Posted on February 14, 2019 by Casey Houser
It isn’t enough to tell you that VirtualPBX offers an Email-to-Fax service. You want to know, truly and in detail, How can I send a fax from email?
Look no further than this step-by-step guide about how to prepare your documents and setup a workflow for digital faxing.
In the following sections, we’ll discuss the structure of a fax email, document types required for sending, and a few ways in which you can speed up the faxing process.
Structure of a Fax Email
There are only two parts to a fax email: The Recipient Address and the Email Attachment.
Both are easy to prepare with a practiced hand. Today, we’ll do a little research in your VirtualPBX Business Phone System account to get you up to speed.
When you send a fax from email, the To: field of your email will need to contain an address that looks, for example, like firstname.lastname@example.org.
The structure is similar to other email addresses like email@example.com. It follows the structure of recipient’s-phone-number@your-account-realm, so the example address above would send a fax from a VirtualPBX account to the phone number 1(123)456-7890.
You can find your own Account Realm address on the right-hand side of the dashboard of your VirtualPBX account. It looks like the image shown here.
Your Account Realm will look different from the one shown above. It’s unique to your own account, and you use it every time you send a fax from email.
All that’s left is to plug in your recipient’s phone number.
Your fax email won’t need a message. Instead, you attach a document to the email. Then VirtualPBX recognizes the document and faxes its pages to your recipient.
For instance, if you attached a PDF of an invoice with a cover sheet, it would send that two-page document as a regular fax to the destination phone number you provided.
Any text you include in the body of your email should be ignored when your fax is sent. Make sure everything you want to say is in your attached file.
The only caveat here is that you need to attach the correct type of file. Keep reading.
Document Types Required for Sending
VirtualPBX only accepts two distinct types of files as attachments in this situation: PDF and TIFF.
We can’t get into the particulars of every computer program here. However, many computer programs can save or export files to the PDF and TIFF formats.
The Portable Document Format (PDF) is widely used and can carry both text and images as your faxed document. The image here shows how you can create a PDF in Google Docs.
In that case, you navigate in your main toolbar to File -> Download as -> PDF Document (.pdf).
If you choose to use the VirtualPBX Free Fax Cover Sheet (linked in the previous section), you can add pages to that file and save the entire document as a PDF from within Google Docs.
The process for other programs like Microsoft Word, LibreOffice, OpenOffice, and others will follow a similar pattern.
In a pinch, you can also use your web browser’s Print function to save websites and other documents viewable in Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE, and Edge. Just navigate to File -> Print… and select Print to File before selecting your file name (with .pdf extension) and download location.
The Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) is used by many graphic artists for its flexibility. It’s an excellent choice for sending as an fax email attachment if you only want to send an image.
Many image editors like Adobe Photoshop can save files as TIFFs.
With Photoshop you would choose File -> Save As… and then select TIFF from the Format menu.
Again, a similar process should occur with other programs, including the open source GIMP image editor, where you can select either Save or Export from the File menu to create a TIFF.
Speed Up Your Faxing Process
The best way to speed up this process is to make everything in your workflow standardized.
Stick with a single program. Whether you send many text-based or image-based faxes, pick your favorite program for creating your fax documents. Then learn its document export process well.
You may choose Google Docs because you can access it from anywhere. Its save-to-PDF process is also simple and straightforward. Once you’ve done it a few times, you can do it quickly and without thinking.
Always export PDFs or TIFFs to the same directory. Regardless of the program you use, save its files to the same directory. This will make it simple to find your faxes when you import them into an email.
Save your VirtualPBX Account Realm as an email contact. You can create a special contact in your address book for easy access. Using the example from earlier, you could create firstname.lastname@example.org as a new contact.
Then when you search your address book, you can simply replace the word fax in the address for your recipient’s fax number. That way, you don’t have to remember and type your Account Realm for every fax you send.
Now You Can Send a Fax From Email
If you’re not already a VirtualPBX customer, the steps above provide a good outline of the fax email process. They also shed some light on the processes you might see in your current digital faxing service.
Those guidelines, however, are no replacement for the information provided in our Faxing Support document. Once you’re a VirtualPBX Email-to-Fax user, you can find a breakdown of our dashboard and instructions for prerequisites like adding a fax number to your account.
We want to make faxing as easy for you as possible. Speak to a Sales rep today if you’re looking for a new, powerful phone and faxing platform for your business.
