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Fax Servers

That's not the case for FoIP (fax over IP) products. FoIP fax services bypass the PSTN and use TCP/IP LANs, WANs and the Internet to send and receive faxes. FoIP uses T.37 (store-and-forward) and T.38 (real-time) protocols. T.37 is an asynchronous transport that hangs on the coattails of e-mail. It is used to insert TIFF files into e-mail messages as attachments. The e-mail is sent to another e-mail client to view, print or save the attachment. This approach lacks a secure, point-to-point transmission, unless you apply encryption. The T.38 standard is a real-time protocol that lets you transmit faxes over TCP/IP using a gateway or fax relay without fax boards.

FoIP has gotten easier to use over the years, but it still doesn't beat the old-fashioned analog method, which is cheap, reliable, easy to use and secure. The old method requires only a modem or a fax board with software, and you can be faxing over a dedicated phone line in no time. An entry-level fax board from Brooktrout (TruFax 100 uPCI) can be had for as little as $399. And the fax servers we tested range from $695 to $8,995.

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Reviewing the Fax

We sought fax server software that supports an Intel architecture and can run on Windows 2000 or Windows Server 2003. Each server had a Brooktrout TR114 PCI analog fax board with one loop-start port and one DID (direct-inward dialing) port. (The loop-start port takes the phone off the hook to send and receive faxes; DID is used to route incoming faxes. For more on DID, see "Need Automatic Routing? DID Does It,".) We required fax servers that support DID to route incoming fax transmissions automatically. Without DID, faxes would require manual routing or universal user access to the entire incoming fax queue. We also required that the server use an Exchange connector or an SMTP gateway for integration with a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003.

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