Fax Server

Q: What is a fax server? What can a fax server do that a fax machine can’t do?

A fax server is a software application installed on a computer that is equipped with one or more fax modems. The fax server software communicates with a local area network and the modem(s), enabling users on the network to send and receive faxes from their computers via the fax server’s computer and modem(s).

Compared to paper fax machines, fax servers are pretty nifty. Workers don’t have to leave their desks to send or retrieve faxes. They need not stand in line. The cost savings on paper, fax toner, and other supplies can be significant in even a modest office. The number of fax phone lines in a large office can be reduced; the fax server can store many fax documents digitally and send them out as lines become free.

For sending faxes, there are several options.

An email message can serve as a cover letter, with one or more document files attached that will be faxed as if they were a stack of printed pages. The email and attachments are sent to a special fax server email address. The fax server “reads” its email, converts it and the attached documents to fax file fomat, and sends them out.

Office productivity applications such as Microsoft Office can “print” faxes directly to the fax server. The driver software that handles this function appears as another printer option in the productivity software’s printing options.

A Web interface can accept uploaded files and send them to a fax server for processing and transmission. This Web interface may be on a corporate intranet or available from anywhere on the Internet.

For incoming faxes, users have several options too.

A fax may arrive at a user’s desktop as an email with file attachments containing the incoming fax. Such files are typically in TIFF or PDF format.

Incoming fax files may be written to a folder on the user’s hard drive. A software application alerts the user to newly arrived faxes and allows searching, browsing, viewing, and printing fax files.

A Web site may be the user’s interface to fax files, similar to Web-based email such as Google Mail.

Fax servers are money-saving productivity enhancements in any office that does a lot of business via fax.

Do you have a question about faxing? Send me your fax question.