Did Ya Get The Fax?
Hello for 5-98
By: Mike Lipshultz

In the past this column has talked about ways to bulletproof your voice telephone lines. This month we are going to talk about your fax line. If your business is extremely dependent on your ability to receive incoming faxes you should take some steps to bulletproof it. This is also a good idea if you’re out of your office a lot and do not want to have to return just because the fax machine ran out of paper.

One step you can take is very easy. Two machines on one line. Personally, I have two fax machines. An old one that works great, but is not plain paper. Last year I purchased a new plain paper fax machine that I use now. To bulletproof my fax line I have both machines plug into the same line with a $1.00 splitter. The plain paper machine is set to answer on one ring. The other machine is set at 3 rings. Now if the new machine goes out, the old machine will pick up the call. If you have a stand alone fax machine and a computer with a fax modem you can do the same thing. Just set one machine (your main unit) to answer on one ring. Set the backup machine to pick up on three rings. Remember, if you are using a computer as the backup, and you turn your computer off, you lose that back up until you turn your computer back on.

Another step you can take is: instead of using a computer or a fax machine as your backup, you can use a "Fax Answering Machine". One such unit is made by Info Imaging. This company makes a unit called the 3D Fax Pal. It installs to your fax line and your computer. When your computer is turned off, the unit stores the incoming faxes in its own memory. You print out the faxes when you turn your computer back on. I have used this unit and found it extremely easy to use and install. You can also send faxes from your computer with it. If you want to be able to fax a "piece of paper", you will need to ad a scanner to your computer. For more information on the unit, go to: http://www.infoimaging.com/ or call them at 800-966-1140

The best way to bulletproof your fax line is to use a "fax mail box". This is just like the voice mail you get from your local phone company. After a programmable number of rings, the call is answered by equipment at the phone company. To retrieve your faxes from the phone company, you call in from a fax machine and "Pick up" the stored messages. The reason this is the best way to bulletproof your ability to receive faxes is, even if your place burns to the ground, your fax line will be answered. Now the bad news. At this time "fax mail" from your local phone company is extremely limited in availability.

The next step would be to use one of those Virtual office 800 numbers that, in addition to handling voice calls, can also handle fax mail. To use the service as a back up, you will need to have variable or programmable call forwarding from your phone company so that you can forward the calls after your machine has had a chance to answer the call. If you surf the web, you can find "Virtual Office" companies that offer the service. Also some of the big players in long distance are getting into the game.

In closing I think I will take a cheep shot at MCI. You see, I am mad at them. I just wasted about two hours of my time trying to get any information I could on their fax services. I was hung up on. Not once, not two times, but six or seven times. I was passed from person to person, none of whom understand the question I was asking about "Fax Mail", you know just like "Voice Mail" but for faxes. More then one person thought I was playing a joke. A visit to the MCI corporate web page shows that just because you’re the company that owns and runs most of the Internet does not mean that you know how to set up a web site. I could not find one usable number. I did find a link for a service called "MCI Never Busy Fax", but the link took me to the wrong page. Yes there was a number to call for any questions 1-800-444-2222. Go ahead and call it. I did. It hung up on me. I use the term it because you can’t get a real person at that number, and if you do not have an MCI account number to input, it hangs up on you. Hey! MCI, get it together, your web site stinks. Put some real phone number on it. Fix your links. Put in a press section. You would think that with the money they have they could buy a decent web site. Oh, and MCI until you clean up your web site , I would get rid of that line on top of your web site that asks "Is This A Great Time Or What?"

Boy that felt good. Who says I need Decaf?

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Last modified: November 08, 2002