Fax machines still exists.
Much to the chagrin of many IT professionals and decision makers.
Why do they exists? Is there value to fax machines, and what purposes do they serve?
We at DigiSync IT sought to answer this question.
A little history of the trusty fax machine.
Fax (aka facsimile) machines have been around since before the invention of the telephone. The telephone has been around for over 100 years. Nowadays we’ve got more advanced technologies thanks to the internet facilitating digital signature services, portable scanners and apps.
So, why is fax not dead?
The difference between fax, eFax, and email.
In the context of compliance and auditing, you need to know the differences between the various types of faxing.
With compliance, you should be asking questions like:
- Is our faxing procedure efficient?
- Are we secure?
- Are we compliant?
- Do we meet our industry standards for security compliance?
Here are the basics about how fax, eFax, and email work.
Traditional Fax Machines.
A traditional fax machine sends faxes via a plain old analog telephone line and the document content is transmitted in the form of audio via binary signals.
The document gets scanned one line at a time, detecting and translating the color/black and white into electricity with either high or low voltage.
The receiving end printer knows to add ink for black and skip the white space to generate a copy of the document communicated.
Going forward we know that more and more companies are using internet for telecommunication. Messages that companies might think are traveling over that single analog line might actually be switching between that and one or more carrier services.
This certainly deserves attention from a security perspective. Traditional faxes, while reliable may or may not be secure.
eFax (aka electronic facsimile) allows its users to communicate with others’ traditional fax machines by sending and receiving the messages via the internet.
This is less expensive when comparing to a traditional fax machine, especially when having to maintain the fax machine with things like consumables (supplies). Also, this technology makes computer users who need to fax things happy because it’s convenient. You can even use digital signatures, and send the same message to multiple recipients at once.
eFax works by sending attachments over email to a physical fax machine. The risk of having fax copies sitting on the fax machine for anyone to grab or missing some pages that are still coming through is obviously eliminated, which implies better security. On the other hand, the most significant security consideration is that these virtual messages do travel across the internet.
It’s an e-mail attachment that takes much of the same path as a traditional e-mail.
Email is computer-based communication.
The outgoing mail is gathered by your Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), which is responsible for determining where to send your email and how based on how you put together your message.
Then the SMTP server contacts another server, the Domain Name Server (DNS) to translate the domain you put in as the recipient into the appropriate IP address that the internet can understand. The DNS sends the email to the recipients mail exchange server, the Mail Transfer Agent (MTA), where it finds its way to the recipients inbox by getting fetched from the MTA via POP (Post Office Protocol) or IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol).
We could go on, but the overall idea is this: emails get sent over the internet via a combination of communication networks, servers, and mail clients, with multiple intersections and touch-points as a result.
Which one is the most secure?
The answer is ‘it depends.’
Both eFax and email are traversing the ‘net.
Still, we want to be clear: traditional fax is not always the most secure option. It’s not always the most secure because traditional fax is unencrypted. (there are encryption-enabled machines available)
Hypothetically speaking, anyone who can tap into that analog phone line would be able to also receive that message with the right equipment.
There’s also the security consideration that a fax could be sitting on a physical receiving machine for a while before anybody picks it up, leaving it pretty susceptible to interception.
Nonetheless, it is still perceived as the most secure form of document transfer.
In which cases would eFax or email be more secure?
The more security measures in place, the more secure the communication.
There are multiple methods available for eFax or email to be made more secure:
- Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocols can be employed to ensure the privacy and safety of the data over its journey.
- Encryption for both the at-rest (stored) and transmitting data.
- Password protection of both accounts and messages in some cases.
- Audit trails to track the path of messages, to ensure secure delivery.
- Authentication of senders and recipients for added security.
- Using industry-standard security practices and strong encryption, as well as some of the above additional measures, can actually bring eFax and email to a much more secure level than what traditional fax can offer.
Traditional fax machines still exist because the fax has credibility.
A whole host of businesses still rely heavily on faxing. Ongoing use with minimal reports of security interruptions that are drowned out by reports of internet-related cyber risks, combined with the facts we outline above and below, perpetuate it’s prevalence.
It continues to hold as the preferred method for transmitting documents across regulated industries.
Standards exist formally, in fact, for these regulated industries like finance and healthcare.
Fax as the primary not in-person communication method has been the required mode for most of these sectors because of the fact that the technology has for so long been legally vetted for signature requirements especially.
As a result, it has the reputation, or illusion, as the most safe and secure.
Regardless of what we know about technology’s ability to enhance operational efficiency and boost productivity, so many companies have cold feet. We get it.
There is one main reason for this.
Many IT and technology decision makers are afraid that technology will replace work that we do as humans, and threatens job security.
Increasing Efficiency With Technology.
Business technology is developed and designed to improve communication-success.
Fax is no exception, and the same is true for subsequent solutions like secure cloud communication.
Although the job of walking to the printer, scanning a document, determining it’s intended recipient, waiting for the transaction to complete, receiving the confirmation, and returning with the document to one’s desk might seem efficient and safe, other services have been developed to save you time, save you money, and diminish security risks.
Take control of your office communications.
Left unencrypted and unaccounted for, there are high security risks to sending secure information over email or eFax.
We can help you to better understand business technology like this and determine how to best position your technology to drive your business. Now that you know a bit more about fax and how to avoid the typical issues with sending faxes, and eFax inside your Los Angeles business, learn more about how we can help. Email us here to learn more about how we can help your business make your data a priority.