Fax is not a sexy technology – but it's still the most secure and reliable way to send important business documents, according to Vox Amvia's Boudje Giljam.
Vox Amvia, the fax division of independent telecommunications group Vox Telecom, manages fax services for more than 90% of South Africa's top 200 companies via its RightFax server technology.
"Email is fantastic for most business communication, but for anything that resembles a contract or agreement, fax is still the safest option," says Giljam. "Look at how email disclaimers always warn that email is not secure. It can be intercepted, tampered with, corrupted, lost, destroyed, arrive late or incomplete, or contain viruses. That's why investment houses and brokerages will only accept time-sensitive, action oriented messages like buy and sell orders via fax."
Giljam says fax messages are far harder to intercept or tamper with than email, and it is easier to maintain an audit trail. "A fax is delivered either instantly or not at all, and you know about it instantly. The audit trail is built in."
It's not just time sensitive and action oriented information that's better sent by fax, says Giljam. "Any communication that starts or ends a process, like a purchase order or credit application, needs a reliable delivery method. So does any communication that could form part of a legal agreement. If there are ever legal questions about exactly what was agreed, by whom and when, faxes carry high evidentiary weight – a judge will usually consider fax evidence as more reliable and trustworthy than email evidence."
Keeping track of faxed documents on paper can be a problem, though. "If you're not managing your fax communication properly, then you're negating most of the advantages of using it," says Giljam. "That's why fax servers like RightFax are so widely used in banks and other large companies."
Without a fax server, says Giljam, fax can become almost as unreliable as email. "If everything goes to a fax machine, an important instruction can sit neglected until someone picks it up, or any passer-by can read confidential information while it's waiting. The problem is worst when the fax machine is a multi-function device that also serves the entire office as a printer and copier."
Fortunately, says Giljam, most of these multi-function devices can be connected to the office IP network – and because that's possible, they can also be connected to a fax server.
"Fax servers change the picture dramatically," he says. "They provide all the security and reliability of traditional fax, with a clear audit trail. They can route faxes to the most appropriate delivery point, notify key people of delivery, provide a searchable archive and even eliminate paper from the process entirely, by delivering each fax to a secure desktop inbox."