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A Fax Module for a website?  Opensource... general information question.

Posted on 2006-07-21
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I'm want to build a fax module into my website that will fax customers invoices and price quotes to them upon request.  Does anybody know where I might be able to find something like this..? I guess it is a file to fax technology instead of fax to file...?
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Question by:cstormer
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by:nschafer
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Hi cstormer,

I'm sure something could be built with a component on the server to handle the actual faxing, but if they are already on your website why not just download or e-mail the information to them?

Neal.
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by:cstormer
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Neal,

Well we have a custom price quote system that emails the customer a price quote, the problem is when someone places $20,000 orders they would like a Fax confirmation, and email's get swept up in spam systems to much for these large customers, hense the need for both email and fax.  The system already does emailing of all the information they might have.  I just wanted to know if something already existed or where I would start to build it.
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nschafer earned 500 total points
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>>the problem is when someone places $20,000 orders they would like a Fax confirmation

I don't know, I'm just as happy to save a PDF as to get a fax and I do place orders in excess of $20,000.

But in any case, here's how I would do this.  This may not be the best way, but it would likely work.

First we need a system capable of sending faxes through an automated process.  This means that you need faxing software that allows you a fair amount of control.  I currently have two fax systems (one built into our PBX) and a Castelle Faxpress.  The Faxpress actually has an API, that will allow me almost complete control of sending and receiving faxes, so in my case I would probably use this.  Another option might be Microsoft Fax built into Windows 2003 server.  I don't know how much control this provides though.

We also need a fax board.  I would not personally recommend working with a fax/modem.  My experience with faxing from fax/modems is that in a high volume environment at least 10% of my outgoing faxes failed.  When I switched to a fax board (brooktrout trufax) this dropped down to 1-2% (these figures do not count busy lines).  That being said, you could test with a fax/modem and move up to a fax board if you find you are having problems

So now we get to the programming side.  You need to specify in the table that a fax has been requested.  You could add a fax request table to your database or decide how you want to handle it.  I'd probably add a table which would have a RequestID, Fax Number, Name, Quote #, and Status fields.

When the user requests the fax we fill in the table  with the appropriate data.

There are two ways I can think to trigger the actual sending of the fax.  The first is to use a trigger in the database that will call an external component (you'll probably have to build this) to do the faxing when the request is inserted into the table.  Be sure to have the component set the status of the request with the results from the fax program.  The other might be easier to program, using your favorite desktop programming language build an app that opens the fax request table looking for any record with a status of "Pending" or whatever you choose to use.  That app would then process all of the pending requests and update the table with the appropriate status.  It would then sleep for a specified time period and check again looping until told to quit.

I hope this at least gives you an idea as to how you might start on such a project.

Neal.
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