Posted on February 12, 2019 by Casey Houser
Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Uwe Dreissigacker, the Founder and CEO of Invoice Berry, an online invoicing and expense tracking platform.
As a business owner, invoicing might seem straightforward, making invoicing mistakes rare.
Invoices are something you send out at the end of the month manually without giving them much thought. But if you want to stay on top of your cash flows and continue being in the black as a business, it’s crucial you stop making these five invoicing mistakes.
Sending out a professional invoice and getting paid on time is a responsibility you can’t take any chances on. Your invoices are directly tied with your cash flow and business revenues even if it may not seem like it.
What this means is that something as simple as sending out an invoice for your provided services or product can increase your future earnings.
But this can’t happen unless you stop making the common invoice mistakes listed below.
If you want to improve your relationship with your customers and increase your future profit – be sure to read on.
1. Not enough details
To avoid this first invoicing mistake, you need to learn what exactly goes into an invoice.
When most small business owners start working on their invoices, they just list all the provided goods or services and move on with their day.
While this has been the standard for a long time now, and yes, you might still get away with it today, there are just so many other things that you can add to your invoice.
Your invoice is an extension of your business.
Essentially, you’re communicating your business culture, values, and beliefs through an invoice. Something as simple as creating a custom invoice with a personalized template can leave a lasting impression on your clients and increase your brand reach as well.
Of course, it’s important not to overstuff your invoice, but you should still go the extra mile when creating one.
For example, you can also attach your business voicemail number to your invoice in case your clients want to reach you immediately. This, in turn, encourages inbound calling and provides another way for your customers to reach you.
Once again – by taking your time and making your invoices more detailed, you get more brand value, better customer experience, and a means for them to contact you. All of this through a simple invoice.
2. Not automating your invoices
As mentioned above, most business owners just fill out an invoice last minute and don’t worry about it until the next month.
This is where the recurring invoice can help you out.
A recurring invoice is a type of invoice which automatically charges a client at specific intervals.
For those committed and returning clients, automating invoices is a great way to save time and money. Automating and using recurring invoices allows you to take care of more important things.
The supplier doesn’t have to wait for the customer to pay or repeatedly ask for the client’s credit card information. And similarly, the customer doesn’t have to send manual payments.
The idea here is to make the payment process convenient and more professional for everyone involved.
In order for a company to start using recurring invoices, they must first ask for permission from the customer to be charged on a regular basis for a specific amount. After that, the charges will continue to apply unless the contract is terminated or the client withdraws permission.
Essentially, if you put in the work and create a custom invoice and then start automating it (a process which doesn’t take long), you’re saving money and time in the long run.
And the less time you spend on invoicing manually, the more time you have for work and other tasks.
3. Not tracking your invoices
This is another important benefit of electronic (and automated) online invoices.
As a business owner, you probably have a lot of things to keep track of and eventually, you might feel that they’re starting to pile up.
Fortunately, using electronic and online invoices means having one less thing to worry about.
What happens when you start tracking and managing your online invoices?
Well, for one thing, they become neatly organized in one place where you can go over your past and draft invoices. You can also see which invoices are outstanding, still pending, and not paid yet. All of those invoices are also backed up digitally, so you won’t have to worry about losing them.
Did you know that in 2016 the estimate for electronic invoices reached around 30 billion worldwide with an annual growth rate of 10-20%? (Source)
To this day, this number has been increasing.
The fact of the matter is that in addition to being very convenient, electronic invoices allow business owners to help get a better overview of their finances.
4. Not following up on late payers
This may sound like an obvious invoicing mistake, but it still happens.
Sometimes a client might forget to pay, either because they forgot or out of fear of confrontation, and the invoice gets lost in their inbox. Even if they simply forgot to pay, it’s your cash flow at stake here.
To avoid this, be sure to follow up with your clients who are late on their payments. Like all other businesses, they get busy and possibly didn’t mean to delay the payment. Either way, be sure to send a polite follow up to remind them.
Alternatively, if you want to make sure your invoices get paid on time, consider updating your late payment policies and set an extra fee on late payments. This way, your clients will know for sure that they’d have to pay extra if they keep delaying your invoices.
Ideally, you should set payment terms for no longer than 14 days or so. Otherwise, your clients may procrastinate on your invoice. If they still skip on the due date, be sure to follow up, or if it’s urgent, you can call them virtually.
