How faxing with T.38 can be more reliable

Posted on May 14, 2013 by

The one way to ensure Internet faxes go through

Communications have, for the most part, gone digital. Even telecom’s mothership is begging regulators to be let off the analog leash. As with any evolution, old habits cling to the past like sharp pointy barnacles.

With the domestication of the Internet and email late last century, experts bet their first borns on the death of paper in the workplace. They lost. For a whole lot of reasons. One of those reasons is the reality that, despite the miracle of scanners, some business processes still require physical fax transmission. It’s a question of convenience and complacency says Tilghman Lesher, author of the faxing chapter in AsteriskTM: The Definitive Guide, 4th Edition, due out May 2013 from O’Reillly.

“Until a machine which scans and sends an email as easily as business people use a fax machine, we’re never going to see the end of fax,” Tilghman explained. Adding that, “Convenience always is the winner when it comes to business decisions. Only when interop or security begin to influence convenience (or profitability) do business decisions bow to their concerns.” Who needs document security anyway…

Finding a solution that works is frustrating.

It should be easy. Yet, instead of going about your business, you find yourself resending faxes over and over with your fingers crossed and your voice gone hoarse from all the yelling.

It’s not your fault. In the land of digital connections (even analog, actually), faxing poses a problem. Lesher says, “It has a great deal to do with the problem of an inexact standard, whereby you can have a dozen implementations, and they’re all mutually incompatible with one another.” Then he added, “Getting fax to work consistently over VoIP was always such a bear.”

Basically, faxing is faxing’s problem. And that’s what brings you here, to the Internet, reading everything you can. Digging past page nine of your Google search. Praying someone has the magic bullet to shoot the fax monkey off your back and get your signed contracts where they need to be before EOD three time zones east of here.

Here’s why fax over the Internet is hard.

Digital transmissions like your VoIP connection send communications in a series of tiny data packets. With so many packets flying around all over the tubes-o-the-web, loss is a fairly regular occurrence. When the connection is voice, an interruption or missing packet isn’t a big deal. You probably won’t even notice.

But when it comes to faxing, a lost packet equals a lost transmission, because each packet is a piece of the picture, and without it, the receiving end (a robot built out of rules) gives up rather than interpolate, just like it was programmed to. Which is why, even Mr. Lesher gave up on it at one point. “When I was working at a company provisioning Asterisk systems, we finally came to the point where we only provisioned POTS lines for fax, and ditched the aggravation of getting fax to work over anything else,” he explains.

Here’s how it can be easy.

The magic bullet you’ve been reading for.

The T.38 protocol is like the bible. It’s a protocol that can be interpreted, and implemented in many ways. And it often is. Which is where problems arise – miscommunications get in the way of success, and there’s a lot of yelling. But when T.38 is communicated correctly, communications flow smoothly and there is peace.

Different service and hardware providers work with T.38 in different ways. So inevitably, packets are lost in translation. You need a connection gateway, a mediator if you will, that can translate both ways to ensure mutual understanding.

So the one way to ensure all your T.38 transmissions go through is to choose a provider that doesn’t just support the protocol, but one that can speak the language of T.38 fluently enough to get all parties on the same page, literally.

Flowroute is one such provider. We completely understand the need for T.38 (in the same sort of way we understand our dads need to wear socks with their sandals). And if our customers need it, we know it needs to work. So we’ve put the time and effort into making sure it does. Our platform normalizes T.38 signaling to catch and repair incompatibilities between sender and receiver in real-time, while in transit, so that all packets get through as intended and your fax is the spitting image of the original.

In the meantime, it’s easy for providers to say they support T.38. But companies that are simply opening a T.38 gateway without mediating the connection are placing a bet with crossed fingers just like those office document experts of the 90s whose children were raised by bookies.


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