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jargon busters mainJargon Busters -
Faxing en Route - (September 1999)
Fax routing brings many benefits to businesses sending a large number of faxes. David Angwin explains why and shows how it works.

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Companies that send and receive a significant volume of faxes or have multiple office locations may choose to deploy multiple fax servers on their corporate network. This helps to minimise telephone charges for sending faxes, increase the capacity of the fax infrastructure to send and receive more faxes and enhance the reliability of the fax infrastructure.

Transparent routing

In order to realise these benefits, the fax server software used must implement fax routing features – routing outbound faxes from one fax server to another within the corporate network. This routing is achieved without the user being aware of it. Fax confirmations are delivered in the normal way while behind the scenes the system administrator can optimise fax deliveries. The concept of fax routing is simple. A user creates a fax on his desktop computer and sends it to the fax server. A fax routing program determines if it should send the fax or route it to another server to be sent from there. The network may be a local area network, a corporate wide area network or the public Internet. The key to successful and efficient fax routing is in configuring fax servers to know when to route a fax from one server to another. Simple routing logic can be defined in routing tables. More complex routing logic can be defined in routing scripts, or even fully-fledged routing programs.

Least Cost Routing

Least Cost Routing provides a simple, efficient solution for a company to minimise long-distance telephone charges from sending faxes. For example, if a company has offices in London and New York, it can make significant savings by having the New York server send faxes to US numbers, even though a fax may originate from someone in London. To set this up, the system administrator configures the server to automatically route any fax to a number beginning with 001 (the international code for the US) via the New York server. The international code is automatically removed so the correct number can be dialled from New York. This configuration is achieved using a simple table.

Global Routing

Large organisations require additional capabilities for routing faxes from one fax server to another in their large, distributed networks. The table-based approach to routing often does not meet the needs of these organisations as there are other factors to be considered when determining the best route for sending a fax.

Global Routing provides these key features:

  • Routes faxes based on a combination of fax attributes and local server attributes
  • Lets system managers control routing parameters
  • Reacts to changes in network traffic on the LAN/WAN
  • Links to commercial and Internet fax service providers for delivering faxes
  • Provides secondary methods for delivering a fax when the primary method fails

The system administrator defines Global Routing scripts that specify the conditions when a fax should be routed to and sent from a specific fax server. From within the script, the administrator can evaluate virtually any property of an individual fax, any of the company’s fax servers and the workload and availability of those fax servers at a given time. This information enables the administrator to define the optimum route for a fax under any set of circumstances. External fax services offer lower prices for sending faxes internationally using their own private telecommunications network to route the fax close to its final destination before sending the fax over a standard telephone line from that point. Some Internet Service Providers have also begun to offer fax services to their customers, providing lower rates for broadcasting a single fax document to many recipients.

The intelligence of Global Routing is in the scripts that the system administrator defines to determine when the system will use each routing option to deliver a fax. With Omtool’s Fax Sr., Smart Scripts use a simple, natural language script that evaluates the properties of the fax, the fax servers and the network and then specifies routing instructions to follow based on these properties.

In some cases, to determine the optimum route for sending a fax, the administrator may need to consider properties that are not accessible within the scripting language. By allowing the administrator to develop a separate User Script using any common programming language (C++, Visual Basic, Perl, etc…) and then link this program and its routing logic into the Global Routing system, this provides the ultimate flexibility for managing routing within the company’s fax server infrastructure.

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