5. Having poor manners on your invoices
At the end of the day, if you want to continue and improve your current relationship with your clients – you should focus on the way you communicate with them.
Your invoices are a further extension of this. They’re part of your bigger customer experience strategy.
Treat your clients like people. They’ll appreciate it and return the love tenfold.
Consider being polite and adding simple phrases like “thank you for your business!” at the end of an invoice. This can increase your invoice payments rate and make them want to do business with you again in the future. As an added benefit, it also increases your brand image and leaves a lasting impression.
This may not sound like a big of a deal, but the closer you are with your clients the better. And you lose nothing by being polite!
The next time you’re customizing your invoice, focus on your manners. Improve your greetings, leave a “thank you” note at the end, and in general, don’t forget that there’s a person on the receiving end of the invoice.
Your clients will appreciate the small things, and you have nothing to lose.
Avoid These 5 Invoicing Mistakes
All in all, if you have no clear invoicing system set up, then you might be setting yourself up for failure.
In the past, you might have gotten away with a simple invoice which just lists the payment items and date. But now, there’s so much more that can go in an invoice.
Remember: the more personal your invoice is the better.
Be direct and concise when it comes to your finances, but also be polite when you can.
At the end of the day, you’re running a business. Automating your invoices opens up the possibility of focusing on other aspects. There are even more advantages to using online invoicing software, but generally speaking, you should know that electronic invoices are a powerful tool.
They’re an extension of your business and brand, so why take chances with your clients?
The next time you’re handling your invoices, be sure to take the extra step and avoid these five invoicing mistakes!
Posted on February 6, 2019 by Casey Houser
The process of sending a file from email to fax machine goes by many names: Email-to-fax, digital faxing, virtual faxing, internet faxing, and fax-over-IP (FoIP).
VirtualPBX offers an Email-to-Fax service with all its Business Phone Plans. It lets you send email attachments to client fax machines by simply emailing a special address (like email@example.com). It also accepts faxes and delivers the pages as attachments to your email inbox.
This article will demystify the email to fax machine process. Keep reading to get a brief lesson in analog and digital faxing, the protocols that define communication between fax machines, and the necessity of fax servers and software for modern email-to-fax procedures.
The Fun History of Faxing
Faxing has had a fun and complicated history. Early machines used synchronized pendulums that stood eight feet tall to record messages onto electrically-sensitive paper. Further inventions harnessed light-sensitive paper. And eventually technology progressed to shrink fax machines to desk size and allow them to print on ordinary computer paper.
We offer a brief timeline of the fax machine on our blog, which references the first relevant faxing patent made in 1843. There’s also an excellent episode of The Secret Life of Machines that provides a deeper look into the devices described above.
Running on the PSTN
This article veers from those links by starting a discussion about the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The detailed guide linked here, titled “What is VoIP?” mentions the PSTN as part of the whole of VoIP telephony.
The most salient examples of the PSTN are the telephone poles and copper wires that line your streets. Although those structures have existed for some time, they are an essential part of residential and business communications because they often create a direct connection between an home or office and the global phone and internet network.
Faxing, like phone calls, used to take place entirely through copper wires. There was no internet; all communication was analog.
With the advent of the internet and digital communications fixtures – such as digital servers and fiber optic cable – both voice services and faxing changed. Faxes that used to make their way entirely through a series of copper and analog assets began to see less of that infrastructure. They started to run through parts of the internet, which required the development of codecs.
Meanwhile, individuals started to want more functionality in their devices. They sought services like sending email to fax machines and connecting fax machines to VoIP networks. Customer demand grew for more flexible and convenient services, so the standards of the digital world met the analog world where it stood.
Digital Faxing With Codecs and Protocols
We can again reference our What is VoIP? guide when mentioning the development of codecs and protocols.
The word “codec” is a portmanteau of coder-decoder. It refers to the coding and decoding of information.
In the context of voice signals that travel over digital networks, codecs like G.711 and G.729 transform voice signals that you speak into your phone. VoIP codecs turn sounds into digital signals for outgoing transmissions, and they turn digital signals into sounds for incoming transmissions. They make digital voice communication possible by making information understandable by humans.
Protocols like SIP and H.323 provide specific instructions for how one VoIP device can reach another. For instance, they might define how a VoIP gateway can reach an IP phone.
