosted fax services this number is much easier to obtain and control.
Conduct a self-analysis and answer these questions about your faxing environment at your law firm. Knowing your current situation will prepare you to take an analytical approach to the best available solutions.
Tim Dubes is a Senior Enterprise Marketing Manager with eFax Corporate
®, a division of j2 Global, Inc., a global provider of business cloud and digital media services. eFax Corporate is the world’s leading online fax provider and helps thousands of companies in highly-regulated industries, including the legal industry, transmit and manage sensitive documents efficiently and securely.