What fax server appliance would you recommend?

Bert2005
Bert2005 used Ask the Experts™
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Hi experts,

We were using a server without VMs with a Mainpine Faxboard. This more than handled out incoming and outgoing faxes. We moved to Windows Server 2016 Standard with Hyper-V and two VMs. Configuration of a fax board is not practical.

I have been using a Canon MFC as my fax server. It works OK, but first, it just isn't as efficient as a high-end fax server; and it only has one line. I know that other MFCs like the ImageRunner come with two lines, but then I am paying for yet another fax machine.

I have been researching standalone fax server appliances, and I have only come up with one brand: https://www.cimfax.com/products_T5.asp. The Cimfax Professional two-line fax server is the lowest in its lineup that has two lines and a 33.6 fax modem. I have found it for $600+, although it is listed on their site at a little bit more.

My question to the experts is do you have any other recommendations for a fax appliance? And, are you familiar with the Cimfax line of fax servers?

Thank you.

Bert

PS I do have two separate fax lines, and I am not interested in any cloud or internet faxing solutions.
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Distinguished Expert 2017

Commented:
You seem to restrict your options.
The one you outline appears to be suitable, though have not used one.

Gather the time/cost is important.

Internet/cloud based you are against deals with having to use their portal to send/view faxes?
Would an option that makes it transparent to the sending user, a consideration if it is VoIP ?

Fax T.38 , babytel.com
Check out the Multi-Tech Fax hardware -

https://www.multitech.com/technology/fax

Author

Commented:
Thanks arnold and Phonebuff. I will need to take a closer look.

Yes, I am not really looking for a online or cloud solution. Maybe, it's become a lot better in the past few years, but I would rather use an in-house solution. I was very happy with my Mainpine board on an SBS server. Now, I am using all VMs, and I am not sure if would be as easy to set up. Thank you.
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Distinguished Expert 2017

Commented:
The transition to a VM deals with two things
1) is the board functional in the new HOST system
2) do you have a spare board handy with which to try, or have to pull the board from the functional system and insert it into a host on which you can try to get the VM up and running with it.
3) if you have an intermediate solution, you have the luxury to try, though as you note, you need a spare host on which to try,

To retain control using microsoft fax features, the babytel.net offers one option. If not mistaken, there are several of the cloud based faxers that also provide what you need to maintain the ability to use microsoft fax to send, not sure if you need to receive as well

as long as a driver that mimics the presence of a "fax line" the mechanism it uses to send/receive the microsoft fax will handle it.

How adapt are you in setting up hylafax and potentially using it with a sip trunk to fax/receive?

Author

Commented:
I am not adept but my IT person from California is. What is EtherFax? Thanks.

Oh, and we do have VoIP, although I read that FoIP isn't nearly as reliable.

One thing is that many fax machines are Internet capable right out of the box. Not sure if a fax board would work with that. But, in those systems the recipient has to have Internet fax capabilities as well. Which will never happen. Too bad there isn't a way to make everyone update.

There are so many times faxes (especially one that is a 150 page pdf) don't go through. Two lines with a roll over or using the second fax line to send and mask it so the real fax number shows up, you are only receiving with the one line. While I could be receiving, the other fax should be spooled. But, if I am sending and crashing into the one coming in, one or both may not make it.

The frustrating thing is that sending an email (I don't mean using email to send the fax) with the PDF as an attachment arrives in seconds (99.5% arrives), and most everyone has email. But, with HIPAA, it is so difficult to encrypt and unecrypt and you would have to educate millions of Americans, and we can't even educate people on the metric system.

People always talk about how the fax machine is really the one piece of technology in 40 years which hasn't gone away. It has improved somewhat but the major limitations are still there.
Bert,

   You asked about hardware in the OP so that is why I suggested you look at the Multitech product..  

   Fax over IP also known as T.38   has been maturing and most Voip providers support.. Since over than the last mile
the majority of transport between points A and B is digital / IP based these days most people are going to a FoIP solution.

   HylaFax is one of the most widely used with Asterisk.   But there are others, some that rely on custom cads for T1, ISDN, and Analog lines
all changing often..

   -------------------------
For fax appliances, I would look at Multitech, however as you had a working fax server, why not just keep the fax server as just a fax server ? Or get a new hardware to put the mainpine card in to run as a fax server?

Author

Commented:
Hi ArneLovius,

Funny you should say that, It is what my IT keeps recommending. It would basically be building your own fax server.

