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 email@example.com.
The structure is similar to other email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 email@example.com 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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org). 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 24, 2019 by Casey Houser
There are a number of situations in which the phrase “straight-to-voicemail” is not a dirty term.
One primary situation is the daily switch from when your office is open to when it’s closed. Your office hours demarcate the times when you are, and when you aren’t, available to customer concerns. It’s a simple concept with a lot of power.
When a business takes advantage of voicemail and strict office hours – rather than taking every call at all hours – its employees can be more productive and present a more professional image.
Not yet convinced? Read along to take a look at how you can better use your Voicemail Service.
Say it aloud: Office hours are a precious resource.
If you’re answering calls outside of operating hours, you could be doing yourself a disservice. Setting the boundary of office hours helps employees and customers know what to expect from your fine establishment. Leaving that boundary open can result in confusion.
Answering Calls at Home
As an example, consider that the storefront of your small business closes at 7 p.m. each day. Then think about what happens when you answer a workplace-related call, at home, from your personal smartphone at 9 p.m.
You’ve let that customer cross the boundary of your business hours. They’ve also stepped into your personal time.
While this isn’t the end of the world, it could first upset your work-life balance. Then it could establish a pattern where you expect yourself to answer calls from home. And soon, customers begin to expect it too.
Before long, office hours mean little because they no longer start or stop employee-customer engagement.
It Can Wait Until Morning
Most of the time, the calls you answered at home can wait until the morning.
- If you’re answering questions about whether or not you have a product in stock, you won’t be able to deliver it until the next day anyway.
- If callers inquire about your return policy, you’ll need in-office resources to handle their concerns.
- And when callers ask about your hours of operation (!), your Automated Attendant could have easily taken over.
Voicemail and Auto Attendant Will Filter Calls
For nearly all your situations, sending off-hours calls straight to voicemail makes sense because it lets you filter messages and prioritize responses.
During the night, voicemail messages will collect; then, first thing in the morning, you can sort through them all. It’s easy, from that point, to decide which messages to take action on first.
Many messages can be preempted within your automated attendant – such as an option for listing your office hours and a pre-recorded list of extensions and business location information. Within that same automated menu, you can also give callers options for reaching individual departments, which will increase the chances that callers will reach the proper individuals at your office.
In conjunction, voicemail and auto attendant make sure messages end up in front of the right people.
Is Straight-to-Voicemail Right for You?
The type of situation described here should work well for many businesses – small and medium-size ones especially.
Community book stores; general shops; restaurants; clothing boutiques; hardware stores; and other types of businesses that don’t operate 24/7 are perfect candidates for a straight-to-voicemail policy. They all possess a handful of common ideals and procedures:
- Not open 24 hours a day
- Do not ship goods after normal business hours
- Non-life-saving goods and services
This leaves out some facilities, however, like large call centers and hospitals. It may also miss some midsize outfits, like us at VirtualPBX, where our 24/7 Customer Support helps inform and troubleshoot for our global client base.
For all others primed and willing, a straight-to-voicemail system could work wonders.
Don’t be afraid to let your voicemail work for you. Give your auto attendant purpose and let your customers know what to expect. See your productivity increase while boosting your image as a brand that knows how, and when, to handle customer concerns.
Posted on January 22, 2019 by Casey Houser
Should you write “voice mail” or “voicemail”?
VirtualPBX offers Voicemail in all its phone plans. Have we been grammatically incorrect this whole time?
We’re here to get to the bottom of the issue. Settle the score. Unravel the mystery. Dive into statistics. Read through the dictionary!
Sound exciting? Keep reading.
Searches for Voice Mail or Voicemail
At VirtualPBX, we keep informed about the types of web searches individuals complete.
For instance, our statistics show us that people search for the word “voicemail” as many as 70,000 times per month. We also know that searches for “voice mail” rank at about 6,500 per month.
What’s most interesting is that at least 100 searches per month try to discern which of the above phrases is correct. Is it “voice mail or voicemail?” they wonder.
Settling the Score
We looked to a few top-notch sources to decide whether or not our Phone Plans need a refresher in primary school English.
Our first stop, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, reveals that both “voicemail” and “voice mail” are correct. It cites the two-word version as the primary usage type (sorry 70,000 searchers!), but recognizes the single-word variant as common.
It also notes that the use of “voice-mail” could be correct when applied in an attributive manner, such as: “I make use of a voice-mail system.”
We get a much more succinct answer in our visit to the Oxford Dictionary. It simply refers to the single-word spelling before offering a brief definition:
“Voicemail… A centralized electronic system which can store messages from telephone callers.”
Taking a look at Grammarist, we found that using two words – voice mail – was likely more common when the technology was first created. Like many similar computer-based concepts, though, use of one word – voicemail – has risen in popularity.
Like the two-word web site transforming into website, we as a society have condensed voice mail into a simpler form.
Searches Reveal Popular Opinion
The search volume for “voicemail” clearly defines the transition from two words to one. Thousands more people seek to find a voicemail service than a voice mail service.
It’s also notable that searches for “voice mail or voicemail” prove popular. Those queries hold together the idea that the telecommunications industry and the public are still in a transition period with message storage software.
The capability of voicemail systems are changing. Alongside changes like the inclusion of email notifications as a standard option, we all see the altered spelling of these systems’ collective generic title.
We’re happy to be standing on the side of progress – both with our use of the term “voicemail” and our overall company ambitions. And we’re thrilled that our knowledge of spellng and grammer isn’t in question.