The T.37 protocol’s official title describes the problem it addresses: “Procedures for the transfer of facsimile data via store-and-forward on the internet.”
What this means is that T.37 describes how fax machines can send faxes directly to an email address. When you scan a document with a T.37-compliant fax machine, it converts the fax into a TIFF image and transfers that image to the email address you specify.
This procedure defines how a fax machine can send a stand-alone document to an email address. It also provides instructions for how the fax machine can interact with a fax server to communicate with an ordinary fax machine.
In the latter case, the server could convert emails to regular faxes and vice versa.
This is all collectively referred to as the “store-and-forward” technique – as shown in its title.
The title of T.38 brings real-time communication into the mix: “Procedures for real-time Group 3 facsimile communication over IP networks.”
This protocol defines the standard for allowing two ordinary fax machines to communicate over IP networks.
Ordinary fax machines use the ITU’s T.30 specification to send faxes to each other. T.38 acts as a subset of T.30.
From fax machine, through the PSTN and a digital IP network, to a second fax machine:
- Fax Machine 1 sends an analog signal to the PSTN
- The PSTN relays that signal to a Fax Server 1
- Fax Server 1 converts the analog signal to digital packets
- Fax Server 1 sends the digital packets through an IP network to Fax Server 2
- Fax Server 2 converts the digital packets back to an analog signal
- Fax Server 2 relays the analog signal to the PSTN
- The PSTN sends the analog signal to Fax Machine 2
From the vantage point of the specifications, T.38 becomes relevant at the end of Step 2 and persists until the beginning of Step 6.
The PSTN plays a primary role in this process. But you can see in Steps 2 through 6 where the IP network takes command where the PSTN once did all the work.
The two fax servers listed in the previous example are essential to connecting two fax machines over an IP network.
A fax server would be used by a service provider like VirtualPBX to let the PSTN “speak” to the digital network. It knows both the PSTN and IP languages.
This server might also be called a fax gateway. It’s typically a piece of software that uses T.38 standards to send, receive, and convert fax messages.
From Email to Fax Machine
It’s at this point that you can understand how a service like VirtualPBX’s Email-to-Fax works.
With fax servers as the central point, web services and client software can link a VoIP service to a fax machine.
VirtualPBX’s web portal lets you send an email with a TIFF or PDF attachment to a fax number. When you do that, you send the attachment to VirtualPBX’s fax server that completes all the processes described above. It also does this in reverse when receiving a fax.
As a customer, most of this is invisible. The protocols and standards of the modern VoIP and faxing ecosystem make the email to fax machine process simple and reliable. A cutting-edge business can communicate entirely through email with any traditional faxing holdouts.
Thanks for sticking through this guide. We hope you learned a lot about a process you probably use every day. If nothing else, now you can send your email-faxes with the cover sheet message: “I know how this works!”
Posted on January 31, 2019 by Casey Houser
Today’s blog post will connect voicemail greetings with Shakespeare.
No, we don’t expect your Voicemail to sound like its from The Bard. We just want you to consider the phrase from Hamlet: “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Brief voicemail greetings can display your intelligence as a business. They can save your callers time and keep your messages on-point.
Let’s take a look at how making educated assumptions about caller intent and actions can keep your voicemails short and informative.
Make Assumptions About Caller Intent
You can use your market to make a number of assumptions about why a caller has reached you.
For example, think about the type of person who would call your lumber shop, Southside Lumber Wholesalers. You’ll probably see business owners and contractors reach you most often.
Therefore you can cater a business-wide voicemail greeting to that audience. Something like this could work well:
- “You’ve reach the company voicemail of Southside Lumber. Reach us daily from 9-7 to schedule a local delivery and ask about rates for large orders or specialty lumber. Leave your number to receive a call back when we open.”
Southside Lumber would have no need to address individuals who want to buy a single 2″ x 4″. It can also eliminate the need to list a physical location because it primarily delivers large orders and doesn’t expect to see walk-ins.
The nature of your business here would depend on operating hours and responsiveness to after-hours calls. This message hits those points and doesn’t labor the caller with any further information.
Know the Customer’s Calling Path
If you use an Automated Attendant like we offer with VirtualPBX Business Phone Plans, then you can use a caller’s path to further guess their intentions. This works particularly well for individual voicemails that aren’t company-wide.