Not sure if this is true, but when I had the Mainpine board and used support (very infrequently), they told me it was supported for life.
Distinguished Expert 2017

Commented:
The board is, you need the server to be suitable
Once the board is in the host, it can pass the devices, lines to the VM
Does the current server where the board is installed support a newer version OS, 2012, 2016?
Yes, mainpine support is rather good (-:

Rather than creating your own fax server, I would say that you were recreating your own fax server, which has the advantages that you would be keeping the mainpine fax modems (which are very good fax modems), and you don't have to make any "client" changes that would be required by moving to an "appliance". If the "old" server hardware is very old and power hungry, you could always just use a modern desktop, and as it would only be a fax server, your backup requirements become much simpler...

Author

Commented:
@arnold, I am not sure if the old server (Dell PowerEdge 2900) would run Server 2016. It probably wouldn't be worth trying. The board is already there, so it is possible to just add it to the network and the fax jack is right next to it on the wall. Currently, it is only functioning as a DHCP server, but I am about to change that over to the pfSense router. See below:

@ArneLovius, It does seem to make more sense to move the MP fax board and install it in a modern desktop or inexpensive server. There was one with a very good price on Black Friday, although it is Thursday by now. :(
@ArneLovius, It does seem to make more sense to move the MP fax board and install it in a modern desktop or inexpensive server. There was one with a very good price on Black Friday, although it is Thursday by now. :(

Careful,  many boards from older hardware will not run in newer systems as the standards for PCI /PCI-Express have changed and the older ISA bus is no longer available..

Author

Commented:
Thanks. I really appreciate all of the help.
Distinguished Expert 2017

Commented:
If you gave volume licensing, you could look whether 2012 can run on it to give yourself another 4 years or so until you ir while you test a t38 implementation with a VM, and Windows fans server.....
Or a Linux/hylafax....
@Phonebuff mainpine have "only" been making cards since 1997, and I'm fairly sure that they have only made PCI and PCI-e cards, but you have a valid point that the OP should check that thge card is not one of the pre 64bit cards as referenced under "Trade-Up Rebate" on the mainpine home page. Of course if the card is already running on a 64bit OS, then there should be no issues with a modern 64bit OS.

Author

Commented:
Sorry for the late response. I am getting very good information, but at the same time, there are many options. It would seem like trading up to the a newer fax Mainpine board and installing in a higher-end PC may make sense. I would be able to use that PC as a workstation a well, except I am rather big on not using one computer for two different things. I also would need to be careful that the other PCs could access it easily as our network is set up a little differently than the traditional Client/Server domain I used to have.

Our server runs two VMs, one of which is accessed by the clients using RDP. It is an RDS VM.

In the past, the faxes came in as PDFs and were routed to one folder. They weren't saved there, they were processed by an application to a database. Of course, faxes sent via Windows Fax and Scan were saved there. when reading about the appliances, it looks as though they can do a lot of backing up of pdfs sent. But, that isn't a big issue for me anyway.
I would suggest not using a fax server as a desktop, but the fax server could also run other services as required.

The multitech appliance can be configured to save inbound faxes to a folder, so your existing workflow should still work.

Author

Commented:
Thanks. Yes, I am big about not that. Hence why I am willing to look for a hardware fax server that is only for that. I would hope that the ones as expensive as Multitechs could save to a folder. :)

I probably should close this and aware points or whatever. I probably have as much information as I need to work with. These threads where there are many good suggestions and no real right or wrong ones are hard to choose/grade whatever. EE has changed the process so I don't know what to call it.

Author

Commented:
Thanks to all the experts. Again, difficult to award points, etc. with this type of question. At this point, I believe my list of how I will proceed is as follows:

1. Purchase a fax appliance. (Probably overkill, but overkill seems to be my middle name in tech)
2. Purchasing a small Lenovo or Dell server specifically for a Mainpine board, possibly the one I have already or trading up to a new one. Although, even with a decent on sale server along with a upgraded board would cost quite a bit.
3. Looking more into FoIP. My VoIP host may have solutions I am not aware of. It may be something I could trial.
4. Of course, I always have my present solution, which is working better since I made some changes to the settings.

One thing I never brought up was the difference in traditional faxing (which, of course, can notify you if a fax didn't go through), one doesn't get great confirmation from the receiving end other than you don't get a failure notice.

FYI: Biggest issue in medicine is with referrals. You send the 10 pages of referral information, and half the time they don't indicate if they received it.
Distinguished Expert 2017

Commented:
Check whether you can configure you mfc which logs events to also print confirmation.

Author

Commented:
Will definitely try that. Thanks.!

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