For companies that have long been using voice over internet protocol (VoIP) for communications, the next emerging step is a move to unified communications. The single application allows enterprises to access a variety of features and improves efficiency in decision-making with collaborative tools. It is available as a managed service and can remove the maintenance and hardware costs that come with a legacy phone system.
Many enterprises find that it is a relatively seamless jump to go from VoIP to unified communications, and for companies of all sizes, it offers options such as digital receptionist and call forwarding that lend a professional presentation to all communications.
There is one area where unified communications implementations can hit a speed bump: the fax line. If you are still running your fax number over a legacy landline, be aware that fax does not always make the transition to VoIP well. The high failure rate can be a particular problem if your enterprise works in a highly regulated industry, such as finance, legal, or health care.
One simple solution is to keep your fax line on the old telephone line, but because one of the main motivations for implementing VoIP and unified communications is the removal of monthly telephone charges, this option can be a frustration.
Why Doesn’t Fax Work Well With VoIP and Unified Communications? It may seem like an odd case, but the problems aren’t really limited to fax. Anything that uses a built-in analog modem, such as credit card readers, will have trouble. Alarm systems are also affected in the same way. The modems use sound to transmit data, but the connection must be an excellent one — without any interruption in quality.
The primary fax protocol, T.30, was designed to connect machines using the public switched telephone network (PSTN), offering a dedicated line with bandwidth fixed between the two machines. Latency is steady and there is no risk of jitter. In other words, it is a solid, high-quality connection. The PSTN also has a clock, so there is never any difficulty with synchronizing the transmission.
Fax machines transmit data with messages and tones that cannot be compressed. When you attempt to use a VoIP line, there can be problems with latency, jitter, and dropped packets. The problem is complicated by the fact that a fax machine isn’t equipped to say, “I’m sorry; I didn’t catch that last part.”
There are also problems with session initiation protocol (SIP), because if the timing is off between two fax machines, the transmission gets out of sync and the call is simply dropped.
Is There Any Solution? In some situations, a T.38 protocol is useful for hiding the IP network from the fax machines at each end, covering up the synchronization issues. Some carriers have never implemented T.38, so it’s a good question to ask when adding unified communications with the hope of using it for fax lines.
To learn more about potential challenges with a unified communications transition, contact us at Cory Communications. From choosing the right unified communications solution to identifying any problems that could come up during implementation, we can ensure your transition is a smooth one.