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 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.
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.
Posted on January 16, 2019 by Casey Houser
When you’re getting started with your VirtualPBX Business Phone System, one of the first features you’ll want to configure is your Automated Attendant.
Today, we’ll try to make that task a little easier. You can use these auto attendant phone script examples for your small startup, medium-size business, or large enterprise.
We’ve broken down our scripts by business size. There are two scripts for each type – a formal and informal – and each one is free for you to modify.
Small Business Auto Attendant Phone Script Examples
Small businesses are unique in their needs. They often have fewer employees, less resources, and smaller storefront footprints than their counterparts.
A small business’s phone system, however, must be as robust as its resolve to conquer those challenges. An Automated Attendant, in particular, will need to route calls efficiently while conveying the capabilities of the business in question.
Your callers should get a sense of your size from the first second they reach your phone tree. This will set the stage for the personal interactions the caller should expect upon reaching one of your employees. Even if you run a small business by yourself, these two scripts are for you.
- Introduction: “Hi, this is Carla from the Main Street Bakery. I hope you’re having a great day.
“Our bakery is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 7. See our collection of cakes at beautiful 123 Main Street, or online any time at 123MainBakery.com.
“Press 1 for our main reception or 2 for special orders. We take custom orders for individuals and groups.”
This script allows the personalization of the business owner to shine. It favors a warm greeting and well-wishing over the technical details of the business-customer interaction. That said, the greeting is short so the hours, location, and phone tree options are presented quickly to the caller.
- Introduction: “You’ve reach the Main Street Bakery – open weekdays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and online at 123MainBakery.com.
“Press 1 for reception or 2 for special orders. We take custom orders for individuals and groups.”
Here you can see the personalized greeting removed. Instead, the location and hours of the business are placed at the front. Callers receive the necessary information about the business’s hours and location so the can easily decide how to take action.
Medium-Size Business Scripts
Medium-size businesses occupy a space that requires the personal touch of a small outfit but the technical capability of an enterprise. They’re expected to have enough personnel and resources to quickly resolve customer concerns and promptly ship orders.
This requires that the medium-size player present itself as both a sensitive listener and an imposing market force. The automated attendant phone script examples shown below set the stage for that balancing act.
In your own business, take the time here to modify these examples so they clearly show your business’s capabilities. Extend the department list for as long as necessary – keeping in mind that customer patience with automated systems is limited. When menus take too long to list or contain more than five items, customers have been shown to take their business elsewhere because they’re too frustrated to continue.
- Introduction: “At Top of the Line Board Games, we’re happy to have your business.
“Visit our gaming store at 555 Gameway Blvd., from 7a to 7p, 7 days a week. Find games online at TopLineBoardGames.com.
“Dial 1 for the front desk; 2 for customer support; or 3 for manufacturing.”
“Thanks. And have a great day.”
This script, like all those you’ll see in this article, gets to the point. Although it does prioritize a welcoming introduction, it’s offers a short description of the location and hours. It also breaks down the company departments into three distinct groups.
The final send-off – “Have a great day.” – won’t interfere with the caller’s ability to make an informed choice. It bookends the professionalism suggested in the menu that displays a store front, customer support department, and manufacturing department.
- Introduction: “You’ve reached Top of the Line Board Games. Visit our 555 Gameway Blvd. location any day, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Or find us online at TopLineBoardGames.com.
“Dial 1 for the front desk; 2 for customer support; or 3 for manufacturing.
“Thank you for your business. We’ll speak with you soon.”
In this case, the friendly greeting is replaced by the name and details of the business’s operating hours. The menu is still short and clear. Then there’s room for the send-off at the close of the message.
With no fluff, the caller is ready to interact with the business in no greater than 20 seconds. They’re also reassured that they will soon speak to a business representative.
Enterprise Business Scripts
Enterprises, with their hundreds of employees and multiple national and global locations, get a reputation for being gruff. They’re all about the business and forgo personal interaction, right?
It doesn’t have to be that way. VirtualPBX enterprise features give large companies the ability to smoothly handle customer interactions. In addition, our succinct auto attendant phone script examples for enterprises show how even the largest of businesses can blend production capability and solid customer service.
Your enterprise will need to work hard to keep its auto attendant menu short. By presenting callers with only a few options, you’ll keep their attention. Furthermore, a concise menu leaves room for a friendly greeting as shown in our first example script below.
- Introduction: “Welcome to Global Metal Machining. We take pride in our custom materials and our customer service.
“Use the following list for information and to reach our departments. Dial 0, at any time, to reach an operator.
“Press 1 to place an order; 2 to check an order’s status; 3 for billing concerns; 4 for other customer service concerns; and 5 for locations and hours.
“Thank you for doing business with us.”
This script is a bit longer than our others for small and midsize businesses. Even so, it takes no longer than 20 seconds to speak.
Your automated attendant would present a light touch in this situation. The introduction welcomes visitors, which indicates your attitude toward doing business with them. You also briefly present your product in the opening sentence.
By clearly making an operator available at option 0, you’re saying that your door is always open. The menu items are also logically placed in order of importance. Your hours and website sit within a sub-menu, so callers aren’t bothered by those particulars which might be less important to a manufacturing company than to a food service or board gaming outfit.
- Introduction: “Welcome to Global Metal Machining.
“For information and to reach individual departments, use the following list. Dial 0, at any time, to reach an operator.
“Press 1 to place an order; 2 to check an order’s status; 3 for billing concerns; 4 for other customer service concerns; and 5 for locations and hours.
“Thank you for doing business with us.”
This script highlights one important change: the introduction. In our informal script above, the business states its product (custom metal materials) and its intention (high-quality customer service).
The formal iteration here takes away those elements; it dives directly into the menu. In doing so, it saves callers a few seconds, which can feel like forever in these types of situations.
Neither enterprise script here is right or wrong. They just offer different approaches to the same task. If you want more formality in your presentation, choose this script.
Notice that both these scripts include a “thank you.” There’s always room to be polite and thank your customer for their business.
Before adopting and revising one of these auto attendant phone script examples, take a few minutes to consider the needs of your business.
Do you prefer an informal or formal approach? How can you whittle down your listing of departments and menu options to five or fewer? Is it important, up front, to list your location, hours, and website?
These basic inquiries will help you pick an auto attendant script that’s right for you and your customers. One that’s easy to create, quick to hear, and simple to navigate.