CommercePath HostFax: Hosting the Enterprise Faxing System
Product Profile: CommercePath’s HostFax Server
In a society where we beg the microwave to hurry up, efficiency rules. One area in the enterprise that is being made more efficient is faxing. The already near-instant communication tool is being tweaked by software developers to become quicker and cheaper. The products being introduced make the entire process electronic and accessible to any desktop user.
One such product is the HostFax server from CommercePath (www.commercepath.com). This product is a module that, as the name implies, enables faxing from a host. Residing on CommercePath's Windows NT-based server, the module allows faxing from almost any platform or application.
The process begins when the host's print output is directed to the server, which reformats the host output information as individual documents. The fax server then overlays each document with a specified electronic form and sends it via fax as a finished document. The result is higher efficiency: no user intervention -- such as printing on letterhead or filling out cover sheets -- no paper costs, no postage fees.
The fax server generates a fax status data log that notes the date and time the document was sent, the name and number to which it was sent and a confirmation that the transmission was successful.
Koch Industries Inc., which offers refined industrial products and services, uses CommercePath's HostFax module. Koch sends out hundreds of ship notices, bills and purchase orders everyday, which the company had sent by U.S. mail before HostFax was installed. The decision to change over to faxing was not a difficult one, says Todd Boatwright, electronic commerce analyst at Koch Industries. "Faxing saved money, so it was an easy decision. We're saving about 90 percent [of what we spent before]," he says.
Koch has HostFax running 24 outbound fax lines. The company also has CommercePath's NetLink installed. NetLink allows outbound faxes to be sent from any Windows application and from any desktop on the network.
HostFax, however, is not without fault. One of the biggest problems Boatwright encountered was trying to get the T1 lines set up correctly with the phone company so the fax system would work. Also, the fax server easily accepts homegrown applications, but it is not so accepting of off-the-shelf or canned applications. The server is unable to reformat canned applications and overlay them onto forms to be sent via fax unless the user goes into the canned document itself and alters its configuration. "We've been able to do it, but it has not been pretty," Boatwright says.
Boatwright chose HostFax because it was a simple solution to a large problem that could save his company a lot of money. But the main reason Koch Industries sticks with this specific fax server is because of CommercePath’s service and technical support, Boatwright says. For example, when Koch was getting ready to upgrade some equipment, CommercePath sent the company a spare server to use while CommercePath installed and tested the upgrades. "A lot of companies have good products but their tech support is iffy. I wish all the companies I had to deal with were like [CommercePath]."