Many people believe that cloud computing is the future of business. Rather than owning your own server and machines, cloud computing utilizes equipment at a third party location, which users connect to through the Internet.
First, what is an Internet fax? Traditionally, fax machines take a document, convert it into an electronic signal, and send it to another fax machine, where the facsimile of the original document is in the receiver's hand. This requires three things: a fax machine on both ends as well as a phone line. An internet fax replaces all of those.
For someone sending a fax to an Internet fax user, the process is identical. First, a fax is sent to a phone number, which is attached to a server, just as in cloud computing. The server sends the document over the Internet. However, instead of having a hard copy printed each time, an internet fax can be received as an e-mail attachment, or viewed in an online fax control panel. Sending an Internet fax is very easy as well. Using the fax control panel, the recipient's phone number is entered and with a click of the mouse the fax is sent. The fax will be received at the other end by whatever means of faxing the recipient is using - Internet or landline fax.
How does this relate to cloud computing?
Companies' desire to transition to cloud computing is based on a couple different goals: reducing equipment costs and allowing access to data regardless of location. Computer equipment is expensive and servers cost are even more so. Servers require constant environmental specifications to be working at their optimal levels, and maintenance is expensive. Despite maintaining them, servers still break and require a technician to be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in case of a failure. This technician is also expensive. And of course technology becomes obsolete, requiring new servers, new environmental specifications, and more training for those expensive technicians to service this new equipment.
More and more companies today are working with dispersed workforces and establishing virtual offices. They have employees that work from different locations yet still need access to important data that is held by the company. Professionals are also a lot more mobile than in the past thanks to technology.
Because of these things, companies have found it easier to focus their energy on whatever it is they do best and allow a third party to handle their data. One simplified form is e-mail. Traditionally, e-mail would be downloaded to the user's computer, generally through a program such as Outlook. However, spam and viruses appeared, infecting computers, taking advantages of holes in Microsoft Windows, and creating a huge mess. Not only that but the email was then only accessible if you were sitting at your computer. How much easier is it to use Gmail, with its own virus scanners, spam filters, and servers compared to downloading hundreds of spam emails, which may or may not be infected? So if switching to hosted email has so many benefits, what about other day to day business programs and data hosting?
That is the thinking of companies switching to this model. Here, users have small, portable computers. They log onto third party servers, which are probably tucked into some climate-controlled warehouse in Silicon Valley. From those servers, they send and retrieve whatever information they need for their business. And just like that, one person with a $600 laptop becomes a branch office for a company. This person does not need a landline for a phone, or a separate line for the fax. There is no fax machine, no toner, no ink, no paper, and no storage closet for toner, ink, and paper, and no repair or replacement costs for office equipment. This person may not even need a physical office, thus saving rent costs. In short, overhead is minimized greatly.
Internet fax creates a bridge between the paper world of the traditional fax and the electronic, cloud-computing, Internet-driven world. If a fax needs to be sent, a cloud-computing user logs onto the Internet fax site, attaches the document, and the traditional fax user receives the paper document. To reply, the traditional user sends a document to the Internet fax number, and the cloud-computing user receives the fax as an e-mail. Traditionalists get their paper, the internet fax user carries less equipment, and everybody is happy.