Using the Southside Lumber Wholesalers example business from before, its auto attendant might suggest that the caller dial a few individual departments.
Callers might reach Sales, Order Fulfillment, or Management sub-menus before finding a voicemail. The head of Sales would use their position further narrow down the intent of the caller, based on their path through the automated system. As a result, this voicemail could be appropriate:
- “This is Denise Smith, head of Sales. My hours are Monday to Friday, 9 to 7. For new purchases, leave your phone number and order details. I will call you back with a quote.”
This message gets to the heart of what Denise and the Sales department offers. The department processes new orders and provides quotes.
To that point, Denise’s message avoids mentioning any extraneous information. Denise expects callers to be of a single type (large contractors), and expects that they made it to Sales because they don’t have an existing order – there’s already an auto attendant menu for that.
Smart, Short Voicemail Greetings
Are your voicemail greetings long and labored? Do they accurately address callers’ needs or just ramble in hopes of hitting the right point?
A quick inspection of your business’s goals and products/services can help you guess caller intent. Just ask yourself: What is my target market, and what would customers in that market call about?
That information cascades into business-wide and individual voicemail boxes. You can address broad business concerns in your company inbox. And individual department heads can speak more distinctly about how they handle customer concerns.
Finally, make sure your Automated Attendant is set up in a logical manner. It helps define a caller’s path, which is essential to the creation of fine-grained voicemail greetings.
Posted on January 29, 2019 by Casey Houser
Our guest post today comes courtesy of Riley Panko, a Senior Content Writer at Clutch, a B2B research, ratings, and reviews firm in Washington, D.C. VirtualPBX’s Content Specialist Casey Houser contributed to the report, providing industry context.
Robocalls are a growing nuisance, disrupting legitimate communication on both individual and businesses phone networks.
Americans received a shocking 48 billion robocalls in 2018.
Clutch recently conducted a study of nearly 700 people who receive robocalls to understand the steps they are taking to combat them.
The report found that 67% of people are unlikely to pick up a phone call from an unknown number. Experts say robocalls erode trust in phone-based communication.
The survey also reveals that the National Do Not Call Registry is ineffective for the majority of those that sign up. New technology will seek to actively validate legitimate phone calls to combat robocalls, as opposed to just retroactively punishing offenders.
National Do Not Call Registry Ineffective Over Time
More than two-thirds of those that signed up for the National Do Not Call Registry say that it’s ineffective – 49 percent say they receive the same amount of robocalls and 19 percent say they receive more robocalls.
The National Do Not Call Registry was first implemented in 2003 with live telemarketing in mind.
Nowadays, though, most robocalls are automated. This means that robocallers can call a huge number of people in a short period of time, with a human only required when someone actually picks up and takes action on the robocall.
Automated robocallers don’t have much incentive to not call the people on the Do Not Call list – enforcement of the list has been limited.
This is increasingly true as robocallers become harder to track down. The rise of “spoofing” allows robocallers to use VoIP technology to trick caller ID into displaying any number. This means that many people do not know who is actually calling them, and where they might be located.
STIR/SHAKEN Will Actively Validate Legitimate Calls
The future of robocall protection requires a proactive approach.
The Federal Communications Commission supports the implementation of two initiatives known as the “Secure Telephone Identity Revisited” (STIR) standard and the “Signature-based Handling of Asserted information using toKENs” (SHAKEN) standard. Together, they are known as STIR/SHAKEN.
This technology checks all incoming phone calls for the presence of a certificate, distributed by a trusted policy administrator. If the number contains the certificate, then the call will be validated. This may be displayed on caller ID with a check mark, similar to how Twitter verifies accounts.
VirtualPBX applauds the adoption of STIR/SHAKEN.
“We actively support new anti-spam measures such as SHAKEN/STIR that create a traceable, encrypted phone connection between caller and receiver,” said Casey Houser, Content Specialist at VirtualPBX. “This new tech made a big splash recently with the FCC and large telecoms, and its adoption throughout the telecommunications market should mark a large decrease in the amount of spam callers receive.”
So Far, Only T-Mobile is Ready
The FCC recently pushed for major telecom providers to be ready to adopt the two standards. As of early 2019, only T-Mobile announced they were ready for implementation.
Robocalls will not be stopped with traditional preventative practices. STIR/SHAKEN may be a glimmer of hope in a world overrun with robocalls.