Costs and Risks of Using Fax Machines in Business Today

By: Rob Nelsonfax

While email and other electronic forms of information sharing, such as text, are now standard forms of business communications, fax machine usage remains a prominent form of communications as well.  Businesses and organizations, however, commonly do a poor job of managing the costs and risks associated to business practices requiring fax communications.

Any business or organization using fax technology to communicate should take the necessary time to consider what is being communicated, what security and confidentiality risks these communications pose and what costs are involved in using thistechnology.  There are alternatives to these considerations that are far more advantageous than continuing to use fax communications.  Consider:

  • The documents still being faxed typically contain business information that is vital to businesses
  • The information is often ad hoc information, not readily attainable from other business information infrastructures
  • Security is a major concern when there is no record of what information is sent and received over fax machines (tracking and managing paper faxes is time-consuming at best and opens organizations up to serious breaches and risks at worst)
  • Regulatory compliance is a serious concern when there are no built-in document retention and privacy measures and no inherent ways for controlling and monitoring documents on fax machines (HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc.)
  • Faxed documents are at risk of physical damage or total loss due to disasters such as floods, fire, etc.

Most organizations have given little or no thought to these and other factors related to fax communications despite ongoing significant losses of productivity, excess costs associated to fax operations (phone lines, consumables, service/maintenance, etc.) and the potential for major economic costs if information is lost or misused.

Today’s technologies offer several alternatives to traditional fax practices.  These include:

  • Multifunctional Devices (MFD’s) that provide electronic send and receive options
  • Email
  • Fax Servers
  • Desktop Faxing

Each of these provides significant benefits depending on need, business processes, costs and more.

The easiest and most common alternative is utilizing an MFD that can send and receive faxes electronically through email, network folders, or other electronic file management process.  Based on workflows, these documents can be routed appropriately, secured and stored permanently, retrieved instantaneously, etc.  And the cost to use networks to transfer information is usually a fixed cost with no variables such as consumables, phone lines, service, etc.  This can equate to a savings of $0.20 per page or more as compared to traditional faxing.  When also factoring in the risk costs such as litigation due to confidentiality breaches or lost documents, along with the cost of productivity loss associated with paper records management, the typical organization can save and/or avoid dollars-per-page when comparing new technologies to traditional fax usage.

As is always the case, a thorough evaluation of business needs and practices will justify the most effective technologies and processes required for optimal productivity and efficiency and prevent the common failures that come with making decisions on price alone.

Sources:

Info World
Robert Frances Group
Bright Hub
Natural Data

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