Fax is not yet dead

You might think that fax would be as extinct as the Martinique Parrot. That parrot vanished in the 17th Century. Fax was invented two hundred years later, by the Scottish clockmaker, Alexander Bain. It took a while though, until the late 20th Century, for facsimile machines to become popular. However, if the lack of commentary by the majority of today’s technology observers is anything to go by, you’d be forgiven for thinking it too had died out. The truth is that it remains extant, and it shows little sign of going the way of the Martinique.

Like many PSTN technologies, SS7 for example, there is longevity and tenacity associated with fax. On reflection, that should not be too surprising. Fax continues to be a cornerstone of original document transferral, and has remained surprisingly resistant to the encroachment of more advanced technologies. Analysts ignore it, because they thrive on the discovery of new species of technology. The user community carries on regardless.

The attractions of fax are well established. Apart from its ease of use and real-time nature, it provides a reliable and secure method of transmitting contracts and other legal documents, résumés, illustrations, and POs. Furthermore, it leaves a paper trail that’s considered to be legal proof of delivery, and it remains an acceptable form of archiving.

Regulated industries such as healthcare, law and finance remain insistent users. That is the case globally, and it’s probably a good example of the universal adage, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

The tenacious nature of fax is reinforced by its adaptability. As circuit switched has moved to packet switched, so too has fax moved to fax-over-IP. So the transport medium has changed, but faxing remains embedded in standard practice. Back in the day, fax was implemented using DSP boards offering up to 30 channels of transmit and receive. That is until Aculab introduced Prosody™, offering hundreds of channels on the same real estate. These days, fax is deployed in the cloud, using soft resources as opposed to DSPs, where channel count has ceased to be a limiting factor.

Fax remains a staple offering from Aculab, via hardware and software for those who want it, and also via Aculab Cloud. The advantages of cloud are well established, and for those who wish to avoid the perennial cost of hardware maintenance and software support, it is an attractive option. A good example of that is in healthcare, where electronic medical record and practice management solutions rely on Aculab Cloud for fax communications.

So if you can predict the last sighting of a fax machine ‘in the wild’ i.e., outside of a museum, you’re probably going to win next week’s lottery jackpot. From my perspective, I’d advise against rushing to buy that ticket.

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